Mets lose out on Girardi, Van Wagenen doesn’t lose a wink of sleep

Mets fans can strike Joe Girardi off their wish list. News is out that Girardi has taken the offer from the Phillies to be their new manager. It’s easy to understand Girardi’s allure to many. He has a Manager of the Year Award and a World Series title on his resume and a lifetime .554 winning percentage. Additionally, one of his strengths is running a bullpen, something the Mets haven’t seen from their skipper in many a year.

But despite this, it never seemed Girardi was a priority for Brodie Van Wagenen. Sure, he gave him an interview, which is more than he did for Dusty Baker or Buck Showalter, but it seemed more of a courtesy than anything else. We don’t have any idea what happened in the interview or why there wasn’t more interest from the Mets to hire Girardi. All we can do is try for informed speculation. And the best guess is that Girardi wanted more control than Van Wagenen wanted him to have.

We all want to win and we all think we know the best way to accomplish that goal. The problem comes when you become convinced that there’s only one way to win and that you’re the only person on the planet that knows the answer. For me, my preference is to build around pitching and the three-run homer. If you gave me the choice of any manager in history, we’d have 1970 Earl Weaver in the dugout.

But if we had 1982 Whitey Herzog instead, that would be pretty awesome, too. Herzog’s ’82 Cardinals finished last in the league in homers. But they won, anyway. And what’s more important – winning or winning the by the way you deem best?

One of the most frustrating players for me to watch was Ike Davis. My perception of Davis is that he was more interested in doing things his way than doing things that worked. Note the word perception. That’s my view from the TV set. Reality could be a completely different beast. But to support my perception, recall his insistence on swinging at every pitch once the count got to 0-2. Or his refusal to slide on close plays on the basepaths. Or his indifference to fielding balls that he thought were foul. Or his abandoning his stance that helped him to hit 32 HR.

Davis got off to a terrible start in 2012, sporting a .501 OPS after the game on June 5. But Davis and Dave Hudgens put a ton of work in to revamp his swing. The end result was a guy who put up a .906 OPS in the final 103 games of the season. And he did this with a batting stance that could be best described as looking like a bear getting ready to take a dump. It looked ridiculous but the results were tremendous.

Flash forward to 2013. Davis discarded what worked the previous season and had a miserable year. Why he felt the need to abandon what had been so successful drove me insane. Who cares if you look like a goof if you’re putting up All-Star numbers?

My perception of the Mets’ managerial hiring process is that Van Wagenen is pulling a Davis. He’s more interested in doing it his way than doing it a successful way. Was Girardi the slam dunk candidate out there? In a season where Baker, Showalter and Joe Maddon were all available, it’s hard to say that was the case.

But anyone who’s watched the team the last 15 years would tell you that the Mets are giving away games from the dugout. While it’s not realistic to think a manager can make chicken salad from chicken excrement, it is realistic to think how he employs the guys on his roster over a 162-game season can have an impact on a handful of games.

My opinion is that the quartet of Baker, Girardi, Maddon and Showalter would have a positive impact, especially compared to the five managers the Mets have hired since they forced Bobby Valentine out. And my opinion is that any of the guys who ends up with the job is going to be closer to Mickey Callaway than Weaver.

But the way the game is these days is that GMs prefer that their managers take a subservient role. And in a way that makes sense. In what other successful business do you have middle managers have so much influence over how things are run?

However, it’s my belief that things work best in baseball when there’s a creative friction between the manager and the GM. My opinion is that you’ll end up with a better team if you hire a guy who brings something to the table other than being just a “yes man” for the GM. No one has a monopoly on truth and my take is that sometimes the manager has to tell the front office to take a hike when they propose something foolish.

If the GM is telling the manager to pitch Tyler Bashlor in high-leverage situations, the manager should say, “That’s a terrible idea, I’m not doing it.” My guess is that’s exactly how Girardi would operate. My opinion is that’s why he’s managing the Phillies and not the Mets.

No one doubts that Van Wagenen is a very bright guy. The way he conducted the 2019 Draft was an impressive feat. Signing Justin Wilson was a great pickup. The trade for J.D. Davis turned out to be a steal for the Mets. But let’s not pretend that all of his ideas have worked out so well.

Ideally, there’s a system of checks and balances going on among the owners, the GM, the manager and the media. They all have a role to fill and sometimes that role is to say that what we’re doing is wrong and that something needs to change. Whenever one on those four entities listed above has too much power, things get out of whack.

And right now we have owners who are more interested in the bottom line than they are winning and a media that’s much more interested in preserving access than critically judging performance. And you install a “yes man” manager and it’s easy to see a situation where the GM has way too much power and influence.

Maybe the Mets hit a home run with whichever first-time manager that they hire. Hey, Dave Martinez is in the World Series, it’s not impossible. But the Nationals had a $197.2 million Opening Day payroll last year and you heard more about their GM making moves to address their awful bullpen than you did about him making calls to the dugout about when to remove a starting pitcher.

It would be nice if the media was more interested in questioning why the GM is intent on selecting a “yes man” manager rather than angling to be the first outlet to report who’s going to get an interview. It would be nice if the owners decided that they could make more money if they spent (wisely) more money. And it would be nice if the new manager would be more interested in making moves to help the team win, rather than always saying yes to the front office so they could hang around longer and cash more checks.

Dick Young, Nelson Doubleday and Davey Johnson aren’t walking through that door. And we’re worse off because of it.

13 comments for “Mets lose out on Girardi, Van Wagenen doesn’t lose a wink of sleep

  1. Mike W
    October 24, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Judgement will be in October 2020.

    I personally wanted Girardi. The rumor mill is saying that maybe AJ Hinch is the mystery candidate.

    • Chris F
      October 24, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      Im sure that felt cathartic Brian. You rightly point out there are many ways to be successful at this game, with some component of X factor loaded in (luck, weather, hot streaks etc). I personally think a team should be flexible enough to adapt the approach to who you have. In any event, Mets skippers bear the brunt of a lot of FO crappola. A guy like Mickey was destined for his present outcome.

      Mike, I wondered about Hinch as the bombshell mystery candidate too. But the hurdles to make that happen are staggering. Hinch is under contract through 2022. The Mets would need to trade for him. Given hes made 2 WS appearances with 1 win so far, I dont think they will be interested in Luis Guillorme packaged with Dom Smith. I dont see it. Interesting side note: anyone know when the Mets last tried to trade for a skipper?

      It was for Lou Piniella. And the Mariners wanted some kid named Jose Reyes in return.

      • October 24, 2019 at 4:21 pm

        They should have gotten rid of Callaway once Van Wagenen was hired. It was clear he was going to want “his guy” in there. And let’s be honest, Callaway didn’t exactly distinguish himself in his first year on the job. And I say that as a guy who was excited that they hired a successful pitching coach.

  2. eric raffle
    October 24, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    The Cubs Hired David Ross….. 10 minutes ago He was their Catcher!

    I’m sure Ross will be a good Manager–outstanding and intelligent guy. Obviously, Front offices want All of their Geniuses working on Games Plans…in addition to the Guy(s) in the Dugout.

  3. TJ
    October 24, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Brian,
    To borrow your word, my gut feeling today is one of excrement, not comfort. Perhaps this is the Pavlovian reaction of a Met fan, perhaps not. As you correctly point out, we in fandom have a very limited view of things. On the other hand, sometimes perception is reality. Sometimes paralysis by analysis is real. Binder Joe in no way guaranteed a playoff spot, no less a championship, but what box did he not check off?

    I can say first hand that the phenomenon in baseball mirrors that in the business world. The addiction to information, much of it faulty and incomplete, has intoxicated those in charge. Especially to the degree that they want to micromanage near every aspect of what is going on below them. When that approach is countered, the usual response is an accusation of old school mentality, lack of flexibility, blah blah blah. But as someone once wrote, there are truths and there are values. Even in modern times, some management fundamentals remain. Put a quality individual in a position to succeed, and then allow them to do their work. I am having a difficult time reconciling why the guy with the best resume, that has proven success in your marketplace, who is relatively young but learned, would not be choice #1.

  4. Rob
    October 24, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Those cardinal.
    Teams were built on speed and defense. Coleman, McGee and Van Slyke in outfield were amazing.

  5. eric raffle
    October 24, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Beyond his Yankee patina, I dont think a Dugout Giant Is on the Menu. Game Management and Planning is going to be a Collaborative effort. The next Manager will easily embrace that structure… that’s the plan

  6. October 24, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    BVW blows !! ‘Come and get us’, yeah, sure.
    Now Mets will have some 1st time rook learning on the job with a ‘win now’ team. Blew it and blew it for us Mets fans. Joe Girardi was our man for the job.
    We lose him because, for sure, BVW wants input on day to day and on field decisions. Like what ??
    He is qualified for that ?
    Yep, just like he’s not qualified for what he is doing now as GM .

  7. Joe Christopher
    October 24, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    I can tell you what happened during that interview with Girardi. They discussed salary. Brodie will say he got his man & maybe he’ll turn out to be a good choice, but the Mets never put the fans first. They never spend to put the best product on the field or in this case, in the dugout. This is no different than the “interest” they will show in top free agents. The organization thinks Mets fans are fools. Brodie will shop at Tiffany’s, but make purchases at the flea market. The Wilpon’s are far more concerned about the bottom line than the win column. They should be ashamed of themselves running a NY franchise as if they were in a small market. Girardi was the right choice, but he wasn’t offering a discount. Stay tuned for the spin they put on free agency while they do not add payroll. BTW…Brodie made the single worst signings (Familia & Lowrie) & trade (Cano & Diaz) in all of MLB last off-season. He bet against young player growth we saw from McNeil & Alonso. Confident the Mets will spend to improve or undo mistakes heading into 2020? You would be confusing them with the Yankees, who care about their fans.

    • Dennis M Spellman
      October 25, 2019 at 5:08 pm

      While you are right about the way these trades & signings turned out I think the deals weren’t as bad as you think. First of all you can’t predict that Lowery would get hurt & miss the whole season & Familia had a reasonably good season in 2018 so it was reasonable to assume that he would have a decent year in 2019. Cano had a few nagging injuries all season so we don’t know if that will work out yet & Diaz was all world when he traded for him a player, even a pessimist like you must have liked when the deal was made so a comeback yer from him is also likely. All I’m saying is they are all still on the roster as of now & there is a distinct possibility that they will all improve in 2020. Anyway we should all hope & pray for that to happen. The glass is half full!!

  8. NY NIC
    October 24, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    First off I don’t comment here very often, but I have been a daily follower for a few years.
    I live in Chicago, and The Cubs got exactly the yes man this article highlights. In between working with the media he sits in the owners booth with whichever Rickets are on hand and Theo.
    I do believe that Carlos Beltran will be our next manager, and that might be good or not. I too liked the hiring of Callaway at the time.
    I have a weird feeling that the dark horse person being considered for manager is none other than Joe Torre, who still fills a role as COO of baseball or something similar, but is nothing more than an eventual publicity stunt as he should be considered too old for the daily rigors of managing an MLB team.
    Just some thoughts.

    • October 24, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Interesting to think about Torre making a return engagement with the Mets. I was actually at the first MLB game he ever managed. Found out when I got to the park and there was a message on the scoreboard about it. A little different back in ’77…

  9. Dennis M Spellman
    October 25, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    We need Wally Backman as our manager. He even wins in the independent league. He won three championships in the Mets system & wins wherever he manages, but a gruff demeanor keeps him from getting a shot at the Major league level. If the Mets want a winner to be there manager they could do a lot worse then Wally Backman.

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