We can only hope the Mets' managerial hiring process is a whole lot cleaner and smoother than the unseemly way the dismissal of Terry Collins was handled. For what it's worth, people noticed.
Of the so-far most mentioned list of potential Met manager candidates – Bob Geren, Joe McEwing, Chip Hale, Alex Cora, Robin Ventura, Kevin Long – three of them – Geren, Hale and Ventura – have previous managerial experience. Unfortunately for all of them, the experience ended badly. When Geren was fired by the A's in 2011, the clubhouse, particularly the relief pitchers, was in a state of rebellion. In his two years as Diamondbacks manager, Hale reportedly clashed internally with Arizona's baseball operations chief, Tony LaRussa. And while Ventura was universally liked and respected by the entire White Sox organization, the team simply underperformed for him.
I'm not sure how real the Long candidacy is, if only because I can't see Sandy Alderson, a strong analytics guy, moving his batting coach, with no experience whatsoever in running a ballgame, into the manager's chair. On the other hand, McEwing, the White Sox bench coach, and Cora, the Astros bench coach, are the two hot names in this offseason manager derby and have both gotten strong endorsements from their present clubs.
"We love Super Joe," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said of McEwing earlier this week by phone. "I have no doubt he will make an excellent manager and I don't want to lose him. But at the same time, we can't stand in his way, just like years ago we couldn't stand in the way of Jim Leyland when he was our bench coach and left us for the Pirates."
There are two other managerial vacancies besides the Mets – the Tigers and Phillies – and there could very well be another if John Farrell's Red Sox get bounced early in the postseason. In all likelihood, McEwing and Cora will be in demand for all of them. Or at least they should be, depending on whether the analytics trip them up. They both bring a freshness and a boost of energy to the job.
We know where Alderson is on analytics and the GM in Philly, Matt Klentac, is obsessed by them, to the point that he fired all the Phillies veteran scouts, which in turn has prompted Hall-of-Fame GM and senior advisor Pat Gillick, a champion of the scouts, to distance himself from the organization. We'll never know how much second-guessing or computer-generated orders Collins got from above and even Phillies president Andy MacPhail was a bit skeptical about Klentac firing Pete Mackanin, an old school guy, who everyone felt did a pretty good job as Phillies manager.
At Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., the other day, I was talking to a respected veteran baseball man about the greater and greater emphasis on analytics in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays among the teams in the forefront.
"It's kinda sad," the man said, "that we'll never really know how good a manager (Rays skipper) Kevin Cash really is when everything is dictated to him from above."
Still, the Phillies' job may be the most desirable of all the available jobs right now, if only because of their plethora of blossoming young talent: catcher Jorge Alfaro, second baseman Carlos Hernandez, outfielders Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, and righthander Aaron Nola. The Tigers are at the beginning of what could be a very long rebuilding process, but at least there isn't the immediate mandate to win.
The Mets? Well, the treatment of Collins, all the question marks emanating out of this disastrous season, the apparent determination of ownership to cut payroll, combined with the relentless media scrutiny and expectations that come with managing in New York probably makes them the least appealing job.
Who knows how many games they're going to get out of Yoenis Cespedes, or quality starts from Matt Harvey and Steven Matz? There's nothing coming in the near term from the farm system and in his five payroll-reducing trading deadline deals, Alderson got eight minor league relievers in return, none of whom, scouts say, will have much of an impact, if any, on the big league level.
That's why, analytics aside, the Mets really need a manager with a personality who will instill the basics of playing the game the way it's supposed to be played (not that Collins didn't) and energize the fan base.
McEwing, by example as an over-achieving player, would certainly seem to fill that bill. It's just that, if Alderson does elect to go that way, instead of the safe route with a recycled manager looking for a second chance, he may have to do a selling job about the Mets instead of the other way around.