Yesterday was a big day in Mets land. First, they addressed a big hole in the roster by signing free agent catcher James McCann to a four-year deal. Next, they filled their open GM position, hiring Jared Porter, who had held a bunch of different positions in MLB, with his most-recent gig being the assistant GM for the Diamondbacks. The McCann deal had been expected for awhile. We knew the club was searching for a GM but it seems to me there was nowhere near the excitement there was for either the McCann signing or the last time the club named a new GM.

Back in late 2018, there was all kinds of speculation about who the new GM was going to be. It was an emotional roller coaster, as we heard leading names remove themselves from the process and guys like Dave Littlefield being seriously considered, despite his lousy results with the Pirates. Ultimately, it came down to three candidates. There was the old pro in Doug Melvin, there was the young hot shot in Chaim Bloom and there was the wild card with Brodie Van Wagenen. It seemed like we discussed and debated the candidates for a long time.

This time around there’s been a lot of talk in the mainstream media about the candidates, although it seems like most of it was how the preferred guys weren’t being given permission to interview by their current teams. But it hasn’t seemed to capture the imagination of the fans and bloggers like it did two years ago. Maybe that’s not an accurate characterization. Perhaps a better way to frame it is that it didn’t capture my imagination.

But while most of the articles at the site come from this keyboard, there are about a dozen other fans who write here – and none of them felt the need to post a column on the potential executives who would shape the direction of the franchise. And that seems both curious and relevant. Why was the new GM such a big deal in 2018 and almost an afterthought in 2020?

Obviously, the big difference is in ownership. In 2018, the new GM was going to have to come in and handle the dysfunction of the Wilpons, their management style and their cash flow problems. Speculation was that former GM Sandy Alderson never knew how much payroll was going to be available at any point in time. The job is hard enough under the best of circumstances. And no one would confuse working for the Wilpons to be the best gig on the planet.

But it seems to me that it goes even deeper than that. With Alderson back in the picture, ultimately responsible for who would be picked to head the new front office, the new GM wasn’t nearly as important. With the Wilpons, there was always the chance they were going to hire a clown. That just didn’t seem to be a potential outcome with Alderson. And on top of that, while Alderson and Van Wagenen had to answer in some way to Jeff Wilpon – which certainly had its challenges – the new GM would have to answer to Alderson. Can you imagine a GM selling the Robinson Cano deal to Alderson? He’d have to know he’d be the recipient of a McEnroe-like “you cannot be serious!” smack down.

In a way, the new structure is going to do to the GM what the GMs have done to managers in the last couple of decades.

We’ve become used to the fact that the most important thing for a manager is to carry out the GM’s vision and justify it to both the players and the press. The game’s GMs have made managers to be nothing more than press secretaries. Managers are now simply highly-visible flunkies whose main role is to manage perception, in both the clubhouse and in the press briefings.

So, it’s quite satisfying to see that GMs are going to have their roles restricted, too. You want so much to be manager? Fine, you can do that and we’ll take away the GM responsibilities of your job. You’ll go after the free agent and trade targets that you’re told to but the final negotiations will be conducted by someone else, whether that’s a President of Baseball Operations or, for right now, a President

Porter comes in with the announcement from Alderson that Luis Rojas is going to remain the manager. He also comes in with McCann as his catcher and the front office well down the path with Trevor Bauer and George Springer and other prominent free agents. If the Mets sign a big free agent or pull off a trade to get Francisco Lindor – it might be Porter who shows up at the press conference but he won’t be the guy who made it happen. Kind of like a manager bringing out the lineup card to the umpires prior to the start of the game.

Will Porter be a good GM? That’s the question on everyone’s mind right now. But it’s the wrong question. The real question is: Will Porter be a good manager? Being relieved of the major responsibilities of a GM, hopefully he’ll do a better job of providing decisions to Rojas than Van Wagenen did in 2020.

The Mets have a wealthy owner in Steve Cohen. They have an experienced hand to essentially be the GM in Alderson. They have a likable – and now experienced – press secretary in Rojas. All they need is a good manager. And hopefully they get that with Porter.

14 comments on “Jared Porter and the neuterization of the Mets’ GM job

  • José

    “The Mets have a wealthy owner in Steve Cohen. They have an experienced hand to essentially be the GM in Alderson. They have a likable – and now experienced – press secretary in Rojas. All they need is a good manager. And hopefully they get that with Porter.”

    My response is one word…

    Damn!

    • José

      To elaborate, I find it stunning that such profound words can be written about such a simple game; routinely brilliant analysis which cuts right to the bone

    • TexasGusCC

      How about: “Brutal”?

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks, Jose!

  • Mike W

    It is what it is, but I dont like the GM or front office telling the manager who to play and setting the lineup.

    But, if they can sign good players and draft right and create a sustainable winning team, I dont particularly care. I’ll be happy if it works.

    We were excited about a new GM in 2018 because we wanted a new GM to fix the messes that that the Wilpons created.

    Now, we have what we want, a new owner who is spending money and wants to build a winner. So, we are aligned.

    The Wilpons and the failed Van Wagenen experiment is over.

    Let’s go Mets and let’s go get some more good players. We have alot to look forward to.

  • NYM6986

    Seems we most often fail to find the right manager for the players we have. We have several young players who need a strong hand to mold and guide them and not simply someone they “love to play for.” So picking someone with no ML experience still seems unwise regardless if he has managed a number of the current players in the minors. Like picking BVW who had no experience for the Gam spot. I am very optimistic about this season and believe we are a Springer and another arm away from contending. Lots of old experienced baseball managers out there who I believe would have been better choices. Happy to be proven wrong.

  • Name

    I wonder when baseball owners will wise up and realize they’re paying salaries for 3 people to do the job that 2 people used to be able to do.

  • TJ

    It doesn’t matter so much to me who is doing what. Management in baseball has changed, as has management in all businesses. I work in a plant with a union. I can assure you that the manager is essentially implementing directives from the corporate office. Relative to a few decades ago, the role has much less authority yet is still responsible for performance.

    That said, From what I see I like the Porter hire. It may irk us when pitchers get pulled based upon preset rules, but I think the best management teams will allow for both collaboration and individual decisions when those make more sense. That will allow for a competitive advantage. Hopefully this group will be among the best.

    • Brian Joura

      I could agree with your first sentence so long as it’s clear who is doing what. I want to know who’s responsible for lineup decisions and pitching changes. I want to know who’s responsible for trades and free agent signings. I want to know who’s doing good and who needs to be replaced. I want guys who make a positive impact in their roles, whatever their roles might be.

  • Chris F

    I think that we need to accept reality of large data volumes and how that is impacting the game. It is no longer a clear demarcation between President –> GM –> Manager –> Player. The structure is (Busy-bodied Ownership) –> President of Club –> President of baseball ops –> GM –> Assistant GMs and Special Assistants to GM –> Dugout –> Player. Along that path, I suspect many have a say in what happens for decisions about line-up, duration of IP, Pen strategies etc. You comment seems to think that any decision is a singular, when in fact it is clear that collaborative management structure bottom to top and top to bottom is what is going on. Sure, there are spokes people for the level of decision – its a game thing, so send out the skipper to the wolves; its a bigger issue, send out the GM.

    As baseball has moved from the sport it was to the sport it is, things are changing dramatically. If you want all the trackman data, then you need an army to analyze and recommend who is better playing 3b in a cold night game versus a left handed starter with a big breaking ball. I just don’t think you have Rojas (or any skipper for that matter) having an itch on his thumb and says – that means we go with player X. Add in all the money, and players are major commodities so their care and use is based on a plethora of input.

    The buck stops wherever you want, but its my feeling that you wont be able to lay blame on any overall situation to a specific person.

  • Brian Joura

    Let’s look at one decision in isolation.

    Last year the Mets decided to bat Amed Rosario leadoff early in the season. They did this knowing that Rosario did not have either a high OBP lifetime nor was he doing particularly well at the time.

    Rosario should have had next to no influence in this decision
    Ownership should have had next to no influence in this decision

    So, it was either “an itch” on Rojas’ thumb or he was ordered to do it by the front office. Why make it difficult to determine which party is at fault, outside of an individual or individuals covering their butt?

    If we use the “reasonable person” clause — is it more reasonable to assume that a GM and his staff of analytically savvy people decided to bat a guy with a lifetime .305 OBP first or is it more reasonable to assume that a first-time manager did it?

    The Mets can either cover for the person responsible or they can make it clear who made the decision. Why an organization – whose alleged goal is fielding the best team possible – would hide the responsible party for a lousy decision doesn’t make any sense to me.

    No one should lose their job over one decision. But if you make 100 decisions and 50 of them defy logic and turn out badly – that person is not helping the team win. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the manager or the analytics guru or the GM.

    It’s not in the team’s best interests to create a structure that eliminates responsibility for bad decisions. It’s perfectly fine for multiple parties to be involved in a decision, to have a seat at the table, as Sandy Alderson phrased it. But there needs to be a rectangular table with someone in charge. Anything else ends up being a Wilponian “collegiate” style of management that we were all just celebrating getting rid of.

  • Chris F

    I see things differently, obviously. I would retort that the person making the decision was “The Mets” made the decision, meaning it was an uneven but nevertheless collective/collaborative decision. In my job I regularly have to make decisions and carry out things that I dont personally advocate for because the collective staff see and vote things differently.

    I also think we as a general public see a mere tiny fraction of data about every aspect of the team, from game strategies, testing players in different positions or batting orders, to daily health concerns, to banging on trash cans when a curve ball is coming. In short we see the live decision making, knowing virtually nothing of the pre-game or long-term plans. In an ideal world, which your position always admirably come from, we would see all decisions on field guided solely as a meritocracy; reality dictates this is not the case.

    The other thing that real fans really want is a detailed explanation for whats happening with the team. We invest huge sums of energy, time, and money and feel as if we are integral to the team functioning. In some respects thats true of course, but we are not in any way owed explanations. In the end we are more like passengers in a plane. Our job is to get on board and let others fly the plane, just like its our job to fill stadiums and buy merch and its the management structure to run the team.

    • Brian Joura

      You work at a college, right?

  • TJ

    As fans, and humans, our inclination is that we want to be “in the know”. Professional sports are somewhat unique in that over time the administrate of teams has become as important or even more important to fans (me included) than the actual games. One team, millions of GMs.

    Ultimately, as a fan, I see the “drill down” of who decided what as nice to know vs. need to know. But, that is a personal choice. Batting Rosario leadoff was borderline insane. Whether actually decided by Rojas, BVW, Jeff Wilpon, Fred Wilpon, or a collaboration of all or some, well, they know who did it and my hope is that a competent group, when it makes mistakes (which it will), will be able to review and make corrections. If the results reflect that over time, that’s good enough for me.

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