Oct 15

Upgrading the minor league system

Whomever is the next Mets’ general manager, I hope he puts a premium on upgrading the minor league system. Although not as bare as in previous seasons, the minor league talent is a concern, especially when placed in comparison to the final four teams in the League Championship Series.

While each had added talent through trades and free agency, a thread of the four finalists is having a strong core in the minor leagues. They wouldn’t be here without the talent that rose through the system. Here’s hoping the new GM wants to upgrade the scouting and development, as those or the keys for long term success.

The Mets benefitted from their minor league system this year with Jon Niese, Ike Davis and Josh Thole, and have young talent looming below like Jenrry Mejia.

In the case with the Mets, with so much payroll earmarked to veterans tied to bulky and expensive payroll, its a sense of relief to have guys like Davis and Thole, productive players on the cheap.

The game today is still heavy with free agency, but the long term successful franchises build with a homegrown core, and the Mets should be no exception. With 2011 perhaps a write-off season as they clear money off the books, it should provide an opportunity for future growth from the minor league system.

Oct 14

Don’t bank on Backman

Following the Mets’ GM search brings a couple of thoughts to mind.

BACKMAN: Would he be a gimmick hire?

I don’t see the Mets hiring Sandy Alderson plus Rick Hahn, as has been suggested.  I believe the job is Alderson’s for the taking, which would enable him to help groom John Ricco to be his successor. I don’t think they’ll end up hiring one assistant GM (Hahn) when they won’t interview their current assistant GM. If they did, they’ll take a risk at losing Ricco.

Because of Logan White’s proficiency in scouting, I can see him joining Alderson.

Whomever, the Mets hire as their general manager, I’m beginning to think Wally Backman won’t be hired as their manager if the new guy has the autonomy the Wilpons have promised. I’ve seen several list of the top managerial candidates and Backman hasn’t been on any of them.

I keep hearing about Backman’s spit and fire, but he’s not the only fiery personality out there, and that’s not the primary quality in a manager. The ability to motivate isn’t confined to yelling and over turning the food spread in the clubhouse. There’s also game management and dealing with player personalities.

Backman has not proven he can be that on a major league level, and with a team in transition such as the Mets a veteran presence is the best option. Like the general manager, I’d prefer a manager with a track record, one who could groom Backman by bringing him on as a bench coach.

This isn’t to say Backman won’t eventually become an accomplished major league manager, but I don’t believe this is the right time. There’s still too much for Backman to learn, and a rebuilding situation like the Mets isn’t the best place to start. I keep hearing about Backman’s fire and the ties to the 1986 championship team, but that sounds more and more like a gimmick hire.

I just don’t see a new general manager tying his success to an unproven manager.

Oct 12

The questions the GM candidates should be asking.

The interview process works both ways, and it would be fascinating to know the questions the GM candidates are asking of the Wilpons this week.

I would think these would be some of them:

During the press conference to announce the dismissals of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, both Wilpons said ownership took responsibility. However, other than saying they hired the wrong people, what mistakes did Jeff and Fred Wilpon specifically make?

Do the Wilpons have a timetable for success, which is defined as the playoffs? If the new general manager said the team is three years away from being competitive, is that acceptable?

What do the Wilpons believe is the reason for the team’s failures from 2007 through 2010? Is it all on Minaya, the managers or bad luck, or did the organizational policies sidetrack them from winning?

With $130 million in salaries already earmarked for 2011, how much over that is ownership willing to spend?

Is ownership willing to increase spending for scouting and player development as to upgrade the minor league system?

Define autonomy. It was stressed during the press conference that Minaya had autonomy, and Fred Wilpon said ownership never vetoed a move the general manager wanted to make. However, other organizations and agents indicated in negotiations they were left hanging for answers because nobody would get back to them. Just how hands-on does ownership expect to be and how much input will they provide?

Reportedly, the Wilpons will request the new general manager interview Wally Backman for the managerial job. Is that a request or an endorsement?

As incomprehensible as this is, Jeff Wilpon said Minaya never approached him about waiving Oliver Perez. If the new general manager can’t engineer a trade, would ownership be willing to eat that $12 million contract?

The Mets have long had a checkered history in dealing with injured players. Is ownership willing to overhaul the medical department?

Does ownership consider any player or prospect untouchable to trade?

I am sure there are others, but that’s just a start.

Oct 11

Mets should target Alderson

The Mets today met with Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird, and will interview White Sox assistant Rick Hahn tomorrow, former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes Wednesday and Sandy Alderson Thursday or Friday.

ALDERSON: Like him for the job.

They appear to be the Mets’ final four unless Terry Ryan has a change or heart.

All are well respected within the baseball community, but Alderson has the highest profile and deepest resume. That’s why I would like him to get the job.

Alderson’s track record will likely enable him to make the most immediate and deepest impact. I believe he’s the one most able to hit the ground running and provide the change that would convince the fan base the Mets are serious.

Alderson built winning teams in Oakland and San Diego, has connections in Latin America which would minimize the need to retain Omar Minaya in that capacity. Plus, he’s wired like no other with the  commissioner’s office. I don’t think anything will get by him.

During this process we’re still hearing about Wally Backman’s managerial candidacy. The Wilpons might suggest him to the new general manager, but they also promised the new guy will make the call.

Each one of these GM candidates is well connected and probably has their own ideas that might not necessarily involve Backman.

Oct 09

GM Hunt taking shape

In the beginning we heard there were 32, but there are only a half-dozen or so serious candidates for the Mets’ GM job.

Reportedly, Gerry Hunsicker, Terry Ryan and Pat Gillick, all of whom would have been a solid choice, have said they aren’t interested in working for the Mets. The Chicago White Sox’s Rick Hahn and Sandy Alderson, among others, are interested in working in New York.

Hahn is the Young Lion with a bright future; Alderson is the accomplished professional.

Hahn is potential, he’s never run his own ship. Alderson is proven, having developed the Athletics and Padres, and has an impeccable reputation in the sport.

Alderson, Hahn, Allard Baird and Josh Byrnes are expected to interview next week.

Of the four, Alderson will command the most money, but I think he’s worth it. Alderson is the guy I want the Mets to snare. He’s an accomplished winner and that’s exactly what the Mets need right now. If Alderson wants the job after the interview, the Mets should go for it.

They won’t regret it.