The [former-agent-as-General-Manager] situation looks better in other sports, particularly in the NBA, where agents have gone on to be successful GMs, including Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. One of the things that Myers has done successfully in Oakland is to install an organization-wide culture of togetherness. And if there’s any MLB team that needs a culture change, it’s our Mets.
Now, you may roll your eyes, thinking this is nothing but meaningless buzz words, strung together to make something big out of, essentially, nothing. It certainly has the possibility to be just that. It’s easy to say the right things. It’s a little more difficult to actually do it.
— Brian Joura, in this space, October 28, 2018
Well, upon introduction, he was certainly saying the right things. In fact, new Mets’ General Manager Brodie Van Waganen sounded like Winston Churchill when he proclaimed “We will win now, we will win in the future. We are going to develop a winning culture and a winning mindset. And we will deliver to this City and this fan base a team they can be proud of.” That’s some big talk. In fact he sounds like an agent.
Mets ownership went into this search with a burning need to separate themselves from the other “ordinary” teams in the major leagues. Fred and Jeff Wilpon seem to have a misguided vision of their team’s own exceptionalism. Their need to stand out in the crowded New York sports landscape is palpable, so they entered this offseason determined to deliver an “out of the box” choice for their new GM. They gave courtesy nods to “old school” candidates like Dave Littlefield and Doug Melvin, but, reading the Twitter tealeaves, it was clear to ownership that that wouldn’t fly with the fans. They interviewed perennial candidate Kim Ng – the personal choice over here – who would have been the first woman ever to run a MLB organization. They came very close to hiring Chaim Bloom, who had success in Tampa despite being in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, was in his early-30’s and looked younger than one of the 2018 Citi Field bat boys. No. Instead, they hired the former agent with the cumbersome name – can’t we just call him “Wags?” – to be their “out of the box” selection. Except, they’re still boxed in.
You see, the problem is that “Wags” has been hired with the Three-Headed Monster still in place. You recall that creature, the golem comprised of John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi who ran the team after Sandy Alderson took his permanent leave of absence back in June. There hasn’t been any talk about the future of the component parts of the beast, so it is being assumed that all three will still be in place. Which means that “Wags” will have to run decisions through Ricco…then Omar…then Ricciardi…then Saul Katz, third ownership partner…then Fred Wilpon…then Jeff “Final Decision” Wilpon. With all that gridlock, even if the Mets were considering signing Manny Machado this off-season, he’d be retired and on the Hall of Fame ballot before ever receiving the Mets-O-Gram.
That surely doesn’t look like any kind of healthy situation. In fact, from here it looks completely untenable, like the center cannot hold and things will fall apart. It makes one wonder what Van Waganen has actually signed up for. And this isn’t even mentioning the obvious conflicts of interest inherent in such a move. Will he be closer to the players he used to represent – four of whom would be considered key cogs in any playoff-bound machine? How will he be able to pivot from trying to get the most for his clients to trying to get concessions from them? We have no idea how he would handle trade negotiations with other clubs. We don’t know how he will deal with the player development and minor-league side of the operation. It’s all very risky. We do know he’s a smart guy and looks good on camera. That’ll have to do for now, until we see how he maneuvers through this thicket.
As ever with the Mets, we hope for the best while expecting the worst.
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