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.

Oct 05

I see the Wilpon’s pain

I watched Fred and Jeff Wilpon squirm yesterday with embarrassment and pain. It was clear to me by their body language and tone of voice they felf genuine embarrassment and frustration of having to go through the firing and hiring process once again.

WILPONS: Not an easy time.

They were under the glare of the spotlight not only in New York, but the baseball community, and they were admitting the last six years under Omar Minaya were under them. That can’t be easy, as it reaffirmed in part the criticism directed at them.

When Fred Wilpon said he loves the Mets, I believe him, and I believe Jeff Wilpon when he said everybody is responsible. They were asked point blank where they failed and their answer was in hiring the wrong people. There were no excuses, no lamenting injuries and bad luck, but an admission they made judgment errors in their hiring process.

They said things spun out of control and the people they hired did not produce the results, meaning the Wilpons did not produce results, either. Nobody spends that kind of money and doesn’t want to win.

Can the Mets win with the Wilpon ownership?

I believe they can. Afterall, they reached the World Series in 2000 and came within one hit of doing so again in 2006. When you come that close, you can win with the right people.

I believe the biggest problem the Wilpons made with Minaya, was overestimating the ability of the team after the 2006 season. Their thinking was “we’ll get that hit next year,” but it never happened. The Mets made no significant changes after the 2006 season, and instead regressed with their pitching staff. That led to the collapse of 2007, and later 2008.

By 2009, the team had dramatically regressed and patchwork was not enough. Patchwork won’t be enough for 2011, either.

How much the Ponzi scandal set back the spending we’ll never really know, but we must give them the benefit of doubt with that payroll.

That they continually have a one of the highest payrolls in the major leagues shows a willingness to spend. That they OK’d the spending on whom they signed was their mistake. Maybe the Wilpons never overruled Minaya’s choices, but they should have done a better job of asking questions.

One of the questions the Wilpons and the new leadership must face is that changing the culture might entail eating contracts, and if the new general manager suggests it, are they willing to take that kind of financial hit?

I would have liked to have heard more of a blueprint for the future rather than hearing it will be the new general manager’s decision, but they left it all out there that the new leadership will have responsibility and must have a vision. They said they will examine all kinds of GM candidates, but I would have liked to have heard them define the ideal candidate.

In saying the new general manager must just change the culture is an admission the present environment hasn’t been good and the fault lies with the Wilpons in fostering it.

Yesterday was not an easy day for the Wilpons or the Mets’ organization. And, this will not be an easy winter for them or the new leadership. But, Fred and Jeff Wilpon took responsibility yesterday, and promised the new leadership will be given the authority and resources to rebuild their franchise.

I saw their anguish and humiliation yesterday. I know they don’t want to go through that again.

There’s an old saying, that discontent is the first step toward progress in a nation or a man. That includes baseball teams as well, and there was no hiding their discontent.

They’ve already taken the first step.