Oct 22

Mets’ managerial interviews taking place in their own way.

One of the questions undoubtedly asked of the GM candidates by Mets ownership during the interview process are their thoughts on the manager. No way a candidate doesn’t go into an interview with Jeff Wilpon without some idea as to who he wants as manager.

Some names would not come as a surprise; others might cause some wonder.

None of these candidates are without ideas and contacts. The way these things work at times is the GM candidate might tell a potential manager, “hey, I’m being considered by the Mets. If I get it I’d like to talk to you about being manager. Hang tight.”

If the relationship between the potential GM and potential manager is close – perhaps they have even worked together before – much of the leg work is already done. This should speed up the process when the Mets finally make their GM hire.

I still like Sandy Alderson because he has the largest body of successful work and would bring the most to the table right away. The Mets are still hoping they’d like to get this done by the end of the World Series.

Although it would have been great to have this taken care of sooner, but getting the right man is the most important thing.

Oct 18

Alderson is front runner for Mets GM job

The Mets have a second interview scheduled this week for Sandy Alderson, who is the only candidate so far with a second interview planned. He is the front runner, and arguably the name with the most potential impact.

The Mets are asking about Texas’ Jon Daniels, who is a hot property, but Alderson has done it consistently and I believe would bring the highest degree of respectability to the organization. What the Mets need now is a fresh start, a sign of legitimate change and Alderson provides that variable.

The Mets have said they’d like to wrap this up by the start of the World Series. After acting decisively right after the conclusion of the season we are closing in on three weeks. Other teams have already hired quality managers and the Mets need to do the same before the end of the month.

They need to show they have a plan in place and are heading in a positive direction to show their season ticket holders before renewals and whatever free agents they might have on their radar.

Oct 16

The Mets’ GM process drags on ….

Fredi Gonzalez is the new manager of the Atlanta Braves, which didn’t take long. Eric Wedge is the manager of the Seattle Mariners.

Meanwhile, the Mets are still waiting to name their new general manager. They have a few more candidates to speak with, notably Jon Daniels of the Texas Rangers once their playoff run is done. After watching them lose last night, you wonder how long that will be.

There will also be a second round of interviews with the finalists, so, we’re talking at least another 10 days. If they are lucky, it will be before the World Series. But, it could drag into November if the Rangers regroup and reach the World Series.

The high-profile managerial candidates could be gone by then, but that’s the risk the Wilpons took in deciding this route. And, it is a good route. The GM should name his own manager. That’s the prudent, sound way to go.

After years of the quick fix, I’m glad to see the Mets go through a complete interview process and get this done the right way as the general manager is far more important in the construction of a team than the manager.

Get it right, or move five years back.

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.

Sep 28

Reflections of Willie

With the Milwaukee Brewers in town, and Jerry Manuel presumably in his last week as Mets manager, it is not surprising the attention being placed on Willie Randolph and the inevitable comparisons to his successor.

RANDOLPH: Looking back.

I covered Randolph in 2006 until 2008 when he was unceremoniously fired, and found him to be knowledgeable but sometimes too thin skinned. I won’t use the word paranoid because I’m not a psychiatrist and believe that’s too harsh and unfair an assessment.

I attributed Randolph’s demeanor to it being his first job and his inability to let go of being passed by for other opportunities.

And, to be fair, Randolph had reason to be cautious as the Mets presented him with several untenable obstacles. Willie spoke highly of Omar Minaya the other day, but part of that was being a gentleman. Fact is, there was an uneasy tension between Randolph and the front office caused in large part by the constant undermining presence of Tony Bernazard, who literally was a management spy and who fed information to players that caused a gap in the clubhouse.

Minaya was at fault for letting that situation develop and not pulling in the reigns on Bernazard. Eventually, Bernazard did himself in and his reputation has kept him from landing another baseball job.

That Carlos Delgado sabotaged Randolph’s relationship with the Latin players, and it was allowed to happen by the front office, was distasteful and really despicable. Delgado’s presence undoubtedly hampered Randolph’s relationship with Jose Reyes to name one. It was information fed by Bernazard to Delgado that damaged whatever relationship the player could have with his manager.

The Mets came within one hit of reaching the World Series in 2006, then collapsed in 2007. The collapse that summer was historic, but traceable to the front office not addressing the needs of starting pitching and not bringing back the bullpen that was a strength of the 2006 team. The collapse would have happened sooner, and perhaps not been as dramatic, if not for the strong start that spring.

The bullpen was again a problem in 2008, but the Mets hung around until the final weekend. There was another collapse that year, but not as dramatic. The team hung around long enough for the interim tag to be removed from Manuel.

The Mets have addressed needs piecemeal, from Johan Santana to Francisco Rodriguez to Jason Bay, but never gave Randolph a full deck after 2006. The feeling was that they came close and to take the next step with essentially the same team. Hoping for improvement is not the same as adding the proper pieces to improve.

Gradually, by sticking with Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez too long, by not rebuilding the bullpen after Duaner Sanchez’s injury described in his EMR (electronic medical record) as a  fractured coracoid bone in the shoulder, by misjudging the progress made by Oliver Perez and John Maine after 2007, by hamstringing the bench with the likes of Julio Franco, poor contracts given Perez, Franco and Moises Alou, and numerous injuries, the window has slammed shut on the Mets and it doesn?t matter who is manager.

Had Randolph stayed, he couldn’t navigate through this mess, and Manuel has proven to be less capable. Let’s face it, today’s Mets are a house of cards. Their record will be better this year, but in some respects the team overachieved because of RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, and Mike Pelfrey’s step forward.

With the payroll as it is, the injury to Santana and questions in the pitching staff, and the health issues of Carlos Beltran and Bay, this team could go south again next year.

Randolph deserves another chance to manage in the major leagues, but bringing him back isn’t the best idea. Been there, done that. Just like with Bobby Valentine.

Randolph has his faults as does Manuel, but the fact is this front office will be going on its fifth manager in ten years next season, a sure sign that the instability that comes from up top.