Thoughts on Manager Search, and What I Want

Wally Backman will meet with Sandy Alderson and his staff in Orlando at 12 pm today, after which they will take a break for lunch and later meet again with Terry Collins.

Bob Melvin and Chip Hale met with the team yesterday.

I wanted Rick Hahn as GM, but understood why the Mets needed Alderson, and so I endorsed him before being hired.  To me, the GM is the most important manager in the organization, since he sets the path forward.  And so, while people keep asking me who I want as ‘field manager,’ I just can’t make a pick, because I just don’t think it matters that much.

That said, I’ve talked to people around the game to learn who might do the least amount of damage – in terms of in-game startegy, public relations, dealing with reporters and managing personalities – and help the team get closer to winning than others – and here’s what I’ve learned:

Terry Collins: He worries me.  It sounds to me like he has the best chance to be Willie Randolph: Part II.  Like Willie, despite being good at teaching and creating discipline in the clubhouse, also like Randolph I hear he’s defensive, he talks a lot, he’s a bit paranoid when dealing with reporters who question him, and he is not likely to translate well with the fan base, assuming the team is struggling.  Also, his constant talk about winning, winning, winning, despite never finishing better than second place, reminds me of Randolph’s obnoxious and delusional talk of champagne at the end of 2007.

Chip Hale: I’ve heard people say he has the potential to be very much like Ron Gardenhire, especially since Hale was influenced a lot by his time with the Twins organization.  He is terrific at building relationships, regardless of the player’s stature or paycheck.  Frankly, I can’t find much wrong with him, short of never having managed in the big leagues before and having no track record of dealing with 10 reporters on his back, every day, for 8 months. He will be a big-league manager eventually, be it in Queens or some place else, but I get the sense from the Mets – and people around the game – that it’s just not his turn yet.

Wally Backman: He doesn’t just talk about winning, he’s actually won, not just as a player, but at nearly every level of baseball he’s been involved at.  He loves the Mets.  And, obviously, he has the support of most Mets fans.  He utilizes statistics and bases his decisions on statistical evidence more than has been reported.  He loves to teach the game and desperately wants to manage in the big leagues – so much so that I’m concerned he might panic a bit in New York.  This is his dream job, so what happens if it gets off to a rough start?  How will he react, especially for a guy who is so used to winning?  Also, he is very honest, and so, despite his experience talking to reporters as a player, I worry about him dealing with a conflict-driven, modern-day media on a regular basis.  That said, Alderson and Wilpon are well aware that, for whatever it’s worth, no other candidate has the potential to rally the fan base, like Rex Ryan did for the Jets, than Backman, who might make disenfranchised fans feel like part of the team again.

Bob Melvin: He’s squeaky clean, professional, consistent, calm but passionate, intelligent and smart with reporters, all of which make him a perfect pick for Alderson it would seem.  Also, he’s spent the last 12 months studying the Mets roster and farm system, and so he’s said to already have an idea of what must happen to get back to winning.  He’s won before, and has been acknowledged for doing so by his peers.  He now considers himself a New Yorker, especially since his family is here.  I like that he’s called the Mad Scientist, because of how he would base pitching changes and lineup adjustments on day-to-day match ups in Arizona, and get them to pay off.  For whatever reason, he seemingly makes most Mets fans yawn, but is viewed by most people in the game as the perfect remedy for this club.

In early October, I wrote this, in regards to what I want in a manager:

“He needs to be ‘a winner,’ and he needs to be the smartest person in the dugout.  Also, he needs to be respected and captivating and inspiring, not just in a way that will unite the team, which is important, but also in a way that will unite the fans … I don’t care if he’s never managed in the big leagues before … I don’t care if he’s been around the block a few times … So long as he fits the team he will be asked to lead, in terms of their personality and how his philosophy and style match the team’s talent, and so long as he’s smart, inspiring, captivating and someone fans and players can rally around, I’ll be happy.”

This reads like Backman, or maybe Hale, and kind of Melvin.

In regards to the inevitable outcome, reporters and columnists seem to flip-flop between giving the edge to Melvin or Collins.

My hunch is the same, though I still feel there is a chance we could see Backman or Hale as manager, with Collins as a bench coach.  However, I don’t see Melvin as bench coach for Backman, though he could support Hale.  Melvin at the wheel and Collins by his side would not surprise me either, though I have to think both of these guys will prefer to pick their top advisers.  In either case, I believe Hale will be in the dugout. because Alderson will not want to lose him.