John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It just seemed so obvious, so logical, even so…easy…to hire Joe Girardi as the anti-Mickey Callaway and give a ready-to-win Mets team the best chance at maximizing its potential in 2020.
Instead the Mets allowed a division rival right down the Turnpike to hire Girardi and, man, Brodie Van Wagenen better find the next Alex Cora.
I'm not saying Van Wagenen can't still somehow come out of this looking good, if he does discover the right manager. But for the moment he's only furthered the perception that he thinks he's smarter than everybody else.
Put it this way: from the fans' point of view, there might be a long way to go here, but the GM just gave up a grand slam in the first inning.
Not that pleasing the fans should be a prerequisite for hiring a manager, but in this case, when their overwhelming desire for Girardi lined up with so many other more objective reasons to hire him, well, why wouldn't you want to take the lay-up rather than what amounts to a contested three-point shot?
Because unless they're willing to hire a "bombshell candidate" that will emerge and completely change public perception, as SNY's Andy Martino has reported is a possibility, whoever the Mets hire will be a first-time manager and thus comes with an undeniable risk factor.
Callaway's failure shouldn't really be part of the equation, yet there's no getting around the fact that his in-game problems, his poor media skills, and his general lack of sophistication loom over this next hire, whether it's Carlos Beltran, Eduardo Perez, Tim Bogar or someone else who does not have significant experience managing in the big leagues.
In New York, especially, you just don't know how a first-time major league manager is going to handle the scrutiny that comes with the job, never mind how he'll make decisions on the fly in the dugout.
One of those guys might be another Cora, who proved to be savvy in just about every way as a first-time manager for the Red Sox in 2018, guiding them to a championship in his first season as manager.
Or he might be another Aaron Boone, who has made a relatively smooth transition from the broadcast booth to the Bronx.
But Girardi is a proven commodity in New York, having won a championship while managing the Yankees for 10 years and proving to be adept at bullpen management -- which is perhaps the most difficult in-game task these days for a manager -- as well as just about everything else that comes with the job.
Not that Girardi was without fault. He'll probably never be comfortable in press conference settings, especially after losses, when his intensity at times got the best of him.
But as long as he wins, the media part of the job doesn't seem nearly as important, as Bill Belichick, among others, has long since proven.
Whether Girardi's intensity negatively impacts his clubhouse is quite another issue. The Yankees thought it wore on players after a number of years, and that was at least partly why Brian Cashman moved on even after his manager got the 2017 team to Game 7 of the ALCS, opting for a better communicator in Boone.
At least initially, however, I have to believe Girardi's intensity, as well his well-documented preparation and attention to detail, would have helped the Mets, with their relatively young core, raise their day-to-day readiness over 162 games.
In truth, the Yankees did have some in-game issues with Girardi's managing, at least during his final season. Sources told me they thought he got a little panicky down the stretch in 2017, using Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman too often with four and five-run leads rather than trusting other relievers, to the point of burning them out by the postseason.
The point is, any manager is going to be subject to criticism of some sort, so it's not as if Girardi was going to guarantee the Mets win the NL East next season.
It's just that, well, like so many fans today, I'd like to know why the Mets didn't hire him.
If it's because they didn't want to pay top-dollar for a manager while still paying Mickey Callaway, that's just foolish. The fan base would have been so jazzed by hiring him that the Mets almost surely would have made up the extra cost in ticket sales.
If it's because Van Wagenen wants a more collaborative manager, meaning someone who will allow the analytics department to dictate his lineup on a daily basis, that just seems like an ego-driven decision in this era when the new-age GMs don't value managers as much as they should.
If it's something else, let's just hope it's a good reason.
Again, I'm not saying the Mets can't make this work. For starters, it's more important that Van Wagenen makes the right moves this winter to make his team better.
Indeed, if the Mets brought back Zack Wheeler, then went out and signed Anthony Rendon, as well as added a couple of proven relievers, they could sell the fans on just about anybody they want as manager.
But I don't think that's happening. As such, they sure could use a manager who might win them a few extra games, rather than lose them a bunch.
Girardi was the best bet. And if he turns out to be that guy for the Phillies, then not hiring him could wind up costing Van Wagenen his job.