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.