One of the tough things to accomplish – both as a sports fan and merely navigating life – is to find the balance between embracing new ideas and holding onto virtues from the past. I detest blind adherence to tradition. The worst sports fans are the ones who think that RBIs and AVG are how you rate hitters and Wins are how you value pitchers and that you need two infielders on each side of second base or civilization as we know it will end.

And nearly as bad are those fans who think that starters should not face a lineup for a third time or that carrying 14 pitchers is a good thing or that managers should be judged mostly on things that happen away from the actual game on the field.

My own personal barometer is to judge things on whether they make sense, if the changes or proposed changes increase your chances of winning. Jacob deGrom isn’t as effective overall facing a hitter a third time but he’s better the third time around than Jeurys Familia is the first time, so let’s keep that type of thing in perspective.

One thing that seems written in stone these days but makes no sense to me is the need for clubs to have a President of Baseball Operations (PoBO.) If you read any of the stories on mainstream sites, everything is all about the need to get a PoBO and get one quick or everything will be a train wreck. Everyone’s top choice for PoBO was Theo Epstein and if only the Mets could get Epstein, everything would magically be great.

Of course, there was as much of a chance of the Mets landing Epstein as there was of clubs going back to 10-man pitching staffs. Now SNY is reporting that neither Billy Beane nor David Stearns seems likely to be coming here, either. Since both are under contract to other clubs, it’s hard to tell why some people find this news surprising. But here we are.

Here’s a radical idea in this day but it used to be standard operating procedure. Skip hiring a PoBO and hire a GM to be a GM and handle those things instead of having him be a glorified manager. Then hire someone as a manager, have the GM give him some guidelines and get out of the way. Two jobs with well-defined responsibilities instead of three jobs with blurred lines of definition.

Maybe if managers were chosen for their abilities to make in-game moves rather than their ability to charm beat reporters, we wouldn’t have Familia and his 5.68 ERA being used 16 times in the last 32 games of the season, to use just one example.

For all things holy, if you must insert a third person into the two-person manager/GM roles, hire a PR professional to talk to the press before and after the games. Sure, we’re not operating under a Wilpon budget anymore, but it’s got to be less expensive and more efficient to hire someone from 5W Public Relations to speak to the press before and after the games than to pay Epstein, Beane or Stearns to be a GM with a job title inflation to work above someone with the actual GM title.

Our PR person can spend time with the manager before the game and with the GM during the game and get input from both of these parties and be able to answer any question asked by the press. And let’s be honest – all of the talk about how ruthless the NY Press is, well, that’s really from a bygone era, too. Today, the members of the media are more interested in preserving access than to write a scathing piece against any player, manager or executive.

It makes no sense to me to prioritize a smooth relationship with the press from a manager over everything else. Tommy Lasorda’s expletive-filled rant wasn’t more important than leading his team to the World Series three times in five years. Why are we valuing a manager’s ability not to be controversial to the press over everything else he does? And if that’s so unbelievably important – well, hire someone specifically for that job.

Do the people in power think that the fans are going to revolt somehow if the guy answering questions is a professional wearing a suit rather than the manager in full uniform? To me, that’s 100% absurd. If it’s truly the GM/front office making decisions, what’s the big deal about getting answers from the manager if he’s not responsible for the moves? Really, if that’s the objection – that you need the answers to come from uniformed personnel – give the PR guy a uniform. Shoot, it would probably be a thrill to the PR guy, anyway.

One of the failures of the Mets following the World Series was their decision to part ways with guys with big personalities in favor of the corporate-like players. Ray Knight, Kevin Mitchell and Lenny Dykstra are shown the door. Knight didn’t really do much but Mitchell wins an MVP and Dykstra is a 4-time All-Star after he’s traded.

To me, this corporate structure feels like the same thing. Don’t hire a manager who may be rough with the press – hire a guy who’s buttoned down and easy to control. And if he stinks at other aspects – just tell the unwashed masses that’s not important. It’s more important to have two Ivy League guys in positions with big titles – regardless of their qualifications – than it is to have a proven winner in the dugout.

A GM wants to have “his guy” as manager and it makes as much sense for a PoBO to have “his guy” as GM. But, really, why is it so important for a GM to have his guy as manager? A good GM should be able to work with a good manager, whether he hired him or not. Joe McIlvane hired Bobby Valentine, while Steve Phillips inherited him. Valentine led the Mets to the World Series. Phillips fired (or was allowed by Wilpon to do so) Valentine and he hired “his guy” in Art Howe. Well, Howe didn’t save Phillips’ job, did he?

Let’s focus on hiring the best people for the job and not be so concerned about the order it happens. If there’s a great manager out there available now – for Pete’s sake, hire him already! Or if there’s a great GM free, scoop him up and worry about the PoBO later. Or, better yet, don’t worry about a PoBO at all. The best news is that there are a ton of excellent PR professionals to hire at any point in time. You can hire that guy whenever you feel like it. Which makes the case to choose a PR guy over a PoBO even stronger.

17 comments on “The case for the Mets to hire a PR guy over a PoBO

  • Wobbit

    We’re o the same page, Brian. In fact, just before reading this article I posted a “hire a manager now” opinion on the previous post about Shildt. A good manager enhances the job. But your idea of foregoing the POBO is great… break the mold, dammit.

    And the PR guy doesn’t need to wear a suit. Hire Wally Bachman or Lenny Dykstra for the pr job and blow the whole game out of the water… talk about taking pressure off the manager!

    These baseball execs have the easiest jobs on earth… go to work and talk baseball all day… a simplification, I know, but the work is way overrated in terms of what it takes. In fact, it’s not that the job is so hard, but that the talent to do it well is so thin.

  • T.J.

    I do not agree, but I think my disagreement is only a partial disagreement. The Mets need a POBO, or whatever title one will bestow on that position. They need a person to be in charge of all things on-field related. This is required to first, separate Alderson from that responsibility and to second provide the owner with someone in charge of that aspect of the business, which includes drafting, player development, big league personnel, etc. Someone titled “GM” can also handle that role, but with the expanded administration related to the game, that may not be practical.

    Once the line of command is established, I fully agree that the dynamics would be better served by the relationships suggested above. Baseball fans have been second-guessing moves since there were moves…I fully agree with prioritizing game management skills. Sure, prep the manager with info before the game, but let the guy handle the game as he sees fit. There is no requirement to choose between old school and new school, what is needed is to maximize the benefits of each approach.

  • JamesTOB

    Presidents have ‘press secretaries.’ This sounds like a good idea for a baseball team, Brian. It also gives the manager time to process what happened in a particularly tough loss and to get his emotions under control if need be, rather than being tossed to the second-guessing wolves.

  • Wobbit

    A guy like Buck Showalter would probably growl at any reporter second-guessing his moves, and Billy Martin would just punch the guy.

    Let’s hire the manager that wants every aspect of the game available, and demanding players’ attention to detail. Smoltz mentioned how the Braves’ pitchers all worked very hard on their bunting… all Hall of Famers. While that may be moot at this point, I still would like to see the fundamentals all covered.

    Did anyone notice the other day, can’t remember who, the catcher waited for the throw to the plate behind the dish? If he’s out front, he gets the ball sooner and might have a chance at a swipe tag… duh. Unconsionable. I remember in Piazza doing it on a key play in the World Series… just a terrible brain fart… fundies, Keith, fundies!

  • Chris F

    All this is exposing your old-school tendencies cloaked in new school analytics! Underneath OPS+ is the beating heart of stirrups, hit-and-run, and complete games. However, this is not baseball anymore, and like holding on to AVG, RBI, Wins, and Saves as accurate measures of player performance. We know those are only misguided fragments of how to measure a player now a days. What has accompanied a better understanding of the game via quantification was free agency – big money, then *big* money, then BIG money.

    I did a quick search on team valuation and in 1980, the team was sold for 21.1M$. A lot of dough. Projected into 2021 dollars, thats adjusted to 47M$. The Wilpon’s bought the final remaining 50% stake in the Mets in 2002 for 135M$, making the team in the 300-500M$ range. Flash forward to Cohen’s purchase and the we see the team is valued at 2450 M$ – a 100x increase along with salaries to match. For perspective, Keith Hernandez made 17M$ across his whole career. What’s the point of this? A baseball team has to be considered as asset management. The money is so absolutely staggering that no one individual, like a Davey Johnson demanding Gooden’s promotion, will never again be given the keys to a hundred million dollar player. You can flush the “glory days” of a skipper having control of a team, and telling a GM what the team needs. We can love Davey all we want (has everyone watched the 4 part 30 on 30 about the ’86 Mets?), but he presided over criminals with drugs galore. There is zero chance of that happening again.

    Another component of this all the data. With players essentially evolving to multi-million dollar machines, they are now dissected in every single conceivable way imaginable to keep them and their 100,000$ a game salary on the field. The amount of data about the game, about health, about merch, about everything has exploded beyond imagination. So now putting a squad together, even a daily line up together, is active collaboration from the FO to the bullpen coach about integrating all this data. That is never leaving the game name now, like OPS+ and WHIP, and wOBA.

    Lastly, with MLB rules, it is hard to recruit upper FO. The only way to steal talent is to offer a promotion. PBO has become that position to recruit successful GMs from other clubs. Love it – or hate it – but thats now the way creative talent can rise through the ranks and move to new teams.

    A PR guy is fine to have. But lets be honest, Jay Horwitz is not the guy you wnat our there every night.

    • BobP

      Well said Chris. It doesn’t really matter who the manager is. No one is going to be the Davey Johnson type that we’d all like to see. The game has changed. Check that – the business has changed. It’s not really a game anymore.

    • Mr_Math

      Excellent post, Chris. Mets360, where the reader’s posts often are as good as the columnists’ (with one notable exception).

      Chris is a columnist? Nonetheless, my point is still valid.

      • ChrisF

        Yep, I’m Chris Flanders. Thanks for the comment!

    • BrianJ

      I agree wholeheartedly that Jay Horwitz is not the guy. But then again, JH never worked at 5W Public Relations, did he?

      One thing that’s obvious to me but perhaps I haven’t done enough in my articles to communicate to others is that I’m painfully aware of the reasons why things are being done the way they are now. But that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with them. I enjoy when people comment on my piece. But really, there’s no reason to explain to me why things are being done the way that they are. I pay attention and I know.

      Would it be better to make a 1,200-word piece a 2,000-word piece to explain that, yes, I do watch and read about baseball and know the reasons why things are done the way they are? It seems like a giant waste of time to me.

      My opinion is that all of my articles have something to disagree with on the merits of what I write and propose beyond the “Oh, that’s not how they do things and here’s why” angle.

      For instance, one of the really good things about MLB today compared to when I first started watching is that players, managers, coaches and front office executives are all getting paid more money than they could in any other field. But would that hold true with my proposed PR guy? Would MLB teams pay their PR guy more than Fortune 500 clubs would? If we’re used to seeing the best athletes, would it be a problem to see 2nd tier PR guys? And how would MLB players feel if some PR guy talking to the press makes more money than they do?

      My goal is to think of ways to do things differently and, hopefully, better than the way they are done now. If I’m proposing something that is physically impossible – like asking SP to complete every game they start – by all means, blast me. If I’m proposing something financially impossible – like asking the Mets to have a $350 million payroll – by all means ridicule me.

      But don’t tell me about the Emperor’s new clothes.

  • T.J.

    Chris’s summary more or less nails it. And I’ll add that, I loved Davey back then, and over time, given the Mets’ failure to follow up that WS victory, his legend and image have grown. But it is more of a fish tale. Davey made his share of lousy managerial calls…he’d just tell you to go eff yourself if you questioned him. No social media, to live post game interrogation, etc. And, perhaps most importantly, Davey was an early innovator nerd, using computer analysis to drive game decisions, while the old school managers in his time ridiculed him.

    Managerial decisions are important, but drastically overrated. At the end of the day, as is the case in virtually every sport, the players play and they decide the outcome. I have spent a lifetime in corporations, and most of the modern structure is repulsive, but as Chris stated, the PBO/organizational collaboration will rule, and it is more important for sustained winning than the manager. The Cardinal Way transcends their manager. We want a Met Way…start at the top. We’ll get a competent manager…just give him good players, guys that can perform in the fishbowl of NYC.

  • Wobbit

    “It doesn’t really matter who the manager is”… ?

    I watched so many games this year when the Mets stranded baserunners early and late and squandered opportunities to score, yanked pitchers with outs still left in them in exchange for a mediocre middle reliever who pitched yesterday.
    I watched guys flail away at the plate for 50-75 games with no discernible adjustments to their approach. And I watched a high-paid bunch of players look lackadaisical and without a spark… a veritable AAA club, too complacent to kick their own asses, without a leader to hold them accountable.

    Maybe you haven’t seen a good manager, BobP… notice how some teams just play better baseball day in and day out… you think that’s just chance?

    • BobP

      I agree Wobbit that there were a lot of questionable moves particularly with pitching changes but I think that those are organizational philosophies that will be followed fairly closely by whoever the manager is. That’s how all teams operate these days. Chris’s point is that no manager is going to dictate everything that happens on the field because they are operating within fairly strict parameters. Whether that’s Rojas or someone more seasoned, unfortunately I expect that they will have the same restraints. I’d like it to be different but I don’t think it ever will for all the reasons Chris discussed above.

      To your last point, I think better baseball day in and day out is played by better players. Managers have a small impact but the players are most of it.

    • T.J.

      I have seen decades of managers, good and bad. I have seen Joe Torre manage 4 teams, starting with the Mets, ending with the Yankees, and get fired 4 times, I guess for bad managing.

      Luis Rojas had a lousy year managing, but the Mets were 11 1/2 games behind the Braves. He was a minority accomplice in their failure. For the majority of “decisions”, he carried out the “consensus”, just like the next guy will, like it or not. He did not take an AB or throw a pitch. The team failed because the hitting was horrendous, specifically the lack of power from multiple guys with power.
      And even with more granularity, the complete failure to hit fastballs in the zone, especially in hitter’s counts, and lay off high fastballs, something everyone in baseball essentially knew and exploited.

      There would be a much better argument of him as a main culprit if the Mets finished back 1-3 games. I wonder how the season would have gone if Dave Roberts managed the Mets and Luis Rojas managed the Dodgers. Build a top caliber roster and it will win.

  • Chris F

    So one question i would bring about this is what is your perceived role of the hitting coach? Alderson certainly thought enough to retire Chili Davis and replace him a yes-man for Alderson’s own batting philosophy. That was not a decision made by Rojas, but Alderson. It also my contention that players should get the overwhelming majority of grief for their lousy play. Nevertheless, if you look at hitting as a problem, dial Sandy’s number. I will certainly admit that the team morale was a loser, and that (among other things) definitely sits on Rojas’ shoulders.

    As far as managing and team performance goes, we have some things we can appeal to. The 2020 Mets under Rojas, hit like the wind. It was amazing how much this team hit. Alderson changes the pitching coach, and philosophy and the team cant hit slow pitch softballs. So its hard to pin all this on Rojas. Same players for the most part.

    We can also look at the fascinating managerial story of Gabe Kapler. In Philly, he eas pretty much derided for his overly scripted approach to the top step, and was released after 2 seasons with a 2 games under .500 record. Enter his time with the Giants. Same guy, different players. He picked up a legit crap team in his first season, doing much more than expected, and now in is second season in SF and wins 107 games. Same guy and a bit of a flop on one team, and surely manager of the year on the next doing the same things.

    Managers are certainly X factors in the game. My guess is really only a few games per year legit turn on critical decisions from the skipper. The good decisions never get noted, and we all scream at the bad ones. I bet the good/bad mostly wash out. We see as fans the real granularity of the game in front of our sets. We see players and the dugout and presume thats where the game is strategized. But the amount of pregame carried to the bench with the iPads is tremendous. We see first pitch and assume every decision stems from that, but in reality, the game plan is preset long before first pitch. We cousl see that last night with Dave Roberts, who went into the game with a script for the bull pen game regardless of what was going on. We’d be foolish not to imaging this is the way the game is now played.

  • NYM6986

    There is no doubt that the players must play well for any team to be successful. We had spurts where our pitching was dominant with Jake, Stro and Walker with all sub 2.5 ERAs. We had some timely hitting during our 90 days in first place but in the end we sucked with RISP. Our injuries left us with bench players and not ready for prime time AAA players on the field on a regular basis. In the end that caught up with us. All of the metrics and analytical data can be overwhelming to the average fan, especially some of us old timers who have been around longer than the laptops have.
    But back to the issue at hand. We need a new manager and should not wait to hire one, deferring to some other big title to pick him. Alderson has been around a long time and is a good baseball mind who has never been given the resources to build a team, from his penny pinching days in Oakland to his time under the refuse to spend Wilpons. What they really need is better analytics and background checks to hire a GM and a manager. Whoever oversaw the processes that brought us these hires over the last 2-3 years should be working in another field. It started with miscalculating the fallout from Beltran and the cheating Astros to hiring unproven no names who may have been working in our system like Rojas. With an unproven team we need a proven hand at the wheel. But let’s also remember that the manager plays the hand he is dealt and ours gets some players who can hit and some who can field, but not in the same player. We are far from a player or two away from a championship caliber team which would explain why we did not commit millions to an Arenado or Kiki Hernandez or others who might have led us forward. We have mortgaged the future away with some top prospects while we wait for the AA boys to progress to AAA and eventually up to the big club. We hired an unproven hitting coach who could not change their approach. The best hire in the last few years was Jeremy Hefner and I was not for that, but am thrilled to be proven wrong by his great showing this year.
    So in the end, bring in a proven commodity like a Showalter or a Bochey if he can be lured out of retirement, with a 2-3 contract. If they fail Cohen eats a managers contract. Bring in a strong hand to reshape the culture. Quite honestly I am much more interesting in winning than having a well spoken manager explain to the press why we fell short that day. And yes bring back the fundamentals like bunting, hit and run, stealing bases, and teach your pitchers how to change their approach the third time through the order. Every team has all the analytics on each opposing player and tries to play to their weakness to get them out. I recall one game where Jake threw very few fastballs the firsts few times during the order then came out throwing gas the third time around. The hitters were caught off guard. Be pitchers not just throwers. That’s what Thor needs to learn as MLB hitters regularly hit a 98mph fastball.
    Thanks Brian for another thought provoking post.

    • Chris F

      “Alderson has been around a long time and is a good baseball mind who has never been given the resources to build a team, from his penny pinching days in Oakland to his time under the refuse to spend Wilpons. What they really need is better analytics and background checks to hire a GM and a manager. Whoever oversaw the processes that brought us these hires over the last 2-3 years should be working in another field.”

      Alderson hired Callaway, Porter, Scott. He fired Chili Davis and hired Quattlebum. So Alderson is the guy who should be working in a different field. I agree completely.

      I will counter on the Alderson never given resources. That is factually not true. In 5 of Alderson’s OD payrolls, the Mets were in the top half of teams and twice in the top 10, including last season.

      I remain that the biggest problem this team has is Alderson, who should never be allowed to impact baseball operations ever again.

  • TexasGusCC

    I am a proponent of learning from the past. And while Brian scoffs at the old thinking of AVG, I find it to go hand in hand with success. For example, would you prefer a .300 hitter with 15 HR and a 15% K rate or the new .275 hitter with 25 HR and a 27% K rate? A player that doesn’t make contact, doesn’t advance runners and doesn’t have a better chance for a base hit. Can’t steal first, another old saying. However, if the article’s point was to hire a PR guy, then at least make him one that knows the game and isn’t just a buddy of the owner.

    Also, I finally agree with Chris 100%. Alderson is not a good baseball guy. He’s stubborn, closed minded and inflexible. The Coupons gave him years to build the organization, but the screwups just kept coming. For example, he signs Cuddyer and loses a first round pick for an aging hitter from Coors, a mea culpa at that time and even now. Where’s the analytics there? He signs Marcum, Francisco, on and on; players that suck. He offers Bauer and his one good year more money than the GDP of a small country but gets bailed out by Los Angeles’ ego. There maybe have been some pressure moves, like the $341MM Cohen gave Lindor that isn’t Alderson’s style, but while we have to give him benefit on the trading front for great trades, he sucks in free agency, sucks in building a minor league system of well schooled fundamentally strong players, and he sucks at allowing his players to play to their strengths rather than his beliefs.

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