Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Mets are trying to get Mickey Callaway through the rest of the season, allowing Brodie Van Wagenen to launch a wide-ranging search for his own manager. That way, the GM can request permission to speak to other team's employees, and fully evaluate the big names who are between jobs.
But the team has already begun thinking about candidates, and in some cases proceeding with quiet due diligence. Van Wagenen and others in the organization have, for example, asked around about former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, according to major league sources.
Friends of Girardi's say that he is very eager to manage again. The Mets, in turn, are doing their homework but seem reluctant due to Girardi's reputation.
The team's main question about Girardi is the right one: Do his hard work, skill and intelligence outweigh his intensity, which can be stifling?
Multiple major league sources who know Girardi insist he would instantly improve the Mets for the simple reason that he is an excellent in-game manager.
"No one will be better prepared for the game, and no one will care more about winning," one source said.
But that person, like all the others to whom we spoke about Girardi, concede that his caring cuts two ways. Girardi is hard-driving, and by the end of his Yankees tenure had lost much of the clubhouse, as players tired of how tightly wound their manager could be in the dugout, especially in the late innings of games.
Stubborn and even paranoid about accepting input and collaborating with others, Girardi ultimately pushed away his allies in the Yankees front office, too, though the team dismissed him with reluctance.
People close to the situation say Yankees GM Brian Cashman retained personal respect and affection for Girardi, even while determining that his players needed a new voice. Until the Yankees discovered Aaron Boone in the interview process and saw a perfect fit, Cashman confided to some colleagues that he feared he had made a mistake with Girardi.
"Joe's a good man," one Yankees official said. "That never changed."
Other baseball officials who know Cashman and his lieutenants suggested this was revisionist history, not reflecting their true views of Girardi during his last few years in the Bronx.
Even if that is true, however, it says something about Girardi that Yankees sources speak highly of him now that he is back on the market. The people who know him best clearly wish him well.
Part of a manager's job is to serve as the public face of the team, conducting two press conferences per day. Girardi never warmed to this as a Yankee, often emerging from losses with terse answers and a defensive posture. He brought this vibe with him in the clubhouse as well.
"If you're looking for someone who will manage a great game for three hours, Girardi will do that," said one executive. "If you're looking for someone to win the press conference, that will never be Joe."
Does that matter? One could argue that after the era of Mickey "Get this m-----f---er out of here" Callaway, the Mets could use a more relaxed presence. That change has worked for the Yankees and Boone, whose geniality with the press carries over to his dealings with players and executives.
But one could also argue that the objective is to win, and Girardi has done that consistently for years in New York, whether he is easy is to deal with or not.
"You don't last a decade with the Yankees without doing a lot of things right," one executive said.
That person suggested the Mets should consider Girardi, but ranked him second behind Buck Showalter among the available choices. I've dealt with and observed both skippers, and agree with that assessment of Showalter over Girardi.
There are plenty of other candidates to consider, from the respected Astros bench coach Joe Espada to Van Wagenen's friend A.J. Hinch, who is under contract and would need to be traded. Joe Maddon could be available. The Mets have already talked about Dusty Baker.
But the Mets respect Girardi enough to do their homework on him. We'll see where it goes from there.