Oct 25

Mets’ GM search in second phase

Mets fans might have celebrated hollow victories over the weekend when the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated from the postseason on consecutive nights, the final out in each game coming on a called third strike. Alex Rodriguez one night; Ryan Howard the other.

Of course, rooting against the Yankees and Phillies is futile work, as it does nothing toward the improvement of the Mets.

However, the most important development lately has been the narrowing of the GM candidates to Josh Byrnes and Sandy Alderson.

Byrnes will interview with ownership, including Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, today, and Alderson will be on stage tomorrow. Both are highly regarded and will inherit a team with a high payroll and a myriad of issues.

Neither will be able to turn the program around in a year, and such a promise hasn’t been made by either in the first round of interviews.

Both GM candidates indicate Wally Backman is on their list of prospective managerial candidates, which parallels the Wilpon’s thinking. That is not to say Backman is a given, but he will get an honest shot. There are several things about Backman that concern me, most is the perception he is the Wilpon pick and he’s being forced on to the new general manager. My preference for Backman is to be promoted to bench coach and work under an experienced manager.

The new GM will inherit a team slightly below .500, meaning there is reason to be optimistic about improvement should all the pieces fall into place, notably the healthy returns of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran, continued development from Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese, and an encore from RA Dickey. The Mets aren’t void of talent, and improvement should occur, but they are still behind the Phillies and Braves, but those teams have their own issues.

A GM decision could be made as soon the off day following Game 2, which is a travel day in the World Series. As written here before, the GM candidates have their thinking on the manager, so that process should turn around rather quickly.

The first order of offseason business might night be conducted by assistant GM John Ricco and Jeff Wilpon, and that would be the re-signing of reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The Mets have until Oct. 31 to re-sign Takahashi, otherwise he can become a free agent.

Takahashi did everything the Mets asked of him last season as a starter or in a variety of bullpen roles, but the left-hander prefers to start. The Mets could promise him a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training or they could overpay to keep him in the pen.

Reportedly, Takahashi is seeking a two-year deal and he’s worth it based on what he did in 2010.

Oct 21

Will new GM consider Sandberg?

Whomever the Mets choose as their general manager –  indications are Sandy Alderson has the inside track – he’ll have a long list of managerial candidates to consider.

SANDBERG: Could be considered for manager job

Add Ryne Sandberg to that list. The Cubs bypassed Sandberg for Mike Quade, and the Hall of Fame second baseman is not pleased and he’ll obviously listen to other offers.

He’s done everything the Cubs asked of him in preparation for the opportunity to manage in the major leagues, including working his way up the minor league chain, from Single A to Triple A, with success, including being named Pacific Coast League manager of the year.

Sandberg does not have the major league experience advocated here and in other forums, but we don’t know how much that criteria will be weighed by the new general manager. If that is lower on his priority list, Sandberg would undoubtedly receive consideration, as will Wally Backman.

It’s all speculation for now, and some of it will fall on Sandberg.

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.