As the Mets front office mind trust carefully considers their next manager and pitching coach they need to look beyond resumes and intangible leadership qualities. Managing and coaching this team will require a keen mind and an adaptive personality. This is not a typical team that’s in clear win now, rebuild or tear down mode. This is a team that is in reboot mode.
There are holes to be filled, but there’s enough talent in place to reconfigure this group into a winning team. We need a manager who can inspire players and make smart in-game decisions, but also, work with the front office and his coaching staff to figure out the optimal role for each player to give this team the best chance to win. This is what overachieving teams do. It’s the Cardinal way. Mike Matheny and Tony LaRussa before him were great at making solid relievers out of struggling starters, finding at bats for utility players, deploying clever platoons, maximizing hot streaks, and using positional versatility to their every advantage. Smart managers are clever and resourceful. They find unique ways to manufacture and prevent runs. The most talented team doesn’t always win. How the heck did the Twins make the playoffs? How come the Nationals can’t get past the first round?
A good leader, be it in the military, the workplace or in the dugout needs to identify every contributors’ strengths and weaknesses and utilize them in a way that maximizes potential. It starts with asking the right questions. How would each of Alex Cora, Joe McEwing, Mickey Callaway, Manny Acta, and Kevin Long turn eight talented but mostly injury-prone starting pitchers into a top-line rotation?
Which manager and pitching coach candidates are most up to the task of solving the riddles of this roster? Is it time to convert Zack Wheeler to a relief pitcher? Is there a way to piggyback guys at the back end of the rotation as Brian pointed out on Sunday? Can we do more to take advantage of players who are quicker on the bases, like have Amed Rosario work on drag bunting? Can we develop a productive platoon at second or third base with what we have in-house?
If Sandy Alderson wants to get this team back to the post season, he’s going to need more than wisdom and moxie. He’s going to need a little magic.
So, as he interviews each coaching candidate, Alderson shouldn’t just be asking about game strategy, preparation, sabermetrics, handling the media, and so forth, but rather, “how can you pull a rabbit out of your hat?”