It’s been a couple of days now since Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, GM Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Mickey Callaway were interviewed for over 90 minutes on Mike Francesa’s radio show on WFAN.
The interview covered a wide range of topics ranging from specific Mets players to the organization as a whole and the direction it is headed. For the most part, it made for fascinating radio as it is certainly rare when three management level individuals of a baseball team venture in studio for a commercial-free lengthy interview. I realize that the trio had other commitments in the WFAN offices and Francesa’s interview was just one such engagement of several.
Some of the highlights of the interview included:
- Jacob deGrom will be offered an extension. Wilpon was not clear as to how long that extension would be but Van Wagenen chimed him saying he would not want to build a team that had core players for 4-5 years and only to have deGrom leave in two.
- Robinson Cano would be the Mets second baseman for the next few years but could move to a corner position down the road.
- With the hiring of Jim Riggleman and Allard Baird, among others, the Mets have improved their coaching and scouting staffs immensely, according to both Callaway and Van Wagenen
- When the discussion turned to the “big two” in the free agent market–Harper and Machado– Wilpon stated although having such a player is not out of the question, there would have to be some financial creativity with the budget to bring them aboard.
- The Mets brass feels that Jeff McNeil will be an important part of the team going forward. He can play first, second, third and even the corner outfield positions. Callaway made it clear that he wants McNeil’s bat in the line-up and will find creative ways to keep it there.
- The Mets are hoping that Yoenis Cespedes will be back from his foot injury in the second half of the 2019 season. Callaway, a former pitching coach, remarked how difficult it is for a staff to plan for a team when a player of Cespedes’ presence is in the line-up. Van Wagenen called him “the ultimate trade deadline piece”.
- In the most contentious part of the interview, the Mets indicated the Tim Tebow will start the year at Triple AAA Syracuse. The foursome bandied about whether Tebow was there for baseball or marketing purposes.
- As far as Noah Syndergaard and the possibility of trading him, Van Wagenen stated that it is “more than fair” to suggest that that the Mets would have to be blown away in a deal to trade him. Callaway considers him to be one of the Mets aces.
- Peter Alonso is expected to be a ‘big part of (the) team’ and is even projected to be the Mets Opening Day first baseman.
My colleagues here at MMO covered several of the above bullet points in excellent articles on the web site.
The tenor of the interview ebbed and flowed as one would expect in such a long interview, but I’ll try to make some salient points about each of the gentleman and what they brought to the table.
Mickey Callaway held is own fairly well considering two of his bosses were in the same room. He admitted the Mets need a more “dynamic offense” and used the World Champion Boston Red Sox as a template in creating a viable division winner. Have players put the ball in play, moving runners, hit the long ball and more were all attributes he admired in the Red Sox and wanted to bring to the Mets.
Callaway mentioned the scorecard fiasco in Cincinnati when the Mets batted out of order was “the worst day of my life”. He also said there was a big adjustment in going to the National League where there are “1000s” of things to think about all of the time. He admitted he is not afraid to chew-out a player, but said he is always there for the team and he will do what it takes–including embarrassing himself–to win. He believes that with Van Wagenen in tow, this winter will be exciting and he wants more than anything to win for Mets fans. The hope is that now that his rookie season as manager is behind him, and that he has Jim Riggleman at his side as his bench coach, Callaway will show improvement in his sophomore year .
Brodie Van Wagenen stated early in the interview that he wanted to be a “really creative” GM. He admitted the team needs more depth, more versatility and more balance and is willing to use his creativity to achieve this. He surprised Francesa when he stated he was going to be an “omnipresent” GM and will frequently be with the team on road trips.
One of Van Wagenen’s major themes was building a partnership with his players. He wants them to know he works for them and not vice versa. He made it clear that he intends to build a winner in 2019 and for years beyond and he wants to share this notion with all members of the organization. Van Wagenen mentioned he is tired of hearing the phrase ‘Same old Mets’–as he often heard as an agent–and plans to do whatever it takes to change that stance. In fact, he stated that he would not have even interviewed for the job if the Mets were rebuilding or not immediately looking to change their perception.
When asked at the end for the big picture of the Mets he did not hesitate with his answer. Van Wagonen wants Mets fans to know that he has a recipe that includes multiple contingencies for success. He wants to create “optimism versus skepticism” and foster in Mets fans hope and belief rather than doubt. There is no doubt that the new Mets GM is a polished, bright, and optimistic individual. He said during the interview that some of his best attributes were his cockiness, confidence and hard work. It remains to be seen whether this will translate to a winning GM but the early results are very positive.
Jeff Wilpon said some things that were surprising. He called his budget “flexible” and that when it comes to deals, anything will be allowed for discussion. He plans to give Van Wagonen “leeway and runway” for other trades beyond the Cano/Diaz deal. When asked of how he sees the big picture of the team going forward, he immediately uttered the word ‘progress’. Wilpon wants his team to be in a position to achieve at least ten years of success. He maintained that he cares about winning and he cares about his players and wants to establish a commitment to excellence in all areas of his franchise. He repeatedly mentioned that he will work closely with Van Wagenen to help improve the team from the minors on up. At the end he assured Mets fans he and his father have a commitment to win.
Wilpon’s appearance was welcome and he did give some salient information although he did not give exact budgetary numbers for the upcoming season. In other instances, he let his new GM do most of the talking. He is certainly not the most well-liked owner in baseball, but he appears to be trying to change that perception by participating in more press conferences and being more available to reporters overall. His outside-the-box hire of his new GM is also a sign that the franchise is moving in a positive direction.
The Winter Meetings will be held Dec 9-13 in Las Vegas. It will be very interesting to see what happens with free-agency, trades, and anyone of several issues on the agenda. The Winter Meetings will afford the Mets hierarchy a chance to test the waters, and hopefully do what it takes to make the Mets a better team.
But that is next week.
This week we got a formative glimpse of the Mets plans going forward from the men who are the architects of the team. The Mets certainly have garnered new interest in a baseball crazy town and it remains to be seen what road this franchise takes. I’ll end this by repeating what Van Wagonen said when asked what he wants to say to Mets fans.
“Trust the Process.”