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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Best That You Can Do?

Bob Melvin. Terry Collins.

Terry Collins. Bob Melvin.

Really? That’s the best Team Genius can do for serious managerial candidates?



Caveat: I haven’t interviewed Bob Melvin or Terry Collins. I haven’t worked with them. I haven’t spoken to their peers. I haven’t played baseball for either of them. Thus, I could be missing whatever it is that has catapulted them to the reported top of the list among candidates considered for the post of manager of the New York Mets.

That said, this is who it comes down to? Two retreads whose winning was limited in their previous engagements and whose reputations did not seem to make them particularly hot commodities within the industry during their time at liberty?

This is it?

Like many curious Mets fans, I suspect, I’ve found myself rereading Moneyball to discern the Alderson philosophies and have stared relentlessly at the most oft-cited passage regarding our new GM’s theories on what he wants — and doesn’t want — out of a manager.

“In what other business,” he asked, “do you leave the fate of the organization to a middle manager?”

The context for the remark was a discussion of Moneyball’s signature aspect, the value of on-base percentage, and how it was no simple task to implement it as the guiding principle from bottom to top within the Oakland A’s system since longtime (and undeniably successful) manager Tony La Russa had his own ideas about what he wanted his players doing. Downgrading a Hall of Fame manager to the status of midlevel apparatchik was Alderson’s way of saying the A’s weren’t necessarily La Russa’s players. They belonged to the A’s, and there was an A’s way of doing things that was to take precedence over any manager’s theories.

That was the idea, according to Moneyball, but La Russa stopped figuring in the equation once his contract was up and he split for St. Louis. The vacancy gave Oakland Art Howe, likely every Mets fan’s idea of a middle manager after he chalked up two ineffectual seasons in the Mets dugout.

Howe led (or middle-managed) Oakland to three consecutive playoff berths, so one can infer that the system worked better out west, or that the A’s had better players from 2000 to 2002 than the Mets did in 2003 and 2004. Not every situation syncs to every person, and Alderson indicated amid the press gaggle that followed his formal introduction at Citi Field on October 29 (as transcribed by ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin) that his entire thought process on managerial selection had not been fully reflected in Lewis’s nearly eight-year-old work.

I know there’s been some discussion about the three paragraphs in Moneyball that relate to me. I do believe, just putting it in a broader context, that a manager needs to reflect the general philosophy of the organization. That’s important not just for a manager. That’s important for a player-development system. It’s important for every element of a baseball operation to have some sense of consistency of approach, of philosophy.

At the same time, the manager is a very critical part of the overall leadership structure. His job is very different from mine, it’s very different from the director of scouting, etc. There are certain qualities that he has to bring. I have in my years worked with managers ranging from a Tony La Russa to a Billy Martin. So I can appreciate a fiery manager. And I think a fiery manager is actually quite desirable. I think that in some cases a manager is not only representing an organization, but the fans in maybe frustrating situations and acts as a proxy for all of us.

I also think it’s important for a manager to be somewhat analytical, but at the same time occasionally and sometimes often intuitive. We’re looking for somebody that is right for our situation. What is our situation? You start with the fact that it’s New York City.

We’re looking for somebody that fits intellectual requirements, but also intuitive and emotional ones. That manager may have experience, may not have experience at the major league level. We’re very open-minded about it at this point. But I do want to emphasize that whoever is selected is going to be the manager and making those decisions and needs to have a certain level of independence in order to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.

This was a little more than two weeks ago. Multiple candidates have been interviewed and what we’ve wound up with are Bob Melvin and Terry Collins.

Are either or both of them any or all of the following?

• Fiery
• A proxy for all of us
• Analytical
• Occasionally to often intuitive
• Suited for New York
• Meeting intellectual requirements
• Meeting emotional requirements
• Likely to maintain a certain level of independence

Last week he appeared on SNY’s Mets Hot Stove after the managerial interviewing was well underway (but before the consensus that Melvin and Collins as the favorites had publicly leaked), and this was his rather broad description of what he is seeking in a manager.

From a general standpoint, I think that what you’re looking at [are] the two basic aspects of leadership, which is professional competence and personal qualities, and [,,,] how they fit together into sort of a total package.

If you’re not professionally competent, it ain’t gonna work.

But also personal qualities are very important, and some kind of blend into the professional side. Things like communication and a sense of empathy, the ability to articulate a philosophy or an approach.

So there are these two basic areas — personal qualities and professional ability — that I think we try to plumb to see what’s there.

We’ve had pretty direct conversations with our candidates about their recent experiences and specific things related to their coaching or managing history, so we’ve learned quite a bit.

If we are to take the consensus of reporting as reliable and assume that is really is down to Collins and Melvin, do these sound like words that could be applied to either of these men?

• Leadership
• Professional competence
• Personal qualities
• Communication
• A sense of empathy
• The ability to articulate a philosophy or an approach

It’s all bland enough that it could apply to anybody in any job, and, given that it was his position after the first round of interviews, it (more so than what he outlined on the day he met the media en masse) likely serves as a barometer of what Alderson wants out of a manager:

The bare minimum.

That’s what it feels like. That’s what the search for the next manager of the National League franchise in the nation’s largest market has built toward — someone who won’t get in the way. In other words, a middle manager.

Maybe it’s the way to go. Maybe the Alderson-DePodesta-Ricciardi genius transcends personality in the clubhouse and dugout. Maybe it’s enough to transmit the idea that batters should take pitches and pitchers should throw strikes and not give up runs. Maybe consistency of approach is what the Mets have been missing these past several seasons when various actors definitely seem to have been ad-libbing their parts to the detriment of the entire cast, crew and production.

Maybe. But I can’t get past the idea that a manager does have an influence on the outcomes of seasons, and not just lousy managers managing teams into the ground by stubbornness, inscrutability or whistling past the graveyard.

If we are to accept the idea that running a baseball club is a “business,” per the quote from Moneyball, I’d ask in what businesses do middle managers march solely in lockstep with upper management’s directives?

Dreary businesses, I’d say. Dreary businesses where the middle managers and the rank-and-file employees dread coming to work because the life has been sucked out of them. Dreary businesses where there’s little creative tension and, probably, little creativity.

It’s not a perfect metaphor. It may not even be an apt one, because as logical as applying business principles to baseball may be for much of what needs to be done to build a solid foundation, baseball’s a game. It’s a game of people more than principles. It’s also a game whose greatest moments are its most unlikely ones. You can endeavor to minimize risk and plan to maximize results, but sooner or later you’re going to need somebody to come up with an idea…somebody in the middle of things…somebody who knows his people.

In trying to reckon what it might be about Bob Melvin and Terry Collins that have brought them to the forefront of the Mets’ managerial search, I’ve been thinking about the managers who’ve succeeded at the highest pinnacle a manager can succeed — those who’ve won a World Series. In the past decade, nine different managers have stood at the end of the postseason cradling the Commissioner’s Trophy. They’ve been a diverse group:

• Bob Brenly
• Mike Scioscia
• Jack McKeon
• Terry Francona (twice)
• Ozzie Guillen
• Tony La Russa
• Charlie Manuel
• Joe Girardi
• Bruce Bochy

Beyond the prize they’ve attained, I’m at a loss to determine a common denominator among them, but I never got the sense that any of them was a cipher. They lent their teams a sense of urgency. They never panicked. They were preternaturally serene. They fired up their troops. They were tough. They were reasonable. They laid down the law. They were players managers. They were just what was needed for this team, and now the whole world knows it.

Maybe we’ll be saying something similar someday for Collins or Melvin. Someday, perhaps, we’ll be writing that we didn’t know the inner fire that burned inside Bob Melvin, the desire to win that overtook him and spread quietly but effectively to his troops. Someday, it could be, we’ll be telling one another that Terry Collins took the hard road to this moment, that he ironed out the kinks that tripped him up at previous stops and learned a lot along the way and now it is we who reap the benefits. We might very well be saying that after Jerry Manuel, Terry Colins/Bob Melvin was exactly the antidote for the Mets’ malaise…and now the whole world knows it.

But I’ll bet, should we feel compelled to praise one of them to the high heavens because he has accomplished the most any major league manager can hope to accomplish, that we won’t be saying, “That guy was good the way he shut up and quietly went along with whatever the front office decided.”

There’s got to be more than that to managing, whether it’s managing innings or egos. There has to be a reason Bobby Cox had so many in the sport — Braves players past and present in particular — tipping their caps to him on his way out beyond how well he absorbed memos from John Schuerholz. “I’ll be loyal to Bobby Cox as long as I live,” a bit player from his earliest team said in 2010, and he wasn’t alone in expressing such enduring devotion. No mere functionary inspires those kinds of feelings.

There had to be a reason, too, that Sparky Anderson was eulogized so warmly upon his recent passing besides a predilection for next-generation Stengelese. Joe Posnanski, not surprisingly, wrote a beautiful remembrance of Anderson, featuring these thoughts from one of Sparky’s most celebrated players:

“I don’t know why we did the things we did for Sparky,” Pete Rose said. “But we all did. All of us. Johnny. Joe. Me. All of us.” In 1975, middle of the year, Sparky Anderson asked Pete Rose to move from the outfield to third base, a position he had not played in 10 years (and had hated when he did play there briefly). And Pete Rose moved. “We wanted to win for Sparky,” Rose said. “He just had this way about him.”

“We wanted to win for Sparky.” I don’t know whether that’s a sentiment Rose expressed upon hearing that his old manager died or was recorded when Posnanski was writing his book about the Big Red Machine. Either way, it’s telling, even if it describes a scenario from 35 years ago, from the tail end of the age when players had no choice about the manager for whom they played.

We wanted to win for Sparky. Not play for Sparky. But win for Sparky. Rose and Bench and Morgan and Tony Perez (who, on another occasion, used the exact same phrase) and the rest of the Machine probably wanted to win for themselves as well, but every possible motivation in the name of a championship is welcome.

(And, for what it’s worth, shifting Rose, a perennial All-Star left fielder to third base with the season a month old to create a spot for emerging slugger George Foster, was pretty gosh darn creative.)

Can you imagine any 2011 or 2012 New York Met declaring he wants to win for Bob Melvin? For Terry Collins? Can you imagine any 2011 or 2012 New York Met pledging lifelong allegiance to Terry Collins? To Bob Melvin?

Is this a little much to ask? Aside from the modern ballplayer being primarily loyal to himself, we are comparing two almost random former big league managers to two legends of the game, one who is ensconced in Cooperstown, one who will be at the first opportunity.

But is practical randomness the best the Mets can do for a manager? Are we to believe that it didn’t matter who succeeded Wes Westrum as fulltime Met manager in 1968, that Gil Hodges didn’t have a profound impact on the fortunes of this franchise? That Davey Johnson was not essential to the unprecedented long-term success that coincided with his appointment prior to the 1984 season and all but expired with his dismissal in 1990? That when the Mets snapped a veritable six-year losing streak in 1997 and contended every year through 2001 that anybody could have been filling out lineup cards and that Bobby Valentine’s handwriting and fingerprints were just incidental?

I just don’t buy that.

I have no hunch if the next manager will be Bob Melvin or Terry Collins or a late-breaking dark horse, but I’d sure like him to be ideal. I’d like him to be a difference-maker. I’d like him to turn this club around, to get it to play intelligently and passionately. I’d like him to outthink his opposite number. I’d like him to be managing in the sixth while Fredi Gonzalez and Charlie Manuel are still fumbling around with the fourth. I’d like him to take no guff from umpires when they make their usual spate of bad calls. I’d like to hang anxiously on his every pregame and postgame word. I’d like him to bunt only when it makes sense, to give the take sign because he’s picked up something the other team’s pitcher is doing, to shuffle lineups and personalities expertly. I’d like him to keep Pedro Feliciano’s left arm from falling off if Pedro Feliciano’s arm is still here.

I want frigging miracles, I suppose, yet I’m not going to get those. I don’t know what’s in store, but managerial miracles don’t appear in the forecast. Maybe I don’t know enough about Collins or Melvin as individuals, but I’m trying to imagine a moment when the Mets rally behind one of them and drive to glory. I’m trying to see one of these hired hands having his head doused by bubbly after he hands the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Alderson, and Alderson hands it to a Wilpon.

Bob Melvin. Terry Collins.

Terry Collins. Bob Melvin.

The picture comes up blank.

47 comments to The Best That You Can Do?

  • dgwphotography

    I thought that Joe Oquendo was supposed to be interviewed this week. I would prefer him to either Collins or Melvin.

  • I’m not excited about Bob Melvin or Terry Collins either. But I’m in the camp that believes that managers don’t have much impact on a team’s success (at least unless things go spectacularly wrong.)

    If the Mets play good, winning baseball we’ll learn to love Sandy’s pick. If not, we’d grow to hate them – even if Sandy suddenly decided to hire fan-favorite Wally Backman.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe!, metspolice and Oscar Ponce, Greg Prince. Greg Prince said: The best the #Mets can do for managerial finalists are Terry Collins and Bob Melvin? Really? […]

  • maryanne

    You have said it all…a terrific read. May I now plead for Wally once again?

  • Phil

    As far as I am concerned, Alderson & Co. get the benefit of the doubt, and have quite a long leash to that end. I will withhold judgement until a selection is actually made, and we can get a feel for who that person is.

    Not to say Alderson is immune from bad decision making or fair to be criticized for such, just that we finally (FINALLY!!) have a GM who I think is smarter than myself, so I am going to hold on to hope that they know something I dont.

  • Metsie

    “Beyond the prize they’ve attained, I’m at a loss to determine a common denominator among them”

    The common denominator was they all had good teams with enough pitching and hitting to succeed!

    None of those teams NEEDED to be motivated.
    None of those teams needed a ton of strategic moves to make them successful.

    Now I’m not overly impressed with the candidates we have but I also feel it won’t matter who we get since the team as it is now is probably not enough for any manager to mangage into a winner.

    Maybe if Beltran plays more like Sept than July and August, Maybe if Bay plays like Bay instead of what we got last year, Maybe if David Wright doesn’t have to carry the team because everyone else is hitting so he can be relaxed, paitient and starts fighting off close pitches to get hits as opposed to trying to get his HR totals up and striking out, Maybe if some of that rubs off on Ike Davis!

    And even if all that happens we still have a deep problem with the pitching rotation with no Santana and the two best Bullpen guys now gone!

    There is a lot of work to do and by the time it is done we will probably be looking for another Manager because two more non-playoff seasons will send whoever we get packing! We are just that impatient!

  • Downtown

    A pretty weak analysis.

    The Art Howe comparisons mean diddly. If it isn’t obvious that Howe had talent in Oakland and no talent in NY, then I don’t really know what to tell you.

    Collins and Melvin have both managed teams to winning records more than once in the majors. I don’t really know what you’re looking for b/c there’s no one manager type that succeeds (with the rest doomed to failure). It just doesn’t work that way. Jerry Manuel was just a bad manager b/c he didn’t understand that batting your worst hitter (Castillo) in the 2nd spot in the order and sac bunting a guy from 2nd to 3rd w/no outs in the 2nd inning are just bad baseball strategies. As long as Collins and Melvin realize the implications of those basic situations (and I believe they both do) and if both can articulate a sensible and analytical approach, then either guy should be fine.

  • I notice that Clint Hurdle’s name isn’t mentioned, even to the point where he had been considered, but isn’t any longer because he’s apparently taking another job. If a manager would rather manage the Pittsburgh Pirates than the New York Mets, then that’s not an indictment of the Mets players or even of Omar Minaya, that’s an indictment of the Wilpons.

  • I don’t think a good manager will add 10-15 wins to a ballclub, but I’m positive that a bad manager will take that many away.

    I know that the new front office hasn’t had any time to prove their worth, but considering how often the Mets offices botch off-field decisions, the thought of them having total control over ALL on-field decisions is mortifying. It’s a thought that absolutely will not sit well in my head.

    Am I incorrect in saying the 2 best managers of Wilpon’s tenure were the ones who told him where to stick it? This is why Alderson scared me from day one: he only wants to work with yes-men.

  • Vin

    To answer the questions you pose: Yes. I really think the vast majority of MLB managers are incidental, at best. Some are worse than that, and very, very few (Bobby Cox comes to mind, maybe Davey Johnson, probably Sparky Anderson) are better than that. And those who are better are better because they are good at managing personalities – a not-insignificant task for a ballclub, but nowhere near as important as the task of putting the club together.

    Further, the good ones tend to work well as part of a system. Would Bobby Cox have been so successful outside Atlanta? It’s hard to say. I can say pretty confidently that Joe Torre is no baseball or managerial genius, but he was the right man for the Yankees because he was very good at keeping Steinbrenner at arm’s length. I don’t really think selecting a manager is so much about finding a standout as finding someone who will fit well within the organization, implementing its philosophies and keeping the players focused on the task at hand.

  • Remember, even Divine Francis of Cashen gave us George Bamberger (followed ever-so-briefly by Frank Howard) before we were bestowed with St. Davey…

  • Downtown

    let’s get this done and move on to the important decisions relating to the roster.

  • Rob D.

    You mean to tell me that Buck Showalter hasn’t made a difference in the Orioles (I wish the Wilpons had had enough guts to fire Jerry during the year and hire Buck to run the franchise)??

    Terry Collins, Bob Melvin. I’m sure they are fine gentlemen and good baseball guys. Not what this franchise needs right now.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    By the time we get around to making a decision on this our manager will be the last person standing without a job! The decision will be made for us!

    How much time are we going to have to make the decisions for the people that matter most – The Players?

    90 Days till Pitchers and catchers report!…I hope we are going to be this diligent when we make player transactions.

  • Rob D.

    Showalter took a team that had 35 wins four months into the season and led them to 35 wins in the next 2 months, with no change in personnel. Not saying the Mets don’t need more players, but they need a leader, since no one in the clubhouse apparently can or wants to do it.

    • Downtown

      Not saying that Showalter isn’t a fine manager… in fact, I wanted him here for years… and that fell on deaf ears. None of which means that Melvin or Collins cannot provide the same sort of lift here (as if it could be quantified in any way…).

      wrt Show and the O’s, they were due a huge correction and probably would have gotten it under any skipper in the 2nd half… they have a bunch or 1st and 2nd year SPs… what else would you expect but inconsistency??

  • Fiery? Analytical? Intellectual? Independent? How about Paul Krugman?

  • I believe talent is the most important thing for a successful manager but a good manager does make a difference. There is no doubt that Earl Weaver won extra games for the Orioles in the late 1970s-early 1980s by his use of statistics to enhance player match-ups. Davey Johnson was a big user of game stats as well to make decisions and that clearly helped the 1980s Mets. A good manager probably wins you an extra 5-7 games a season and that can be the difference b/w making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.

    I am not convinced THIS managerial choice is all that important b/c he is likely to be a placeholder much the way George Bamberger was in 1982. Bambi was never going to take the Mets to the next level and my guess is neither will Terry Collins/Bob Melvin. However, both can be servicable while Alderson and Co rebuild the franchise.

    • I was utterly unexcited about Bamberger, but I think Cashen had slightly higher hopes, like he’d straighten out This Mess (This Mess is a trademark of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York) and be good with the younger pitchers. He just wanted to get the hell back to Florida, and so he did.

      Bambi’s legacy was instilling confidence in Jesse Orosco, or at least giving him the ball a lot and helping him find himself. Didn’t do much for anybody else, but those pictures from the last out of the World Series suggests that might have been enough.

  • Thomas C.

    Terry Collins sounds pretty decent. Had winning seasons, maybe hungry for a championship. I like this post:

  • March'62

    I am in the camp that says managers have a great deal of impact on the success of a team. Yes, the talent has to be there but that talent needs to be motivated, held accountable, and put in the best situations for them to succeed. Gil Hodges walked out to left field to remove Cleon Jones from a game for jaking it. In contrast, Jerry said that Lastings Milledge not busting it to first was just a rookie making rookie mistakes and did nothing about it. Davey Johnson had a solid, young pitching staff that he utilized wisely without overworking or underworking them. Davey also got a lot out of his bench because he would get them regular work when he liked the matchups. Sparky and Torre won because they were masters at dealing with big egos (except for batting A-Rod 8th) and got the players to buy into the team concept.

    The problem that I have with the Mets’ current search is that they are favoring major league experience but none of the men they have interviewed had any consistent success in the majors. One even had his team mutiny and was petitioned out of a job. That alone should open the door for successful minor league managers like Davey was. I would much rather give an Oberkfell or a Backman a shot than recycle people that have failed multiple times for other franchises. Unless there’s some reason to believe that these ‘experienced’ men have learned and grown from their experiences, I don’t see that road as being a logical one.

    But make the decision already. If having 15 GMs/assistant GMs/GMs-in-waiting prevents you from making a timely decision on a manager, this doesn’t bode well for quick player/trade evaluations.


  • Joe Torre, pre-Yankees: 894-1003 .471

    Joe Torre, Yankees & Dodgers: 1432-994 .590

    So did Torre’s experience with some fumbling Met/Brave/Cardinal teams help once he got to the NYYs?


    Did it make him a genius, suddenly?

    Probably not.

    I’m betting on 2 things:
    a – Alderson et al know what they’re doing.

    b – Having managerial experience — however suspect — certainly helps.

    Now, could Bob Melvin have “lit up the room?” Possibly.

    Could Terry Collins be the next Vern Rapp? Possibly.

    Again, my money’s on Alderson…

    • March'62

      I don’t think Torre was a good manager. I think he was out-managed numerous times (Florida, Arizona, Boston) and lost; and he also was out-managed (Atlanta twice, Boston) and still won. It always helps to have the most talent that money could buy. The one thing he was good at was dealing with all of the egos. That’s all I was saying.

    • I’ll say this for Torre when he was hired the first time: it was an innovative choice and not a terrible risk. He’d been around, he had the respect of his teammates, he was a New Yorker to the core, and it’s not like he was a bargain basement selection given that Joe Frazier wasn’t pulling down beaucoup bucks. Nobody remembers it much because of what happened a couple of weeks later, but it wasn’t a bad decision by the otherwise disgraced Grant-McDonald regime.

      I enjoyed watch Joe Torre find his way in what I didn’t recognize at the time as a no-win situation. The team was going to suck no matter what, so he could experiment and learn and all that. There wasn’t even all that much media pressure on him because the media didn’t descend on Shea in a throng in those days (nor did anybody). I’m betting he learned something that made him successful for a couple of seasons in Atlanta.

      He can go screw himself now, of course, but just wanted to stick up for the original version.

  • Jackabite

    We’ve grown Tuefel, Wally, and Oberkfell – so why aren’t those guys considered finalists? Collins had a near-insurrection when he was mis-managing the Angels; that’s all good now?
    I suppose Mr. Alderson is a wee bit smarter than I am on these matters, so I’ll hope for the best. It’s just a whole lot of “I told you so” moments when you’re a Mets fan!
    Basically, I just want a Met in there.

    • Having a Met in there would be value-added, but I can live without the pedigree. Thing is I wonder about Oberkfell of whom I’ve read mostly good things for years. Maybe MLB experience is essential here, but if that’s the case, what kind of message does that send your minor league manager who’s worked dutifully up the chain? And what good does it do Wally Backman to settle for (as speculated) a promotion to St. Lucie in 2011? So he can someday manage Binghamton en route to Buffalo en route to Oberkfellian oblivion?

      There’s worse things than getting to manage a professional baseball team somewhere, but I assume that guys like Oberkfell have been keeping an eye on the prize all these years. A shame, perhaps, that the prize appears no closer now than it ever was.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    If Alderson wants a manager who reflects the attitude of the organization, then the Mets are already dead. Of course, everyone wants to win but that
    will not happen because this is an organization that emphasizes profitability and public perception more than it does a baseball operation based on discipline and winning. The money first attitude filters down to the players

    Times have changed and unfortunately, even a Gil Hodges would not be able to turn around this team, not in the age of guaranteed multi-year contracts which hinders turning the character of boys into men, something Gil did so tremendously. And it does go beyond money, since other teams with big payrolls and not much better talent still manage to win and play disciplined ball.

    It’s the trickle down effect that permeates from the front office. Money counts more than integrity. If we as fans who don’t have the money to be season ticket holders or pay $100 for seats feel like second class citizens cause we’re in the outer promonade, no doubt the players feel it too, in the form of being elitists.

  • Andee

    On the other hand, who the hell was Terry Francona before he “won” two championships? My best memory cells tell me that he was a JOKE of a manager for the Phillies, who was openly despised by many of his players.

    I lived in Phoenix during the Bob Brenly era. One year the man and his coaching staff were stone geniuses, the very next year the goatiest of goats. What happened? Did they all just get stupid all of a sudden? Did it rain grand pianos one day over the BOB (as it was then called) while the roof was open and knock out everyone’s baseball smarts? No, I’m guessing pretty much the same thing happened to Bob Brenly as happened to Bobby Valentine and Davey Johnson and every other manager who won pennants and more and then got unceremoniously flushed: He was only as “smart” as his roster, and can only be blamed for that inasfar as he had input into constructing it.

    Bobby Cox had experience not only as a field manager for the Braves, but as a GM; he reconstructed their organization behind the scenes before re-taking the reins, and very likely had serious input into constructing his rosters as a manager because of that. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to imagine the Braves’ success without him. But I honestly think that, especially over the last decade or so, he’s an exception.

    Even Joe Torre, with all his RINGZZZ, probably didn’t have nearly as much to do with roster construction, though I’d guess that Colletti and Cashman both gave his opinions more weight than they would have to someone who was RINGZZZ-less. And honestly, Torre’s best quality as a manager was his inobtrusiveness. That’s what players liked about playing for him; he (usually) wasn’t a giant pain in their keisters. A lot more managers these days follow that model.

    ETA: I also think managers, in an era of multi-year, multi-million dollar deals even for scrubbolas, don’t have a lot of “motivational” juice to offer players unless they have a roster made up almost entirely of kids and retreads. The players know they can’t be fired and the manager can, so if they don’t already have the “will to win” by the time they hit the MLB contract lotto, they ain’t never gonna.

    • Nobody’s awesome forever, that’s for sure. I’ll take whatever interval is available for however much genius/inspiration any manager can provide for however long he can provide it, even if it comes with an expiration date. If there’s a manager who can build goodwill among his players so it’s a self-perpetuating thing, all the better. Bochy certainly seems to have struck that chord in his two extended stays as a manager. Maybe it was more reflective of Jeremy Affeldt than it was Bochy, but MLB Network had him mic’d during Spring Training and they showed him asking his Giant teammates who their favorite player was growing up. And no matter who they said, Affeldt told them, “Nah, don’t say that. Tell Bruce it was Bruce Bochy,” and some adorable interplay followed between the manager and his players. Maybe it was nothing, but it gave me a good feeling about the Giants for what was to come in 2010.

      Anyway, it would be nice to not have to go through these searches every three years.

  • Jay

    Bobby Valentine is the Manny Ramirez of 2010: the guy every fan wants, and who management pretends doesn’t exist. Now, some will say not signing Manny was the right decision because he tested positive for steroids. I disagree: good decisions are judged by the process (what was known at the time) not the results. What we knew at the time is that Manny had just hit .500 in the playoffs and was the best right-handed power bat available when we desperately needed just that.

    Same is true, IMO, of Valentine. This is a man widely regarded as one of the sharpest minds in baseball, someone with every intangible one could want, and, most importantly, has WON here. With less talented rosters than this one, I might add. What’s the harm in just interviewing him? Who knows – maybe, just maybe, Bobby & Sandy see eye-to-eye enough for this to work.

    If you wont interview him, at least be honest with the fans. Tell us why Bob Melvin and Terry Collins are so vastly superior to the guy we all justifiably want.

    • Andee

      When was the last time you saw a GM go into details about why he’s not hiring the guy he’s not hiring? Alderson talks to other GMs all the time; BV has already had 4 interviews this year with other teams, and word gets around between GMs. SA probably knows all he needs to know about what terms BV expects; no need to put BV down in public by announcing it. Probably they don’t want to give any long-term contracts to managers right now and BV doesn’t want to manage badly enough to settle for a one-year deal.

  • Remember “Clueless Joe”? Everyone thought Torre was a terrible decision, now he’s going to the hall of fame. Right guy, right place. If Alderson is your guy and Melvin is his guy, you stick it out and see what happens.

    • I never thought “Clueless Joe” was fair, but that aside, consider that last season, when Jerry was on the hot seat, and it was widely speculated that if they replaced Manuel in the middle of the year, that we’d be stuck with…Bob Melvin. Nobody seemed interested in giving that prospective Omar decision the benefit of the doubt. Back then it was a vanilla choice that lacked imagination. I don’t know why it’s suddenly an intrinsic part of a brilliant strategy now.

      That said, as long as Melvin isn’t Jeff Torborg — and I mean literally Jeff Torborg — it will be palatable. I caught Torborg as a talking head on the MLB Network “1990” documentary last night and I was enraged all over again like it was 1992.

      Talk about clueless.

      • Oh, man, was he terrible. I remember reading about him in The Bronx Zoo – Sparky Lyle called him “Stylemaster”. I swear, he gave Bud Harrelson a run for his money as worst Mets manager ever.

        I see your point – why Melvin now and not before? In reality, it might have been the right move last year. I think someone without an existing relationship with Beltran, who could handle a bullpen and not bunt every inning might have bought us a few more wins.

  • BlackCountry Met

    WOW!! So I’m guessing the 2 candidates are NOT popular. From this side of the pond and with limited knowledge, I’ve got little clue as to their ability. However, I do know that the 3 recent hirings appear to have been successful in their respective roles and feel that they should be given the chance with whoever they appoint. Like someone said, if the jobs not done within 2 years…well someone else will be along anyway.

  • Here are a couple of reasons why Collins looks appealing to this Met fan:

    From Joel Sherman…

    One of the blessings of being a baseball columnist in New York is that I do get to size up two organizations regularly. I also feel blessed that when I was the Yankees beat guy for The Post from 1989-95 the team was almost always bad, which provided long insight into what losing and a terrible clubhouse culture looked like.

    For too long Mets players have felt a sense of entitlement that they have not earned with their play. The comfort is too great, especially for a team that has not won enough to gain comfort. Forgive the cliché, but there is an element of the inmates running the asylum.

    Mets ownership went outside the organization to hire a GM in Alderson, in part, to begin a fumigation, to alter the culture. But the preparation, seriousness and comfort of the players really falls more to the manager.

    That is why Terry Collins has become the frontrunner in the manager derby. Mets officials believe he will confront the lack of professionalism that for too long has been part of the clubhouse.

    From Larry Bowa (Collins’ 3B coach in Anaheim)…

    “It has been portrayed as a lot of problems, and it wasn’t,” Bowa said. “He really got on great with the players. And there is no doubt in my mind that would be true in New York, as well. This is a mentally tough guy. This is a great situation for him in New York because that team did not play up to its potential, there is some talent there, and I think Terry would be good at getting guys to play to their potential.”

    • Your generous quotation from Sherman omitted this gem:

      I had a long conversation toward the end of the season with Wright about essentially the same subject. Actually, it was more me talking and Wright saying he was interested and to keep talking. The subject was this: I wish I could transport Wright out of the Mets clubhouse to a more professional team such as the Yankees or Red Sox so he could see how different that atmosphere was in those places.

      What I told Wright was that I looked at him and a few others in the Mets’ clubhouse as an oasis around too much unprofessionalism. And I suggested that he had been at the party so long – a lifetime Met – that he was losing the ability to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable. I pointed out various elements both in front of us about how cavalierly players were preparing for that day’s game; the lack of structure, discipline, seriousness.

      David Wright needs Joel Sherman as a lifecoach, according to Joel Sherman? I’d rather hear Larry Bowa pass along offhand comments as gospel.

      The Collins equity — professionalism, no nonsense — is swell. His track record doesn’t quite match up. I’m getting the sense he’ll get the job because Alderson thinks they’re all interchangeable and DePodesta knows and likes him. That’s how people get hired in this world, even to manage a baseball team.

      But if he’s the guy, I’m willing to go in on Third Time’s A Charm.

      • Andee

        David Wright needs Joel Sherman as a lifecoach, according to Joel Sherman? I’d rather hear Larry Bowa pass along offhand comments as gospel.

        No kidding! Joel, if you know so damn much about managing, then why aren’t YOU doing it? This is just more smell-of-a-winner nonsense; players look purposeful and disciplined because they’re winning, Joel, not the other way around. You’d think he knew that after all these years, and he probably does…but hey, any chance to Mets-bash, they’ll take it.

  • brooklynlou

    Hate to say it, but if you buy into sabermetrics, what determines wins or losses is the team the front office puts together. The subtext to all the Alderson quotes is that any manager the Mets hire needs to know his place. I think “That guy was good the way he shut up and quietly went along with whatever the front office decided.” is a bit harsh. The better way to phrase it is “That guy was good in the way he wasn’t such an egotistical putz that he undid years of player development work once the kid got called up to the majors”. One team, one strategy, one voice is a better way to describe it. The manager isn’t there to sing lead, but be part of the chorus.

    On the subject of Sparky, his genius as manager is that he understood how cliques work in the clubhouse and empowered all the big pros on his team to partake in the decision making process by setting up defacto player comittees. Those players that wanted to win for Sparky did so because Sparky trusted them as people and students of the game. Bench ran the pitching staff, called the pitches and told Sparky when to schedule a pitching change. Rose ran the outfield, Morgan the infield. If a player wasn’t doing something right, he didn’t just have to deal with Sparky, he had to deal with a bunch of very driven all-stars that valued winning above all else.

    TBF, if Sparky was available as a managerial choice, I doubt Sandy would hire him. Sandy wants a manager that will assist him to deliver the Met’s vision of the team – not substitute his own.

  • I think Jerry coached with his gut and lost a lot of games that way. The mismanagement of minor league prospects and the out of control nature of the farm system (thank you Tony Bernazard) and the signing of overpriced players that outlive their usefulness showed how an undisciplined organization can really hurt you.

    IOW – it’s a team game. It’s not the team with the best players that win, it’s the players that work together to make up the best team. Goes for the front office, manager, coaching staff.

  • […] crispy, we’ve been burned so often — or what, but I’ve heard even of the most level-headed among us take issue with Sandy Alderson’s choices and/or […]

  • […] glad Alderson’s crew worked thoroughly and diligently on this high-profile assignment even if I still can’t quite believe that a veritable nationwide talent search came down to essentially Terry Collins and Bob Melvin. […]