It’s not very often that I’ll defend New York Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, especially in matters of team operations. Over the years, I’ve written many a blistering article castigating the Wilpons for all of their overt meddling, their outright dysfunction, and their extreme tone-deafness that always seems to be on full display. Everything is a cash-grab with them and the frequency of their disastrous decisions knows no boundaries.
And yet here I am, about to pen a piece in which I take an uncommon fork in the road to defend the very people that have given me endless grief over the last 20+ years. I take no pleasure in saying that the Wilpons are being portrayed in a very negative and unfair light regarding their decision to go with Brodie Van Wagenen, of CAA notability, to be the next general manager of the Mets. Please let me explain why.
Let me begin by saying that of the three apparent finalists for the GM vacancy; Doug Melvin, Chaim Bloom, and Van Wagenen, I was actually rooting hard for Chaim Bloom, he was my absolute first choice.
But in all honestly, I cant kill the Mets for finally being bold and doing something so outside-the-box in opting for Van Wagenen. For years, I’ve been clamoring for the Mets to stop doing the same old shit, and finally do something bold, unexpected and different for a change. So now that they did just that, I’m not gonna kill them for it as many in the media are now doing.
I’ve examined the concerns of guys like New York columnist Bob Klapisch and Buster Olney of ESPN, but I strongly and respectfully reject their opinions.
Of course Doug Melvin has a ton more front office experience, but so does Omar Minaya and Ruben Amaro Jr,. would you also prefer one of them? It’s not just how much GM experience you have that is paramount, but how effective and efficient were you in that position.
And quite frankly, while Melvin had his share of moments as the former GM of the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers, nothing about him really jumps out at you. His penchant for old-school style evaluation is well documented even though he now says he’s an advocate for a more modern and nuanced approach. I just wish there was some evidence to back that up.
Additionally, my biggest fear with Melvin is that he’d be another yes-man for the Wilpons and I see that as a red flag and a disqualifier. Look, I have a lot of respect for the loyal company-man types, but that’s now what the Mets need right now. We need someone who is independently strong that can pushback when necessary to get whatever he wants to get this franchise back to the World Series. We need an alpha male so to speak and that’s where Brodie Van Wagenen comes in.
Van Wagenen, 44, has no experience whatsoever as a front office executive, and yes, he would also have to alleviate concerns about potential conflicts of interest because of his relationships with dozens of players, and sensitive information that he has been privy to over the years.
Both concerns are certainly valid, but I can eliminate the lack of experience issue just based my own personal experience. After I was honorably discharged from the US Navy, I applied for a senior management position with a major book retailer on the East Coast. I knew absolutely nothing about the book industry, retail sales or merchandising.
Somehow I impressed them enough after several interviews with various executives including the president of the company himself, that they offered me five of their stores to manage.
By the year’s end, three of my stores climbed into the top ten in the country, I reduced losses by more than 50 percent, won various achievement awards, and many of the rules and practices I put in place in my stores became company-wide policies. The following year I became a full district sales manager with 13 high-grossing stores in New York and New Jersey. So much for the lack of experience.
Transitioning from being one of the top agents in baseball – having negotiated intimately with all thirty MLB front offices – to becoming the next general manager of the New York Mets, should be a piece of cake for Van Wagenen. This is a man with a lifelong love of the game, is a very shrewd and sharp negotiator, loves working with people, and is a results-oriented professional who is committed to excellence.
“I believe baseball is better when the Mets are competitive and successful,” Van Wagenen said after his interview with Fred and Jeff Wilpon last week. “That success is better for the fans, players, and the economy of the sport.”
“The players, the fans and the entire organization will be motivated to have a leader with the skills and commitment to win. If the Wilpons believe I am that person, we will have that conversation.”
Van Wagenen exudes confidence and is already respected around baseball for his communication skills, professionalism, intellect, and negotiating prowess. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding any conflict of interest concerns. He has carried himself with integrity throughout his career and there’s no reason to think that will change with his role as general manager.
Also keep in mind that the plan is for John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi to remain with the organization and you can bet they will become part of Van Wagenen’s front office brain trust. Several reports added that Van Wagenen insisted on a robust expansion of the team’s analytics department as part of any agreement. Currently the Mets employ a three person department that is woefully inadequate and ranks at the bottom of MLB in terms of size. So Van Wagenen’s first official decision is a grand slam in my book.
Finally, and perhaps more importantly, I don’t believe Van Wagenen would have accepted his new position unless he had assurances that Mets ownership would give him the large market resources the team has lacked over the last ten years.
There’s no way he would subject himself to showing up at the Winter Meetings with a tin cup and shopping in the fruits and nuts section, as fellow agent Scott Boras used to say about the Mets. He would be a laughing stock among all agents if that were to happen,
So yes, what I’m saying is that with his hiring the Wilpons will widen their wallets and give Van Wagenen plenty of latitude as he seeks to being the Mets back to postseason prominence. I’m very excited about the prospect of beginning a brand new era and a much brighter era.
Are the Mets taking a risk? Definitely, but it’s a risk worth taking and I applaud the Fred and Jeff Wilpon for doing so. I truly believe this will be a game-changer for the New York Mets and the start of something big.
The two sides have reportedly finalized all terms of their deal, and Brodie Van Wagenen will be introduced as the new general manager of the New York Mets as soon as Tuesday. Let’s all wish him the best as he embarks on his quest to bring a World Series Championship to Flushing. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and as always – Let’s Go Mets.