In an outstanding interview with Tim Britton of The Athletic, the New York Mets’ first-year general manager — former head of CAA’s baseball division, Brodie Van Wagenen — spoke of the strides the organization took off of the field in a few of the team’s front office hires.
“From the first day on the job, I’ve wanted to change the culture. I’ve wanted to create a mindset of ‘We can’ and not ‘We can’t’,” Van Wagenen told Britton. “My management style is that I want to try to surround myself with people smarter than me, better than me and that have more experience than me […].”
In the Mets’ new vice president and assistant general manager for scouting and player development Allard Baird, executive director of player development Jared Banner, and assistant general manager of systematic development Adam Guttridge, Van Wagenen believes “those three hires are proof-positive” of his aforementioned “style”.
All three come extremely highly regarded, with both Baird and Banner coming to the Mets from the Red Sox’ organization and Guttridge — a former Brewers employee and then independent advisor for major league ball clubs — carrying with him a reputation of being an advanced analytics expert.
Under former general manager Sandy Alderson — reportedly despite his requests to ownership to bolster the department — the Mets’ former three-person analytics staff ranked among one of the most understaffed analytics departments in all of baseball.
Baird, 57, spent nearly two decades working his way through the Kansas City Royals’ organization (he began as the Class-A hitting coach in 1988), before being named assistant general manager in 1999, and then taking the reins in 2000.
After being fired in May 2006, Baird moved on to Boston, where he partly oversaw three World Series championships as vice president and director of professional scouting.
During that time with the Sox, Baird clearly made quite the impression on former Boston GM Ben Cherington, now an executive with the Blue Jays.
“Allard’s one of the best people I’ve ever been around at helping young scouts and young evaluators […]. He’s got the actual experience to be credible with his message,” Cherington told Britton. “And then he wants to do it. He’s willing to invest the time […] It’s just really important to him.”
As per Britton, Baird’s “first recommendation to Van Wagenen was to hire Banner”, after the two developed a good working relationship in Boston based on frequent conversations to what Baird called, “talk player development, to be specific”.
Van Wagenen adds a great anecdote, symbolically tying the situation together.
“Jared was going to be my next call if Allard wasn’t going to be able to come on board,” Van Wagenen told Britton. “The fact that Allard immediately suggested his name, we knew we were on the same page.”
Banner, 32, is a Brooklyn-bred (Flatbush), scouting-based young executive who told Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston last April that “the way [scouting] really got started was I worked for a law firm on Wall Street [after college] and hated it. I still wanted to compete. I wanted to win.”
From there, Banner left that world and made an incredible ascent through the Red Sox’ organization that saw him rise from an assistant with the player development and scouting departments in the mid-2000s, to eventually being named the team’s vice president and director of player personnel in 2016, overseeing the scouting of professional players in nearly all major international leagues.
Coming to New York seems like it was an inevitability (Banner told Britton he was a lifelong Mets fan and “a big Rey Ordonez fan”). Now it appears that the young Brooklynite-come-home has a clear-cut plan in place to do his part in the transformation of this oft-ridiculed organization.
“The key for me is to put out players in the best position to succeed. First, that means putting the right teachers around them, and I’ve noticed so far we have some great teachers in this organization,” Banner told Britton. “It also means putting a plan together and a process to prepare [players] for the next level […] Then, once you have that process in place, making sure there’s follow-through.”
The mutual respect between Baird and Banner is clearly evident in how they speak about each other in the article, and Banner expresses graciousness to have been fortunate enough to have “learned from some of the best”, also referring to Cherington, who spoke highly of Banner, as well.
Since day one in his new gig, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has spoken of culture change and bringing a reason for being prideful back to this loyal fan base.
While speaking with the press on Wednesday after Jed Lowrie‘s introductory press conference, Van Wagenen spoke candidly about the on-field team his staff has assembled.
“We’ve got a good team, we are a complete team, we are a balanced team,” Van Wagenen said. “We’ve got veterans, we’ve got youth, we’ve got a hunger and desire to win […].”
While he was obviously speaking about the Mets’ new additions in Lowrie, Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, and Edwin Diaz, among others, Brodie could have very well been talking about the potential dream team of executives he’s surrounded himself with.
Accountability, as well as success, starts at the top. Let’s go, Mets.