Wednesday, November 8, 2023

I Asked for Craig Consell, But All I Got Was Carlos Mendoza

A few quick thoughts on our new manager.

I read this weekend how impressed David Stearns and his front office mates were with Carlos Mendoza, and I was pretty sure that Mendoza would be the next Mets manager. It's not that I'm clairvoyant or particularly smart. It's just that everything I read about Craig Counsell made me skeptical of his taking the Mets job. He seemed most interested in the Mets' interest as a device to push his value up, which is certainly his right. I didn't foresee the Cubs jumping into the fray while jettisoning their manager, but it made a lot of sense once the dust settled.

If Craig Counsell really wanted to stay in Milwaukee, he could have done so and made plenty of money doing it. But Counsell was quoted in the Milwaukee media that he was in a been-there, done-that mode when it came to the Brewers:
"I think as I was going through this process, it became clear that I needed and wanted a new professional challenge."

After spending eight years running the Brew Crew, Counsell probably felt that he achieved as much as he was going to there. His chances of actually winning a title were limited by running a club in baseball's smallest market. Although seemingly coming from out of the blue, the Cubs' job allows Counsell to have his cake and eat it, too. He makes a whole buttload of money yet stays pretty close to home. Of course, they aren't exactly erecting statues of Craig Counsell in Milwaukee, where he is no longer nearly as beloved as he was last week. But the $8 million yearly salary will easily absorb any extra security required.

Getting back to Carlos Mendoza, I figured he would be the new Mets manager because he was clearly the second choice behind Counsell. My initial thoughts on the man are that he seems to be as well prepared for the job as any first-time manager could be. Other than that, I really don't know enough about the guy to predict his chances of success.

Much has been made about the Mets' recent history with rookie managers. It certainly hasn't been good. But I feel more optimistic about this choice, knowing that David Stearns has made it. Nothing I have read about Stearns leads me to believe that he would be swayed merely by a really good interview, as the Mets reportedly were by Mickey Callaway back in the day.

David Stearns understands the importance of getting this choice right. The Mets have lost a good deal of luster around baseball after 2023 went so poorly. Indeed, although I don't know how much chance there ever was of Craig Counsell really coming to New York, it certainly couldn't have helped that things in Flushing are once again in somewhat of a state of disarray. And that will make it harder to appeal to free agent ballplayers, too.

Hiring David Stearns was a needed step to stabilize the Mets' front office, even if a backward stumble was taken when Billy Eppler resigned under the shadow of an MLB investigation. Whether or not Carlos Mendoza will be able to succeed and stabilize the dugout staff will significantly depend on the support he receives from Stearns and his subordinates.

Buck Showalter took a ton of criticism for some of his moves last season, particularly in the bullpen, but he wasn't handed much to work with. Much of Mendoza's chances of making his hiring look like a good decision will hinge on the club's roster. And that will be much more David Stearns's doing than the skipper's.

There's been a renewed debate over analytics, with Brian Cashman's Yankees organization currently being accused of depending too much upon the science in their decision-making. Over-dependence upon analytics often makes a convenient target of criticism. David Stearns is known to favor analytics as a tool in his own decision-making. Steve Cohen, with his background in hedge funds, is also a supporter of analytics and has worked hard to bring the Mets up to par with their own department.

Properly using analytics will be something David Stearns will control, and how well he does there will ultimately affect Carlos Mendoza's ultimate success or failure. While Mendoza has a very important job now, it is far from the most important on the club. If Stearns and the rest of his front office get things mostly right, Mendoza's chances of thriving in his new job go up exponentially.

By the way, if you've gotten this far and haven't figured it out yet, the title was tongue-in-cheek. I'm fine with Carlos Mendoza — at least, I'm perfectly willing to trust in David Stearns's judgment and give him a chance.

Be well and take care.

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