Monday, September 13, 2010

Classified Ads

  • Regime change:

The title of this posting reminds me of Don LaPre with his classified ads to make millions. What happened to that guy? His ubiquitous infomercials were everywhere selling such brilliantly dubbed products as "The Greatest Vitamin in the World" and his classified ad shows were hosted by Cindy Margolis.

But I digress. The Mets do strange things to one's mind.

The season is winding down and the Mets are again being hacked to pieces by the baseball "experts" in the media. They were strangely quiet at mid-season, preparing to alter their stories from one of a shambolic organization to a feel-good story of perseverance, but a series of on-and-off-field mishaps have again relegated the club to the status as a running joke, convenient to attack and easy to pad one's byline.

Changes are coming as soon as the season's over. Omar Minaya is not going to get fired----not while he's under contract through 2012----and he's still a solid evaluator of talent to assist the person who takes over as head of baseball operations. Jerry Manuel might as well head to Lowe's and get some moving boxes.

As for the coaches, who knows? Chip Hale has acquitted himself well and I think he should stay and even get an interview to manage the team; Dan Warthen has been criticized for his mouth, specifically calling John Maine a "habitual liar", but what's lost in that statement is that it was true! Maine was lying to Warthen and Manuel and compromised games because he was trying to be gutty when he was in fact being stupid and selfish. The pitching staff, for the most part, has been good. No one can get through to Oliver Perez and the rest of the staff has performed at or above expectations considering all factors----age, past performance and experience. Warthen probably won't be retained as pitching coach----the new manager will get to pick his pitching coach or at least have a say----but he's worthwhile to keep in the organization.

The other coaches are either negligible or as good as gone.

So, who's taking over on and off the field?

Let's take a look at the names speculated from outside and from my own addled brain.

GM candidates

John Ricco:

There was rampant talk that the Mets were simply going to promote from within, and let Ricco advance from assistant GM to full-time GM. He has the intelligence and quickness to learn on the job while not having extensive baseball experience nor scouting acumen. He worked in the commissioner's office before joining the Mets.

The Mets have tended to hire "Mets". By that I mean, they don't like bringing outsiders into the club to automatically take command. Others scoff at this notion much like they ridicule a front office taking part in a manager picking his coaches. I have no problem with either strategy as long as they hire quality people.

I don't necessarily think it's a bad idea to bring someone in who has the deftness with the media and an outside-the-box thinking that isn't sullied by conventional baseball wisdom as to what works and what doesn't. It's worked before as clubs have shied away from the "baseball guy" and hired a well-rounded CEO type who relies on his staff and comes to cold-blooded conclusions.

Don't put too much stock in the day-by-day rumors of what the Mets are going to do. The latest is that they don't think Ricco is "ready". We'll see what they do. I would think that they'll either have to hire a glossy name as GM or manager; Ricco isn't glossy nor would he be expensive demanding a lot of money for the chance; hiring him would signal a Bobby Valentine/Joe Torre-type of manager is coming in.

Wayne Krivsky:

Aside from his penchant for bringing in left-handed relievers (Bill Bray, Mike Stanton, Kent Mercker) who had little left or were young and unproven, Krivsky played a major part in the building of the current Reds team that appears headed for the playoffs by acquiring Brandon Phillips and Bronson Arroyo.

There are worse choices than Krivsky, but he's not getting the Mets job.

John Hart:

Hart is still a senior advisor to the Texas Rangers, but they'd presumably let him take a job in the National League.*

*Just out of curiosity, is it appropriate for team "advisors" to be commenting on baseball in general while still under the employ of specific clubs? Bill James works for the Red Sox and puts out his baseball stuff, books and website, etc. Hart works for the MLB Network. If I were ever hired to advise/assist/function as an agent of chaos, one would think that I'd have to shut down my sites. In fact, if I were the employer of a specific club, I'd insist that a man like Hart, who's being paid, should not be making statements about players and other teams. It seems cannibalistic.

Hart built the Indians of the 1990s and helped craft the current Rangers team. He was the first GM to sign his young players to contract extensions to wipe out their arbitration years and save money in the long-term. Those were some high-powered teams and would've won a World Series or two with a break here and there.

He'd immediately command respect and has dealt with a meddling ownership before in Tom Hicks; he's also had a big name manager with Buck Showalter, so one would assume he could deal with a Valentine. The thing with the Mets is how much power a new GM would be accorded. If Hart comes in and says, "I want to hire Eric Wedge" as manager, is Jeff Wilpon going to say, "we've already decided on Wally Backman"? Hart's not going to want to deal with that. Nor will he be able to accept the edict that Jose Reyes and David Wright are off the table in trade talks.

The Mets are desperate enough to allow the new GM to do what he feels necessary, so I would think Hart is a legitimate possibility.

Gerry Hunsicker:

In the same boat with Hart as a respected evaluator and aggressive trader; he also is a former Mets assistant, so he's in the family. Hunsicker left the Astros after repeated interference from owner Drayton McLane, but he's a master at building bullpens and his teams----both with the Astros and Rays----have been very, very well-run and successful.

Hunsicker knows the deal with the Mets and appears happy as an assistant in Tampa, but maybe he'd like to see his name in lights; maybe he'd want to be the man to turn around the Mets.

Kevin Towers:

A name frequently mentioned for several jobs, Towers is currently an assistant to Brian Cashman with the Yankees. Towers was the man responsible for building a massive chunk of the contending Padres under financial and logistical constraints of a heavy-handed boss (Sandy Alderson) and dueling fiefdoms in the front office. Presumably, he could deal with the Mets anarchy.

Does he want to stay in New York? He's a West Coast guy and the Diamondbacks are said to be very interested in him; he almost got the job that went to Josh Byrnes in 2005 and in many circles, it was a stunner when he didn't get the job.

I've repeatedly mentioned Towers as the next Cubs GM, but the Cubs are letting current GM Jim Hendry interview managerial candidates, so it looks like they're keeping him. There are other jobs that might open up like the Mariners and Towers would be a fit there as well.

I have a hard time seeing Towers going to the Mets although he'd be a good hire.

There have been other names bandied about like Dodgers assistant Logan White (his drafts were terrific); Marlins assistant Dan Jennings (anyone from the Marlins is okay with me as long as they don't botch the interview); and how about Kim Ng? She worked for the Yankees and is currently the assistant to Ned Colletti in Los Angeles.

Will the new GM convince Jeff Wilpon that they have no choice but to swallow the Oliver Perez money? If nothing else, it would be addition by subtraction and Perez is occupying a roster spot now; they're paying him to sit around and mope; let him go and accept the sunk cost.

It sounds like the Mets are going outside the organization and if they do that, they're going to have to allow the new man or woman to have some significant power----power that front office is reluctant to give. They have no choice.

Managerial candidates

Wally Backman:

The positives with Backman are numerous. The aggressive fearlessness that allowed him to make it to the big leagues and craft a 14-year career have translated into managing. He's won everywhere he's been; his teams have been feisty and tough.

He will not tolerate some of the nonsense that's gone on with the Mets in recent years; an absence of fundamentals can be held as responsible for team failures as the injuries and panic in recent years. I'd like to see Mike Pelfrey show Backman his back as the manager comes out to pull him as the pitcher did on Saturday to Manuel. I don't care what you think of the manager, that was entirely unacceptable. Period. It would've been unacceptable for Johan Santana to do it and Santana has the credentials to pull such a stunt; but Pelfrey? In his fourth full year? No way.

Backman would take the job for a pittance in salary just for the chance; they'd bunt, hit-and-run, squeeze, steal bases, retaliate for teams throwing at them, and scratch and claw to win. He'd flip the food table and tear into players publicly for embarrassing the team and not executing. He's be a Billy Martin on the field....and maybe off the field.

That's the issue.

Would the new GM accept being handed the keys and told, "oh, by the way, your manager is Wally Backman"? No big name GM is going to take that, but they might want Backman. He'd need a good, veteran bench coach like Jimy Williams, but it's a deep strike attempt that might pay off really, really big. Worst case scenario, he'd make the fans happy and bring excitement to the team.

I'm a gambler and I'd go for it.

Bobby Valentine:

He's the best strategist in the world. The Mets are said to be reluctant to pay a manager the money Valentine's going to command, but depending on who the GM is, they're going to have to pay someone, either the GM or the manager. Valentine would make the fans happy, but it might be similar to pining away for a lost lover, once you get them back you realize why it was you broke up in the first place.

I don't see it happening. If they didn't bring him back before, they're probably not doing it now.

Bob Melvin:

I like him as a manager; he's not spicy, but he made all the right moves with the Diamondbacks and the players liked him. He's gotten the blame for the downfall of the Mariners after he took over for Lou Piniella, but all the players got old at once; the Diamondbacks had the personnel, but the personnel didn't perform.

He'd take the job inexpensively and I think he'd do well; he's already working for the Mets. My guess is that if Backman gets the job, Melvin will be the bench coach. They'd have to make sure Backman and Melvin are on the same page and there's no animosity/paranoia from the wild-eyed manager.

Chip Hale:

Every time I hear Hale interviewed or see him interacting with players, I think that he'd make a fine manager; he's not getting the Mets job now, but I'd keep him as a coach. He's a good man and has managed in the minors.

There are other names to talk to like Wedge, Pete Mackanin, Gary Varsho and Mets Triple A manager Ken Oberkfell; but it's hard to see any of these quality people getting the job. They need a recognizable name to drum up ticket sales and Joe Torre doesn't need the aggravation.

What the Mets need to do is have everyone on the same page for once and work together. This has not been evident, well, ever. Willie Randolph was not the greatest strategist, nor did he handle the media well, but Tony Bernazard's undermining didn't help him in the least. It also has to be remembered that the GM occasionally has his own interests in mind when hiring the manager; Andy MacPhail reportedly wanted Eric Wedge instead of Buck Showalter; I respect Wedge, but he'd have been the same type of manager the Orioles have hired again-and-again to their detriment; they needed a Showalter and they got a Showalter.

If the Mets want to jazz things up, they'll hire a quality GM and let he or she run things; and convince them that Backman is the guy. The situation isn't as dire as is portrayed and the team could contend next year with their current talent base, a little more cohesiveness and some luck.

  • Viewer Mail 9.13.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Cliff Lee:

I would think the Yankees and Red Sox will both be after Cliff Lee, driving up his price, unless either Lee gets hurt and/or is ineffective in the postseason, the Rangers come up with the money to keep him somehow, or the Red Sox have targeted some other expensive free agent.

I can't imagine that the Red Sox are "automatically out" on Lee as some have suggested. They've got a load of money coming off the books and would love to get payback on the Yankees for the way they swooped in on Mark Teixeira. The Lee situation is going to be fascinating. Are teams going to give up the cash and hope he stays healthy? Or will he get a deal similar to what Josh Beckett got----far fewer years and less money than anyone could've expected just a couple of years ago.

Zelig Starkiller at MyTeamRivals writes RE Gil Meche:

How in the WORLD did Gil Meche get on that list!?!? Yikes!

The rare comment from the silent and deadly Underboss to the Street Boss always makes my day.

I have to say that Meche looked like a brilliant signing his first couple of years with the Royals----he was durable and would've won 16-18 games for a better team. In addition to that, the signing was signal from then-new GM Dayton Moore that the Royals meant business in trying to improve. Things have come apart since then, just like Meche, but it looked in hindsight after a couple of years like a good move----way better than Barry Zito.

Max Stevens writes RE expensive pitchers:

Thanks for the great post today on big-contract pitchers. The injury to Johan Santana reemphasizes for me how wrongheaded it is to give pitchers these huge long-term, multi-million dollar contracts. CC Sabathia is great now, but with his body type and the number of innings he throws every year, how long before he breaks down? If I were a GM, I would not give pitchers over 30 years old deals for more than three years. It would probably prevent the club I was GMing from attracting a lot of top-shelf talent, but it would force the organization to place even more emphasis on developing young arms in the farm system.

I would believe that Sabathia is the one type of pitcher----big and strong----who would maintain his health. People forget that he's only just turned 30. It's another cyclical circumstance----if the Yankees and Red Sox are chasing the same pitcher, they have no choice but to continually one-up the other with another year or more dollars; this is where teams like the Rays and Marlins have an advantage by shrugging and saying, "here's the offer, that's it".

The Mets had a policy for awhile that they wouldn't go past a certain number of years for a pitcher, but that went out the window with desperation. Teams need to set a point they won't go beyond and stick to it, but that's not going to happen and we know it, especially when it comes to a pitcher like Lee.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I'll be a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday. Begin preparations immediately.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


Jeff said...

I've often thought the same about Hart... how can he work for a club then dish on everything else going on. That's sorta like having a girlfriend/wife then having a chick on the side that everyone knows about.

Just doesn't feel right.

How 'bout the Prince send his resume to to the Mets for GM consideration?

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Tim Teufel is the one most familiar with the prospects the Mets are farming-up. He had many of them in Coney Island and more recently in Binghampton. He just may be the best choice (like Davey Johnson's graduation to the big club with many he managed below). There are certain Baseball people who speak very highly of Tim. Me personally, I don't share that opinion, but I'd be willing to be dead wrong about him.
Another possibility I was thinking about was John Stearns. He most recently managed in Harrisburg for the Nats system for a couple of years. I believe he's scouting for the Mariners right now. He played and coached here before. He's right up the Wilpon's alley and they don't call him the DUDE for nothing. He won't tolerate many shenanigans from the peanut gallery.
I think Larry Bowa and Tony Pena are definite options as well. I've thought about Mazzilli, and heard him mentioned around. Mazz got screwed in Baltimore as we know. Like Teufel, I'm not warm to the idea.
But if I were wagering, and if the Mets wind up keeping this all in house (Again) Teufel may be their man. Internally and organizationally it makes the most sense; Not to me, but maybe to the Wilpons. If I'm ranking preferences...I'm going with Pena one and Stearns two. But, wake me when Jeff Wilpon is no longer a Baseball Man around here. Till then, I'm pretty much done blowing my hot air. There is nothing new I can say that I haven't said already. This front office needs an enema. The front office is inbred.
Let's Go Cyclones!