Monday, November 8, 2021

Not Going to Live By Their Rules Anymore

Don't drive angry
Since it was released back in 1993, Groundhog Day has become synonymous with any situation that keeps repeating itself. It served as an apt metaphor for my dating life for quite a few years, until one fortunate day where that all changed. Likewise, there was a Groundhog Day aspect to much of the Wilpon regime, particularly towards the end of that ill-fated era. New York Mets fans watched helplessly as the club seemed determined to continually repeat the same mistakes.

We'd moved on from the Wilpons just about a year ago, but the club's ongoing search for someone to run their baseball operations is once again evoking memories of Harold Ramis' great film. Names keep getting bandied about in the press as candidates, then we soon read that the person isn't interested or their current club won't give the Mets permission to formally speak with them.

While this scenario is far from ideal, it's not what's making me hear the unwelcome saccharine strains of "I Got You Babe" playing on a loop each morning. What evokes the movie is how the media coverage has coalesced into a uniformly negative take on what's happening. It's gotten to the point where I've mostly stopped paying attention to the press reports.  For me, the crux of it all is I am not at all interested in those who don't want the Mets job — I'll check back in when there is something substantial on those who are interested in the position.

I understand the New York media market very well. I've been a fan of New York teams, including the Mets, for more than half a century. The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle famously postulated that "nature abhors a vacuum." While there is debate over the accuracy of Aristotle's theory, it is decidedly true of the horde of media that covers New York sports. There hasn't been much leaking out of the Mets' executive search, and what has been made public is mostly about folks the Mets had targeted whose clubs denied permission or just weren't interested in taking the job. Because of this, the idea that "nobody wants the Mets' job" has become the common wisdom of media types.

Back in October, when the smoking ruins of the Mets' 2021 season were still visible in the distance, I wrote about the search for a PBO. Although it would have been wonderful to see a quick, triumphant resolution to that search, such as a press conference introducing Theo Epstein, it seemed obvious even then that the most obvious candidates weren't coming. It seemed likely that the Mets would have to ferret out someone in the more obscure category of Assistant GMs. Rather than inking an already famous name, the task would be to identify and hire the next great executive.

For a day or so at the end of October, there was a strong rumor linking the Mets with Matt Arnold, the Milwaukee Brewers GM under David Stearns. Reading about Arnold, he really did seem like a fantastic candidate for the position. Sadly, those rumors proved to be unfounded. Matt Arnold would remain in Milwaukee. What seemed briefly promising was just more grist for negative coverage of the Mets. The alarm went off the following day to an annoyingly familiar refrain:

Then put your little hand in mine 𝅘𝅥𝅮
There ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb ♩

A couple more weeks have elapsed, but the song remains the same. The Mets still have not hired anyone to head their baseball ops, and the press coverage continues to slant heavily to glass-half-empty commentary. In the New York Post, Joel Sherman's latest piece on the subject offers nothing that we haven't seen many times in the past month.

Babe... I got you babe 𝅘𝅥

As pessimistic as the media's coverage of all of this has slanted, Mets Twitter has become Apocalyptic at times. Then again, that's the nature of Mets Twitter, and that's what makes me love it. It offers all of the hot takes of local sports radio without the interruptions of endless commercials. The undercurrent, which Sherman alludes to in his piece, is that everyone else is laughing at the Mets and, by extension, those of us who root for them:

The background noise in the game is incredulity and laughter at what is transpiring — as if the Mets are trying to enlist someone to work in an unstable coal mine rather than to run baseball operations for MLB’s richest owner in the game’s biggest city. Is there anything worse that can be said about this organization than that, a year into new ownership, this feels Wilpon-ian?

Jokes that are told at the Mets' expense are nothing new to Mets fans. Even those like myself who have followed the team for a long time aren't immune to being rubbed the wrong way by them. That's why stating that others are laughing at the team has become a staple of local media coverage. After all, the best way to draw clicks is to evoke strong emotions.

I have no connections around baseball. I have no idea what folks in other organizations feel about the Mets. When it all comes down to it, I don't really care that much. As much as the media wants to make this about who the Mets don't hire, it truly is about who they do hire. From what I've read, the Mets have already used some discussions with folks they have spoken with to get recommendations for potential targets that aren't already big names. That's the way I've always seen this executive search going — finding the next great executive.

I'm not all that concerned that the Mets haven't hired anyone yet, but I do think it's time to get into the meat of the process. There's been more than enough time to identify some targets genuinely interested in the job and begin interviewing for a final choice. If we're here a month from now and this still hasn't been done, then I believe that criticism would be justified. There's a lot of work to be done preparing for next season and beyond.

This will be a momentous winter, with the likelihood of a lockout when the current contract expires on December 1. While that would presumably put a halt on free-agent signings, it's also likely to create a scenario where decisions will have to be made quickly. Assuming that there is an agreement eventually, the work of a typical winter will likely be condensed into a much shorter time. The Mets front office needs to be fully structured and ready to jump into action when that becomes necessary.

After the love-fest ended for new owner Steve Cohen during the disappointing 2021 season, a persistent question has been popping up repeatedly. Could the man seen one short year ago as a savior for Mets fans be just another problem? The sports world offers many examples of successful folks who could not translate the acumen that made them wealthy in one endeavor into success with their franchise. Could Steve Cohen be the next Arte Moreno or Dan Snyder?

We all certainly hope not. Frankly, despite the missteps made in his first year, I'm not that worried about Steve Cohen yet. I think of last year as his PSATs. He didn't ace them, but he did okay. However, this winter is the SATs. The Mets need to do well enough in their executive search that it no longer is the story, and Sandy Alderson is no longer the de facto head of baseball ops.

The local media keeps telling me that I should be miserable about all of the folks who didn't want to work here. Mets Twitter and local sports radio will continue to percolate along in overcaffeinated overdrive, the way God intended.

I'm going to sit back and hold off on making judgments until this all plays out and the Mets front office comes into focus. Folks can kibbitz all they want about the process. I only care about the Mets making a great hire. There's only one real way to end all of the "LOL Mets" talk, and that's building a long-term winner. I'm hoping that Steve Cohen aces the test by hiring a great baseball person to lead this team forward into a much better Mets era, and I'll wake up to my alarm clock playing a different tune.


 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

2 comments:

  1. I agree. I wonder why the rumor of former S.F. Giants GM Brian Sabian's interest was supposedly not of interest to the Mets? He certainly seems like a viable candidate, tho probably a bit older than ideal (easy enough for me to say, retired at 72). Still, 'twould be nice to resolve this with a solid candidate, so we could speculate on the moves needed to build up the franchise from the bottom up.

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  2. I think there is a question about why Sabean was pushed aside in SF. The game has changed so much in the last 10 years. Still, I'm surprised they haven't at least talked to him.

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