Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Somewhere in the offices at Citi Field, there is a whiteboard, and on that whiteboard are the names of well over a dozen managerial candidates.
During the Mets' broad search for a new skipper, names that haven't surfaced publicly, from John Gibbons to Dusty Baker to Robin Ventura, have appeared on this board. A section of this board was used for a secondary list of sorts, intended as a backup if none of the interviews yielded a fit.
A few weeks ago, a person involved in the process warned us of a potential "bombshell" candidate whose name was not only on the board but about whom the Mets were doing extensive research.
Now, however, it's getting harder to imagine that anyone from the secondary list becomes Mets manager, bombshell or otherwise. We say that because owner Fred Wilpon has been holding one-on-one meetings with the known candidates this week, a sign that the team could make a hire at any time.
Indeed, the Mets are getting closer to a decision, according to sources. Stay tuned over the weekend or early next week.
Nationals first base coach Tim Bogar and ex-player/coach/broadcaster Eduardo Perez have made strong impressions, and are considered by some involved to be frontrunners. By all accounts, Carlos Beltran and the Mets have patched up old differences enough to make him a serious candidate, though we've picked up on a level of skepticism that he'll ultimately leapfrog Bogar and Perez.
There remains a level of unpredictability in this process because GM Brodie Van Wagenen has declined to share his thoughts on the matter with not only the press, but many members of his own front office.
Just this week, when we thought we knew all the candidates, two new names emerged: Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy, as reported by The Athletic, and Triple-A Syracuse manager Tony DeFrancesco, as reported by SNY.
Depending on who one asks, these two either do or don't still have a shot to become manager. Twins bench coach Derek Shelton is still technically in it.
Is anyone else? It would be reckless to rule it out, the way this process has gone.
As for the "bombshell" -- the source's words, not ours -- we haven't been able to nail down a reportable name, though we have several suspects. We've also chased several dead ends.
We can report that Astros manager A.J. Hinch texted his good friend Van Wagenen during the World Series to tell him to please choose a manager already, so he didn't have to answer any more questions about the Mets. That's a strong indication that Hinch isn't the bombshell, even though folks around BVW have always pegged Hinch as his ideal hire.
The problem with hiring Hinch has always been the complicated prospect of convincing Houston to trade him, then agreeing on both compensation and a contract extension with Hinch.
The elder Wilpon once declined to trade Jose Reyes to Seattle for Lou Piniella, a manager he wanted. People who know the owner have pointed to that as evidence that he does not have a taste for a Hinch deal.
Van Wagenen has sought a personal connection with more realistic candidates, and has spent considerable time attempting to do just that.
In the days after firing Mickey Callaway, Van Wagenen conducted phone interviews with the candidates before inviting them in for a "first round" that was really the second round.
He met with the agents of some candidates, then scheduled meetings that included trusted front office advisors Omar Minaya, Allard Baird and Adam Guttridge. COO Jeff Wilpon was involved in early-round interviews, too.
A second round followed, considered a third round by the candidates, who had already done the phone and in-person interview. Van Wagenen added one-on-one time outside the interview process. He called everyone he could think of who might contribute insight. Then he referred a pared-down list for meetings with Fred Wilpon.
Most of those meetings have already occurred. Next, the Mets will negotiate with their top choice, and perhaps hold a runner-up in reserve in case talks break down. By now, the team has a fairly clear idea who those people will be.
It's been an exhaustive process, stretching more than a month -- but it will end in a Citi Field news conference next week. We're getting there.