Despite a report in the New York Post earlier today, there’s no conflict in the Mets search for a new General Manager.
A source told me earlier this week that it will be Fred Wilpon, not Jeff, who will be making the final call on whom will be running the organization going forward. Everyone else’s opinion is just that – an opinion.
There has been confusion as to why John Ricco – who Jeff Wilpon said two weeks ago may not have a job under the new regime – is holding first round interviews. It’s because the committee of Fred Wilpon, Omar Minaya and Ricco will be the driving force in the second round. The elder Wilpon will rely on Minaya and Ricco to help him with the process.
What does this mean? Jeff Wilpon still doesn’t have the autonomy that is normally true for the COO of a big-league team. It also means that we must look back at history as to the type of individual that Fred prefers. In short, follow the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax.
Ever since early August I have been citing a report by Rich Mancuso of NY Sports Day on the Talkin’ Mets podcast that Gary LaRocque will almost certainly be the next Mets general manager. This isn’t about analytics or anti-analytics, this is about Fred trusting those that come from the Dodgers circle. He also adores Koufax who he played with in high school. LaRocque was a coach in the Dodgers organization and is friendly with Koufax.
Do you know who else was with the Dodgers during LaRocque’s tenure? Former Mets manager Terry Collins who is still an adviser with the Mets. It was Fred Wilpon that saved Collins job numerous times despite Jeff and Sandy Alderson leaning towards firing him. I have also heard that Jeff would have preferred Wally Backman to get the Mets job in 2011 when Collins was hired. Again, Fred Wilpon and the Dodger/Koufax connection trumps all.
The other variable is how is Omar Minaya leaning in this process? It’s been reported by numerous outlets that Fred Wilpon has long loved Minaya. Even some calling it a pseudo “father-son” relationship. Do you think Minaya will want to bring someone in that won’t keep him employed with a team and town he loves? Omar made plenty of mistakes during his tenure, but the biggest one was allowing Tony Bernazard to undermine him. It created embarrassing negative publicity for the organization and led to dissension and distrust throughout all levels. LaRocque left in 2008 at the height of this and many believe Bernazard was the main cause.
If all this doesn’t convince you, think back to the report of how Fred Wilpon was annoyed at a member of the staff mentioning the “Cardinals Way” during spring training. Fred has long wanted to create “The Mets Way.” Who reinvented the Cardinals Way with St. Louis? Yes, you guessed it, Gary LaRocque.
In the end, I don’t know if we can say with certainty what direction the Mets will eventually take. A lot can happen during interviews. Art Howe “lit up a room.” But I do believe that history is the best indicator for predicting the future. Isn’t that what data and analytics are all about?
For all the criticism of Minaya, he wasn’t a bad general manager. It might not be the best role for him, but many act like he was detrimental to the organization. The Mets were boring and dead when he took over in late 2004. The Scott Kazmir debacle accelerated the departure of new-GM Jim Duquette. Did anyone think while they were watching the Red Sox epic World Series run that fall that it would be the Mets, not the Yankees, who would come within one win of a World Series appearance two years later?
A high-ranking Mets official told me many years ago that the difference between Omar and Sandy Alderson is that Omar would like to see how the offseason and market would transpire and he would adjust his plan accordingly. Alderson had a methodical plan that worked almost like a corporate flow chart. Essentially if A fails then B equals…
Both philosophies have their strengths and limits. Both had success with their way. I almost wish Minaya and Alderson could have worked together the last seven years. You may have seen a GM duo that gave you the best of both worlds.
I don’t think the media should be labeling this as the Mets either going pro or against analytics. This is about finding a general manager that is comfortable working for this team and ownership group. That is what everyone wants when they take a job with the level of responsibility this position demands. Every GM today will use analytics, it just matters where their experience and foundation started.
Personally, I don’t get the hand-wringing over Ben Cherington and Thad Levine turning down interviews. If their desire is to work for a team that is their baby from “the ground up” then this job isn’t for them. Also, I am not sure what accomplishments either of these individuals really has? Cherington won a World Series spending Boston money on free agents. It wasn’t rocket science as most of those players were established in their careers.
It is a blueprint for what I believe the next Mets GM should use to build us this current roster. You don’t need Cherington to do that. You can essentially go with any viable candidate. The money will dictate how this works out. Levine? Again, did the Twins have a powerhouse that I missed? Their “plan” didn’t seem to work all that well this past season.
Remember, a lot of the media outrage is a mouthpiece agenda for the analytics crowd who is always trying to gain more power and build a strong base, so they can keep themselves employed. It always has been and always will be about jobs. Follow the money trail.
One final thought…
Everyone talks about the Astros and how they did it “the right way” but no one talks about what a horrible situation that team was in when the new ownership took over. They weren’t even being televised in their own city. Revenue was non-existent. What Jeff Luhnow did cannot be done in a town where the Yankees are relevant and fans attention can turn from baseball to basketball to football. There are too many options to sit and watch a team “rebuild.” You can’t wait five years and use McDonald’s Family Sundays as an attraction. That mindset leads to you becoming irrelevant very quickly.
The Mets have the roster to win now. They do need to spend money both in greater quantity and with more sense. Turing this around isn’t rocket science. Most “analytic-savvy” and young prospective GMs like the total teardown since it gives them 3-4 years of job security while they figure out what the heck they are doing.
Wouldn’t you want that kind of rope in your job?