Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Some Thoughts on Our New Manager

The new Mets manager had an impressive introduction to the fan base. Now the hard stuff begins.

I wasn't planning to watch Carlos Mendoza's introductory press conference but was home at noon, so I decided to tune in. He came across as knowledgeable and enthusiastic and has received good reviews in most things I've read. He clearly knows what he's getting into by taking a manager's job in New York. According to SNY, he'll make about $1.5 million per year for three years, with a club option for a fourth. So, even if Carlos lasts out his entire contract, he'll make less total money than Craig Counsell will make next year alone. Carlos Mendoza will need to enjoy some success as a manager if he hopes to get closer to Counsell's income level.

There was a bit of mild controversy when Mendoza spoke about his friendship with former Mets manager Willie Randolph and didn't rule out considering Willie for the bench coach job. There are Mets fans of a certain vintage who still blame Randolph for the 2007 collapse. My opinion is that Randolph was sufficient as a manager. While he certainly wasn't a revelation running a club, that team crashed for much the same reason as the 2023 Mets did: the lack of a deep roster and an inadequate bullpen.

Randolph's biggest problem was that he had rabbit ears when it came to media criticism. For a guy who spent years in the glare of the New York spotlight, Willie just didn't seem to handle it very well. Willie is older and presumably wiser at this point. He also would be in a lesser spotlight as a subordinate if he's chosen to be the bench coach. I'm not sweating this one, however it goes.

I do find it a bit strange that Randolph never received another chance to manage an MLB club. Inferior managers than Willie had multiple chances, including his replacement Jerry Manuel, who managed for nine seasons in Chicago and New York. I followed the Mets very closely back then and found Willie Randolph to be a much better manager than Manuel. Don't get me wrong, Willie wasn't a perfect manager, but he had some strengths and deserved another shot.

Jerry Manuel suffered through his own collapse in 2008. In fairness, although I felt that Manuel would overuse hot pitchers in his bullpen to the point of physical abuse, like Randolph, he was a victim of a roster that lacked real depth, especially pitching.

GM Omar Minaya got the Mets back in contention in 2005-2006 by getting some stars to come to New York, but the team was a house of cards that was always destined to fail. They got by in 2006 with a bullpen that was so exceptional it papered over some of the other roster ills — including a glaring depth in starting pitching that forced the club to hand out starts to a revolving cast of bad pitchers, including Alay SolerDavid WilliamsJosé Lima, and Geremi González.

Circling back to the present, I don't have any problem with Willie Randolph as bench coach if Mendoza elects to go there. I think Willie would do well in that role. He was very organized when running the Mets. He would likely do well as a second in command to Carlos Mendoza.

With Carlos Mendoza's hiring out of the way, it's time for David Stearns and his front office to begin to put together a deep roster that will give Mendoza a chance to find some success as Mets manager — the type of roster that might have enabled Willie Randolph to enjoy a better fate as Mets manager had Minaya provided one for him.

At his presser, Mendoza spoke about working together in partnership with Stearns and the rest of the brain trust. He mentioned the importance of "knowing that we're going to have each other's backs, good or bad," when dealing with Stearns.

For his part, David Stearns dispelled some of the chatter that he would seek to make a puppet out of his manager. As quoted by Will Sammon in The Athletic, Stearns made it clear he was not looking for that sort of relationship:

"These are two distinct jobs and they require two distinct skill sets," Stearns said. "I would not be a good major-league manager and I'm not going to try to be a major-league manager. That's why we hired Carlos, and he will do that job."

"I'm going to try to do everything I can to support him and help him be as successful as he possibly can. He's gonna do that with me as well. That's one of the exciting parts of this, is that he has the ability, I think, to make us better in the front office — to push us, to ask us questions, and to help us consider the full picture as we seek to put the team together."

So, Mendoza did great in his first test in dealing with the media. Of course, it's only going to get harder as things go along. As for the coaching staff, we know pitching coach Jeremy Hefner will be back, but nothing else seems carved in stone at this point. And nothing really significant has changed on the roster to this point. I would expect that to begin to change quite shortly. We'll be here to write about all of that once things start to happen.

Be well and take care.

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  1. He was highly intelligent and articulate in his press conference. The Mets flubbed big time by not having translation for the many questions and answers in Spanish.


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