John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Maybe it took longer than it needed to, but the decision to cut ties with Carlos Beltran shouldn't have any lingering impact on the Mets as it applies to their 2020 season.
As long as they make a good choice to replace him.
Ideally that would be Buck Showalter, whose in-game acumen and years of experience make him the best choice for a win-now team, all the more so now for a franchise in upheaval just a month from spring training.
Is it likely? Probably not, unfortunately, based on everything Brodie Van Wagenen said at the Beltran press conference in November. The GM clearly wanted a collaborative manager, mostly meaning someone who wouldn't push back no matter the amount of front-office involvement in day-to-day decision-making.
Perhaps that's why there is already early buzz now about Luis Rojas, who at age 38 has managed in the minors for the Mets and in winter leagues as well, earning considerable respect in the organization along the way.
But my feeling all along has been the 2020 Mets need a proven manager, especially after Mickey Callaway's mistake-filled tenure, and they were taking a considerable gamble by hiring Beltran over someone like Joe Girardi.
As it turned out, for all Beltran's experience as a player in New York, and separate from his role in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal, he showed terrible judgment in publicly denying his involvement when the news first broke, as if unaware how that could come back to haunt him.
In New York, especially, making such decisions on what and what not to say in twice-daily press conferences is a huge part of the job, and we all saw how it flummoxed Callaway during his two seasons as manager.
Showalter, in addition to his touted baseball acumen, has navigated those waters without incident over the years. Other veteran managers like Dusty Baker and John Gibbons have done much the same, though not in New York, while earning reputations as excellent communicators who build strong relationships with players.
With that in mind, the Mets knew that for all of Beltran's inexperience as a manager, his status as a former All-Star player and potential Hall of Famer was going to command instant respect in the clubhouse, smoothing his transition into the job.
Rojas has no such gravitas, having never played in the big leagues. He does have relationships with some of the current Mets, having managed them in the minors, and it doesn't hurt that he's the son of Felip Alou and brother of Moises, but he would have a lot of proving to do to win over a clubhouse of players that grew weary of Callaway's poor in-game managing.
I'm not saying Rojas wouldn't be a good manager, and at least he has the experience in the minors that works in his favor, but it's a completely different world managing in the big leagues, especially for a team with high expectations in New York.
At this point, especially, the Mets need to take the closest thing to a sure bet.
However, if the Mets remain determined to avoid hiring a veteran like Showalter, Baker, or Gibbons, my choice would be Eduardo Perez, a candidate the first time around who impressed the decision-makers, to the point where at least some people in the organization wanted him over Beltran, according to sources.
Certainly Perez, who had a 13-year career in the big leagues as a player, is a more well-rounded candidate, having coached in the majors, worked in the front office, and managed in winter leagues, in addition to working as an ESPN TV analyst these days.
Perhaps significant as well, people who know Perez say he has the type of engaging personality that would work well in New York, in addition to the baseball smarts that come with growing up around the game as the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez.
When I was making calls for a story back in October during the first managerial search, in fact, a current big-league hitting coach told me Perez would be "a better choice right now than Beltran."
He went on to detail Perez's experience and said, "Eduardo's got a great feel for the game, he's very knowledgeable about hitting, and he has a good way with people. He's a guy who can communicate, which is what GMs want now, a guy who can take the information from the front office and present it the right way to players."
That said, Perez too would come with some risk as a first-time manager.
The question then, that lingers from the Beltran hiring, is what's most important to Van Wagenen and the Mets -- hiring the best possible manager or maintaining a certain amount of front-office control?
Remember, Van Wagenen made a point of saying at Beltran's press conference that it was important that he and others in management would not have to "inhale" as they entered the manager's office but could "exhale" instead -- which seemed to be an indictment of Girardi's well-documented intensity.
Meanwhile, the Mets didn't even interview Showalter the first time around, surely aware of his reputation for wanting much of the control in decision-making. In both of those cases, however, I think Van Wagenen underestimated the willingness of those managers to work with the front office for the good of the ballclub.
The bottom line is Showalter would give the Mets the most certainty in every way as the manager in 2020. Shouldn't that be the objective, all the more so after the Beltran saga?