The critics have a point -- Brodie Van Wagenen's lack of experience running an MLB front office, which is zero, might be an issue now that the Mets officially named him GM on Monday night.
However, as a high profile agent who had been running the baseball division of one of the most powerful talent agency businesses in the world -- where he generated hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients -- he is experienced in creating leverage, outsmarting his competition, making final evaluations on talent, identifying openings in the marketplace and delegating to a large staff.
In addition, in order to recruit new business, he and his team had to understand scouting and developing young baseball players. Lastly, he had to choose his words well when repeatedly speaking to media on behalf of his clients and agency, while not disrupting the market or insulting the people with whom he was negotiating.
In other words, while it may be fair to worry that Van Wagenen has never run or worked for an MLB team, it is not fair or accurate to say he doesn't have the skills needed to be successful in the job considering both businesses live and die on the quality of the talent being managed.
The other thing to consider is that being the General Manager of the New York Mets is a unique and difficult situation unlike any other in sports. This is not my opinion, it's literally what has been said by more or less every person to ever hold the job, including most recently Steve Phillips and Omar Minaya.
"It is the toughest executive position in sports, bar none, because you are constantly being compared to the Yankees, even though the two teams have different traditions, different structures and two totally different business plans," Phillips told me during a podcast in 2016. "So, even if you get the Mets to win a World Series, you still haven't won 27. In many ways, no matter what you do, it'll never be good enough."
Along these lines, though baseball intelligence is obviously important, equally important -- and at times most important -- is how the GM in Queens handles the media and manages the expectations of fans.
That said, while Doug Melvin and Chaim Bloom are no doubt very smart, nice men who obviously know how to turn around and build a successful baseball team, it's quite possible Mets ownership looked in to the eyes of these men (and others during the process) and determined each would get chewed up by New York.
Sandy Alderson made a lot of mistakes as GM of the Mets, but he was always the smartest, toughest person in the room. And he paired that with being incredibly affable and strategic with his humor and perspective. The guy took over the team during a financial crisis, reorganized the entire franchise, finished below .500 more times than he finished above it, dealt with cancer, and he never buckled under the pressure.
There is a significant difference between running the Mets and running the A's, Royals, Brewers, Rays and other small- to mid-market teams covered by one reporter and one talk radio station. In that environment, there is miles and miles of rope to lean on when making mistakes.
It is a whole other animal in New York, where there are dozens of reporters following the Mets even when they're out of contention; where there are dozens of TV networks and talk radio stations discussing baseball all day, all night, all year long; where multiple national outlets call home, where there are twice as many fans than in other smaller markets; and where the competition for entertainment dollars is the most in the world.
There is very little margin for error in Queens. And, if the Mets believe Van Wagenen is more equipped than anyone else to handle all of the above and everything that comes with it -- from the work to the attention to the criticism -- I'm willing to trust their judgement.
The remaining question revolves around whether the strength and leadership skills that made Van Wagenen successful as an agent will translate in to making a success out of the Mets, the answer to which will play out in front of us during the next few years.
However, given the unique circumstance of running the Mets and given where the team is in their history, fan expectations, comparisons to the Yankees, lack of sustained success, etc., I'm glad the Mets are taking a risk. The fact is, outside of a few fleeting peaks during the last 30 years, you and I have spent most of our time complaining about the state of the franchise, which almost always takes the traditional path.
The Patriots were not these Patriots until they let Bill Belichick take an unconventional approach to building his roster and coaching staff, which now every team in football is trying to replicate. The Astros lost 100 games three years in a row while revamping their front office, and then won a World Series while revolutionizing how teams evaluate talent and prepare for their competition. Now, everyone is trying to replicate the Astros, including Bloom's Rays.
The Mets have always lagged in innovation. And each time they have caught up, the game has started to change and they have been forced to scramble and hope it all works out in the end.
By hiring Van Wagenen, they've given themselves a blank slate from which to do something different and maybe for the first time actually be the innovators.
I give the Mets an immense amount of credit for taking a gigantic swing with this hire. They easily could have again played it safe, dropping down a bunt or hitting the other way in an effort to just get on base.
Instead, they cocked back their elbow, closed their eyes, leaned back on their heels and took a big cut. It's possible this becomes a swing and miss. However, it's also possible they connect and crush a home run and dominate and change the game during the next decade.
The Mets have my attention again because, for the first time ever, I have absolutely no idea how this story will or can possibly end. I'm invigorated by this, and I like it...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!