Friday, October 29, 2010

Honorifics

  • Sandy Alderson's anointing:

I keep hearkening back to the passage in the updated version of Jim Bouton's Ball Four after Bouton made a comeback with the Braves in 1978. He pitched a few games and, using his knuckleball, pitched relatively well. Two of his starts were against the Cincinnati Reds of Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench-fame; in one, Bouton got shelled; in the other, he allowed 2 runs and 5 hits in eight innings, losing 2-1.

Afterwards, the Reds were unimpressed with Bouton's stuff and said so as if it was embarrassing for them to have done so little offensively against a comebacking knuckleballer----still somewhat vilified for what would now be considered a tame book----whose main attributes as a big leaguers were his notoriety and Braves owner Ted Turner's iconoclasm.

The results were irrelevant. Bouton held down such a powerhouse team even though he lost; but the Reds found any number of excuses as to why they couldn't hit him. Bouton's friend and longtime big league pitching coach Johnny Sain said that Bouton had established a new criteria for a good/bad start; don't look at the results; just ask the other team what they thought.

My mind is calculating the possibilities now and I'm thinking of several things as Sandy Alderson has been officially announced as the new Mets GM with the press conference to come later this afternoon. As you may or may not have heard, I had my reservations with Alderson-----I preferred the younger and more recently employed as a GM, Josh Byrnes----but I'm all in with Alderson and will support and defend his decisions provided they make sense.

And that's all I ask.

That said, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the universal support Alderson is getting as if he's an automatic guarantee to turn the team around. He isn't. Amid all the accolades, it's not easily glossed over that he hasn't been an everyday GM since 1997; his Athletics teams were terrible from 1993 through the end of his tenure; and his vaunted "leadership" and "organizing skills" couldn't alter that reality.

That objective reality.

It's not easy to walk away from the day-to-day operations of anything and keep tabs on the inner workings and overt negatives that go with the job. Of course, anyone will remember the good things; the fun times; the success; the wins. It helps that Alderson has remained around the game and, as recently as two years ago, was the president of the San Diego Padres.*


*Incidentally, for those who've wondered where I got my assertion of Alderson's dictatorial and fiefdom-laden final years with the Padres, read this. I ain't makin' this stuff up.


Alderson, 62, is said to be fully invested in turning around the Mets; and Pat Gillick ran the Phillies at age 70; age is not a factor; it's the little detailed stuff that can grow tiresome for someone who may not have the patience to sit around and deal with an agent calling to whine about playing time for his client.

Since I mention Gillick and to put this into the context of football coaches, you have to look at the different circumstances----best and worst case----and determine whether or not this will work. Gillick, Bill Parcells and Vince Lombardi are individuals who never really walked away from their chosen vocation before diving back in full bore. With Gillick and Parcells, it worked; with Lombardi, it didn't. Lombardi was a case in which he should've stayed retired and knew it immediately after taking over as head coach/football czar of the Washington Redskins.

Then there are others who walked away for a long stretch and came back. Dick Vermeil left the Philadelphia Eagles, citing burnout, broadcast college football for years and returned to win a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams; Joe Gibbs came back after leaving the Redskins, ran his racing team, came back to coach and it didn't work.

This has happened in every sport. Scotty Bowman is an example in hockey. Jack McKeon was a great baseball man who finally won his World Series with the Marlins at age 72.

It's not something to discount with Alderson.

I'm also uncomfortable with asking people from other organizations what they think of my hire to fill such an important function as restoring industry-wide credibility on the field to a team like the Mets; a team that so desperately needs it. Recommendations from outsiders is of little consequence to me; and forget about what the media thinks (who cares?!?).

Alderson's choice of assistants will be telling. He's looking to bring in longtime lieutenants J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta.

I like Ricciardi. He's a smart baseball man whose time with the Blue Jays was marred by his temper and inherent inability to do the "GM thing" and use carefully-worded responses to any and all questions and/or criticisms. As an assistant, I believe he'd be a great asset.

With DePodesta, as I said a few months ago when it was revealed that DePodesta had removed his name and likeness approval from that insipid Moneyball movie, maybe he was among, well, among everyone who was made to look awful by the increasingly discredited and ridiculous book. (I'll discuss that tomorrow.) As bad and ill-suited as he proved to be as Dodgers GM, I'll give him the similar "wait and see" I'm giving Alderson----as I give anyone. Plus, I don't think he's going to want to leave his job in San Diego and traipse cross-country to work for the Mets, Alderson or not. (And if he does, he can take his blog detailing the inner-workings of the front office and deposit it into the Hudson River.)

Leadership and a resume are great, but we'll see with Alderson.

We'll see what he does.

We'll see what he says.

We'll see who he hires to assist him in the front office and who he interviews as manager.

We'll see.

In the end, I hope it was the Mets decision to hire Alderson and not a move to placate anyone and everyone who had something to say about the matter. At the end of the day, it's about looking into the mirror and knowing----knowing----you stayed true to yourself in the face of the consequences and appraisal of others. With the Mets, it's hard to know what they're thinking or why they do....anything.

It's Alderson's ball now.

And we'll see.

  • Speaking of potential Mets managers:

Without knowing which names were on Alderson's (or Byrnes's for that matter) double-super-secret list of five people he'd like to interview to be the new manager, here are my assessments based on his and the organization's qualifications.

Alderson would want someone who'd do as he's told and work at a reasonable price; the club wants someone with ties to the Mets.

Personally, my focus would be on the following (in no particular order): managerial experience; strategic skills; discipline; ability to handle the media; skills at defusing controversy and nuance with the front office; patience; and is not a former pitcher.

Here's a presumptive list of names who've either been mentioned or should be (again, in no particular order):


Wally Backman:


Backman has managerial experience in the minors and has been nothing but successful on the field; he'd be popular with Mets fans; certain factions are openly pushing him; and he'd work super-cheap for the opportunity.

But...

But...

BUT!!!!

Alderson is a stat friendly GM who will eschew the bunt; capricious stolen bases; and high-risk gambling and aggressiveness.

Backman's entire being has been one of feistiness and forcing issues on and off the field.

Backman wants to push the envelope; Alderson wants to run the team based on percentages.

Backman, despite his fiery nature and other attributes is a loose cannon in the Billy Martin mode. The potential for an embarrassing explosion is far greater than the good things that would come from his hiring.

On one end, you have Alderson, the Ivy League educated lawyer and Marine combat veteran who won't take kindly to a firestorm created by his less-than-media savvy manager saying or doing something stupid. On the other is Backman with all his baggage.

In fact, the two are the antithesis of one another in terms of personality and preferred strategy.

It doesn't fit.

As much as the Mets brass likes Backman, there's no way----no way!!!----Alderson will hire him to manage the team.


Bob Melvin:


Melvin is criticized for a vanilla personality, but he's a good strategist who doled out the innings of his pitchers evenly and well in both of his managerial stops with the Diamondbacks and Mariners. He made the right calls in both places and was popular with the players.

He got caught up in a situation with the Mariners in which he inherited Lou Piniella's players and they all got old at once; the Diamondbacks simply didn't play as well as they should have considering their roster----neither case was his fault.

Melvin already works for the Mets as an advance scout; would deal well with the media; and maintain an even keel with the players.

He's a major possibility and I'd be on board.


Clint Hurdle:


Hurdle has experience with the Rockies, but aside from that blazing hot streak at the end of 2007 that ended with a National League pennant, he never won more than around 75 games a year; and those teams were talented. It concerns me that the Rockies (especially Troy Tulowitzki) went on an utter tear when Jim Tracy replaced Hurdle in early 2009.

He has Mets ties having managed in the minor leagues and played for the team in the 1980s. He's in charge of his clubhouse and would deal well with the media.

I wouldn't go there.


John Gibbons:


I've been mentioning him repeatedly. Gibbons would work well with the front office; has experience having managed the Blue Jays; came up with the Mets as a player and managed in their minor league system; and, as I've also said repeatedly, he....doesn't....take....crap.

I'd seriously, seriously consider Gibbons.


Bobby Valentine:


Alderson's not hiring Bobby. Forget him re-joining the Mets; it's not happening; and it probably wouldn't work between him and Alderson.


Larry Bowa:


People don't remember that Bowa spent the final few months of the 1985 season with the Mets; I don't know if that counts as having "Mets ties", but it's true.

Bowa is a great strategic manager; has all the good qualities of Backman without the lunacy and potential for explosion.

But the players hated Bowa in both of his managerial stops in the mid-1980s with the Padres; and with the Phillies from 2001-2004.

I doubt the Mets would hire him.


Terry Collins:


It's easy to scoff at Collins because of his reputation as a raving lunatic----he inspired mutinies in both of his previous managerial stops with the Astros and Angels; but that was over ten years ago. DePodesta was prepared to hire him to replace Tracy to manage the Dodgers before DePodesta himself was fired; Collins is already working for the Mets as their minor league field coordinator and is respected within the organization and industry.

He's someone to consider.


Chip Hale:


Hale has minor league managerial experience and has been a longtime big league coach; he's already working for the Mets and is a positive presence in the clubhouse and on the field. I sense the same type of positive attitude and aura as has been shown by Astros manager Brad Mills.

If he doesn't get the big job, I'd keep him on the staff.


Lee Mazzilli:


Mazzilli would love to return to his first baseball home. He's experienced with New York; would deal well with the media; has experience in the twin-nuthouses of the Yankees and Orioles. He wouldn't put up with garbage either.

One would assume he'll get a call from Alderson and while I'd prefer other candidates, I could live with Mazzilli.


DeMarlo Hale:


With minor league managerial experience with great success and having been a third base coach and bench coach for Terry Francona, he's a viable candidate; but he has no Mets ties.

I can't see it.


There are extremely competent candidates in the above list, but it's hard to know what Alderson's thinking until he starts interviewing and makes a hire; then it'll be clear where this is going----good, bad or risky.

Again, we'll see.

  • Hello McFly?!? HELLOOOO!?!?

It didn't take a genius in the predictive arts to suggest that Rangers manager Ron Washington was a split second away from doing something stupid at any time, but is there anyone in that Rangers dugout to suggest to Washington that he's doing something he shouldn't be doing? Something that makes absolutely no sense?

With the Rangers trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning in game 2 of the World Series, Darren O'Day struck out the first two batters to face him, allowed a single to Buster Posey, and Washington pulled O'Day in favor of Derek Holland with Nate Schierholtz at the plate.

Not Aubrey Huff; not Pablo Sandoval----pretty much the only two left-handed bats who were something to be minutely concerned with on the Giants roster---but Nate Schierholtz.

Never mind that Schierholtz murders left-handed pitching; never mind that the side-arming O'Day has handled left-handed bats well enough when given the opportunity to pitch to them; what was the point of this move with Schierholtz at the plate and Cody Ross and Juan Uribe due up after him?

Why?

This isn't second-guessing; the move, like much of what Washington does over the course of a game, made no sense whatsoever; and naturally, it blew up in his face as the Giants busted the game open with a 7 run inning...with 2 outs.

Awful managing; just awful.

  • Viewer Mail 10.29.2010:

Max Stevens writes RE Cliff Lee:


Call me a naive hippie, but what difference does it really make to Cliff Lee whether his contract is worth $125 Million or $150 million? $25 million is obviously an obscene amount of money for me and you, but will it really make a difference in Cliff Lee's life? I guess what I'm trying to say is that the Rangers can offer him more money than he'll ever need, so why would he want to go to the Yankees after the stuff that happened with his wife? He's a country boy from Arkansas who likes to go deer hunting. I think Texas is a much better fit than New York, inconsequential salary difference be damned...


I don't think you're naive at all; I agree. Aside from the oneupmanship and faux validation one gets from the "biggest" contract, what's the difference? How many more cars and houses can he buy? Twenty generations of Lees are never going to be able to spend that money unless they're ridiculously stupid. I'd rather play where I'm happy.


Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the World Series and me:


Your predictions for Game 1 were on the money. The Kinsler pickoff was something we saw in the ALCS and I have no doubt we'll see it again.


I'm going to bask in being right as long as it lasts and beyond.


Joe writes RE the World Series and me:


You know, we will pick up on your accuracy. You don't need to retell us that you were right. :)


Joe, did you ever stop to think that maybe I'm just as stunned as everyone else when I get something right? (It's not true, but something to think about.)


Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Game 1 of the World Series:


I felt like I watched two different games: the nail-biter back and forth of innings 1-4, then a wild free-for-all in innings 5-9.

Guess Cliff Lee isn't Sandy Koufax or Christy Matthewson... yet.


You just can't predict baseball, Suzyn.

Well, they can't (and I mean the evil, Kevin Trudeau "they"); apparently I can. For now.


The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE the World Series and the Mets (separately of course):


My World Series experience is flat out sucking Bro! No FOX on Cablevision for me. I've been listening on the radio. At least during the ALCS I got to listen to Soup Campbell (calls a great game with Dan Shulman!) but now I'm stuck with Joe Morgan. *sigh*

Bombs Away! You had me at "Throw". There's nothing like a snapping curveball and a good carpet bombing.

My guess is, the first conflict of interest Alderson and the Wilpons will have will be over SLOTTING the draft. I like the choice of Alderson for a bunch of reasons; he won't let Jeff Wilpon be a back seat driver. But I give Jeff a lot of credit for checking himself and hiring someone who no doubt will dominate Jeff's business and baseball acumen. It takes a smart and secure cookie to do that. I think Jeff handled himself well and did a good job.


Carpet bombing is another thing I'm good at; and I relish it too. Gotta love your work!!!

The Mets really didn't have much of a choice; and while I still say that the Wilpons own the thing and therefore have a say in what goes on, they had to look at the lackluster ticket sales and the declining enthusiasm for the team and realize they had to do something drastic. The foundation is pretty good for Alderson to walk in and look really smart really fast----if he does smart things; and there's no one to blame because Jeff----as you said----is checking himself.

I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the World Series, the Mets, the Yankees and all sorts of other things. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.

Listen to both my "raspy, sexy" voice (not my words); and the content is pretty good too.

3 comments:

She-Fan said...

Sounds like the Mets are on the right track with Alderson. As for the manager, I agree with your preferences. Either Melvin or Gibbons would do a good job. Backman may be a fave in some corners but I don't see the fit.

Jeff said...

I think it'd be pretty hard to live up to any of New York's expectations... then again, it's the Mets, so the bar shouldn't be set so high ;-)

By the way, Blogspot must know me well because the captcha word I'm getting to comment here is "shots".

I'm not kidding.

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