Joe Maddon and Mike Piazza

I still remember where I was (northbound on Route 287 just past Somerville, NJ) when I heard on WFAN that the Mets had acquired Mike Piazza. Three days later, I was at Shea Stadium for his Mets debut. The moment he stepped on the field wearing a Mets uniform, the team was transformed into a contender. It was the start of a rare period of sustained success for our otherwise mainly downtrodden heroes.

The Mets moved boldly when Piazza became available, acquiring him despite the presence of Todd Hundley, who had been one of the few bright spots on the team in the mid-1990s. Hundley after all,  had broken the record for most home runs hit by a catcher and was both a homegrown hero and a very quotable media darling.

For Mets GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons, this is their Piazza moment. Joe Maddon is available. Maddon is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the game and in every aspect, except one, is the perfect fit for the team. Unfortunately for the penny pinching Mets, his rumored contractural demands will put him beyond their reach. Rather than admit that, they will hide behind the  “we are very satisfied with Terry Collins” line. Now, I get the fact that Terry, like Hundley before him, did a lot for the team under trying circumstances. But had the Mets stuck with Hundley over Piazza, there is no back to back playoff appearances, no walk off series clincher against the D-backs, no Grand Slam Single and no 2000 NLCS win.

If the 2015 Mets stumble out of the gate the Collins watch will be on anyway. A Maddon hiring avoids that for them. Like they did in 1998, they need to thank Terry for his contributions and move him aside for one of the premier talents at the position. But apparently, it isn’t about winning.

If you, like me, are watching the World Series wondering how far away the  Mets are from this stage, you might be getting your answer.


A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. Dan B October 25, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Great analogy Dan! Unfortunately Maddon is leaving a small market team that doesn’t spend money on players. How are you going to convince him to go to the same type of team except it has Jeff Wilpon in charge? And could you imagine Madding agreeing to Alderson’s involvement in everything from game strategy to coach hirings? I just don’t see him sitting by the phone waiting for a call from Queens.

  2. Yeats October 25, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    LOL @ the author of this article and other NYC media types.

    Maddon has no interest in managing the Mets. He does not want to move on to another team that has budget constraints. He does not want to move on to an unsettled ownership situation.

    As Dan B points out, could the Mets convince him otherwise? Doubtful.

    Re: the Todd Hundley comparison, Hundley had a career-impacting injury previous to the signing of Piazza. Foolish to compare his situation with Terry Collins.

    • Dan Capwell October 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      In retrospect Hundley’s career as a catcher was over, but no one knew for sure at the time. A few other teams took a chance on him behind the plate after he was traded from here.

      The point of the post is that the Mets were willing to improve their team, even in an area of perceived strength.

    • Joe Janish October 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      I don’t think Dan’s comparison is foolish at all — because he’s not comparing Collins to Hundley, he’s comparing the Mets situation in 1998 to the current Mets situation. In 1998, the Mets made a big and bold move in acquiring Piazza — it was a sign that they were serious about their postseason intentions, and they were going “all in” to obtain a difference-maker. If today’s Mets were to hire Joe Maddon, to me, it would be a very similar sign.

      LOL all you want, but there isn’t much to discuss right now regarding the Mets, so Maddon’s availability has created something to talk about. Further, I’d bet the house that Maddon would join the Mets if the price was right. Money talks. Do the Mets have it? Probably. Would they spend it on Maddon? Probably not. But I doubt Maddon would care much about the ownership situation nor the budget constraints if the Mets were the only team offering him, say, a 5-year, $35M deal.

  3. argonbunnies October 25, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Putting one of the best players in the game on the field might automatically make you a contender, but putting one of the best managers in the game in the dugout does nothing of the sort. A few extra defensive shifts, platoons, and non-platoon-based relief match-ups does NOT equal a Hall of Fame player. Splurging on Ellsbury or Cano or Tanaka would have changed the team more than splurging on Maddon.

    • Dan B October 26, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Nobody is equating Piazza with Maddon. I believe Mr. Capwell was trying to capture the mentality of a team that desperately wants to win. If there is a better batboy out there then a good team finds him. Maddon is a better manager then Collins. It was another opportunity for the Mets to improve and they didn’t. Do I think the Mets would be better off spending their money on players? Of course. But it is the fact that the Mets are not in the position to spend money on a quality manager AND players that frustrates me as a fan. I am only asking a big market team to do what mid market teams are capable of doing.

    • DaveSchneck October 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      While I understand and agree to a point regarding the mindset, I am on board with Bunnies on this one. The managerial discussion and specific focus on Collins’ ability and impact are overblow IMHO. That is not to say that the manager does not have an impact, because good management certainly matters. What I agree with is that the players, and especially all-time great players, impact the game to a much greater degree. Additionally, it is hard to come to any conclusions on whether Maddon is actually better that Collins. Yes, the Ws and Ls are better, but the Rays clearly put better personnel on the field than Collins has had to work with in his 4 years. Plus, managing in Tampa is quite different than managing in NYC, and despite his record, Maddon may not be a personality that can handle NYC. Collins has his warts, but he has matured to the point that he can handle the NYC media and his clubhouse during tough times. His Xs and Os aren’t great, but as meatloaf, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. I’d spend the money on players, not a manager.

    • Joe Janish October 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Argon, do you think the Orioles would’ve won the AL East and gone to the playoffs if Terry Collins, rather than Buck Showalter, was manager? I don’t. No way. Do you think the 2000 Mets go to the World Series with Terry Collins, rather than Bobby Valentine, as their manager? Again, I don’t.

      It’s not necessarily about “A few extra defensive shifts, platoons, and non-platoon-based relief match-ups …” It’s about managing people. Some managers are very good at identifying talent, identifying and leveraging strengths and weaknesses of both their own players and opponents, keeping players fresh, keeping them motivated, building their confidence, playing them and NOT playing them at the right times (for a myriad of reasons), and putting them into situations to succeed. There’s all that and THEN there are the X’s and O’s to consider.

      I don’t know for sure that Joe Maddon is a great fit for the Mets, but I do believe that if he (or any of a few other managers) was managing the Mets in 2014, the team would’ve had more wins. Absolutely. Similarly, I believe the Braves would’ve made the playoffs if someone more effective than Fredi Gonzalez was in charge.

      Do the Mets have a winning record if they signed Ellsbury or Tanaka? I doubt it. Cano? Maybe? But they wouldn’t be spending hundreds of millions on a great manager.

      DaveSchneck – I don’t think the raw talent that Maddon had compared to other AL East teams in 2013 (when the Rays won 92 games) was appreciably different from the Mets talent vs. other NL East teams in ’13 and ’14. Comparing the Rays straight up to the Mets, sure, the Rays have looked a bit stronger, but when you look at the Rays vs. the rest of the AL and the Mets vs. the rest of the NL, I think the two clubs had similar talent disparities vs. their respective leagues over the past 3-4 years.

      • DaveSchneck October 26, 2014 at 9:17 pm

        Well, I’ll start with this disclaimer before I get to my response – I’m quite sure that you’ve forgotten more about baseball than I will ever know, and I respect your knowledge and passion for the game, but, I will respectfully disagree of a number of counts.

        First, with all due respect to Buck, who is certainly among the top tier of game managers in the bigs, the O’s won the division by 12 games. Their run differential (yes, remember that stat) was by far the best in the division, and if that stat is too SABRy, their pitching was far superior as well, especially given that their home ballpark is very hitter friendly. His big bat was a highly motivated guy on a one year deal performing for the one last big payday he will get in his life. So, my conclusion is that any of the other MLB managers could have and would have led the Os to the AL East title this season, including Terry Collins. Now, that is not to diminish the contributions of the manager, bringing legitimacy to the team through both his reputation and his handling of players, and possibly his contribtions towards roster building, although Baltimore has a GM who the manager reports to. Additionally, Buck and Collins are similar in that both were rather tightly wound in earlier stints as managers, and both have matured, adjusted, and improved. This is not to hold them as equals, but there are certainly some similarities.

        Second, I am no Freddie Gonzalez fan, but I think the Braves were overrated this season and finished about where they should have, not too far ahead of the Mets. Remember they lost Hudson, McCann, two starting pitchers in ST, and the CF and 2B were worse than Jason Bay on the Mets. I’m not sure how much of that you can blame on the manager.

        Lastly, I’d agree on the Met talent level vs. NL East if you exclude the Nationals, but when you enter the Nationals into the picture, the talent gap is gigantic, both with pitching and hitting. The Mets finished 17 games behind the Nats this year, and 22, 24, and 25 games back in Collins’ previous seasons. This are huge margins and are clear and indisputable evidence of a large talent gap.

        There are clearly better game managers than Terry Collins, and there are likely better people managers as well, and there are worse. Should the Mets and Alderson improve this offseason, and improve significantly, then I think we’ll get a real chance to measure Collins, when he has enough horses to play with the big boys. I would prefer they spend the “Maddon money” for improvement of the on-field product, and if Collins can’t deliver, find an upgrade at that point.

        • Joe Janish October 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm

          We’ll agree to disagree. I don’t see ANY comparison at all between Collins and Showalter. Yes, Collins was tightly wound, and, self-destructed in every other place he’s been, with his teams THRILLED that he left and doing much better as a result (this includes his sorry stint in Japan). It could be argued (and was argued, by the locals at the various times) that Collins was holding his teams back.

          Showalter, in contrast, was given credit for the success his teams had after he left. And his teams finished first twice before leading Baltimore (Collins never finished higher than 2nd).

          As I mentioned in another comment, I feel strongly that players’ performance can be elevated when properly managed. That’s why I have a problem looking simply at stats and thinking, “oh, well, he had a great team, look at the numbers” — I believe that the manager could have been partly responsible for those numbers. I don’t remember Steve Pearce being much of a hitter prior to 2014, for example. Delmon Young’s OPS was nearly 100 points higher than it was when he played for the Phillies, which is just as hitter-friendly. Bud Norris was pretty much a bust for the Astros, and all of a sudden an ace. And then there are the bit players who did well, like Lombardozzi, De Aza, and Paredes. Yeah, maybe it was a complete coincidence, or park factor, or luck, that made all of these guys positive contributors. Or not.

          As for the Braves, I can absolutely blame Fredi Gonzalez for letting the Upton brothers do their own thing — even as good as Justin Upton’s numbers were, he could’ve been more focused and played better defense; he’s gone from an elite defender to a negative, at an age when he should be improving. B.J. has been a disaster both in the field and at the plate since leaving the guidance of, oh, look at that: Joe Maddon. In my mind, not a coincidence.

          I’ve been calling out Gonzalez here since his days with the Marlins — his teams have always been undisciplined, sloppy, and lazy.

          Who do you think the Mets are going to get for “Maddon Money” who is going to make an impact over the next five years? Maddon will cost about the same as an elite LOOGY such as Andrew Miller, or MAYBE you can spend the same money over two years for someone like Mike Morse or Asdrubal Cabrera — are those guys going to put the Mets over the top? I don’t think so.

  4. Murder Slim October 25, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    ArgonBunnies, I respectfully disagree. I do understand the Piazza comparison being extreme but I think Dan is talking about “Bang for your buck.”
    If we talk in the new-speak of wins above replacement, you’d get value out of Maddon. 3, 4, 5 extra wins for $7 million? And it’s MUCH more than on the field stuff. This is behind the scenes coaching. Knowing when to encourage, knowing when to control.
    You’re reading a blog by Joe, someone who trains catching. I certainly think Joe thinks he can help more than some other coaches. A good coach – teacher might be a more “respected” term – CAN help a huge amount.
    I think it’s ludicrous $100m+ is paid for on-the-field talent but backroom staff who can preserve that talent are paid a tiny fraction of that. You mention Tanaka. Would paying $500K more for a better coach preserved him for longer this season? As insurance policies go, I’d say that’s a good one.

    • Joe Janish October 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Agreed, see my comment above.

  5. argonbunnies October 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I mentioned in-game decisions because that’s the part we can see and judge managers on. How are you and I going to evaluate Collins’ abilities to motivate players and build their confidence? If on-field player hustle is a measure, then Collins has done a great job. Name me any manager in baseball — I don’t have CONFIDENCE that that guy will do a better “behind the scenes” job than Collins. He might, or he might not. I don’t know, and I never will.

    There are definitely better tacticians out there than Terry, but not by huge margins that win lots of games.

    Joe Maddon’s teams have consistently underperformed their run differentials. If he were a bumbling speaker instead of an eloquent one, we might conclude that poor late-game management (specifically bullpen) was to blame. Meanwhile, in the same division, Joe Girardi’s teams consistently OVERperform their run differentials, but few people care because the Yankees are always frontrunners.

    It’s really tough to draw any sort of connection between the narratives and actual results.

    If Buck Showalter disappeared after 2013, and Terry Collins managed the 2014 Orioles, then yes, I absolutely believe the Orioles would have still won the AL East. Did Buck put Hundley, Joseph and Pearce on the roster? Did he make some genius decisions to use them over other legit options? Is Collins really too dumb to use Britton as closer once it becomes obvious he’s the best option? I like Showalter a lot, but I think we’re talking about small differences here. Just as 2012 was legendarily clutch, Buck’s performance in 2013 was nothing to celebrate. A skipper can only do so much.

    Now, if you want to talk about Buck’s performance in 2010, when he took over a team that had been losing for 12 years and helped turn the culture around, then maybe that’s an area where a new skipper could help the Mets. MAYBE. The Orioles won 69 games in 2011.

    Personally, I don’t see any point in changing Mets managers until they have a roster capable of winning. THEN you bring in some confident guy whose talk about how good the team is won’t be undermined by the actual games, and we can make a clean break from our recent history.

  6. argonbunnies October 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I’m curious: can anyone name one concrete contribution (e.g. using den Dekker in a Dyson-style platoon) they’d expect Maddon to make, that Collins would not, to turn the 2015 Mets into winners?

    • Joe Janish October 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      No, because there wouldn’t be any one concrete contribution. It’s about the entire story, the entire culture. That’s what you’re missing. It’s nothing measurable nor concrete.

      • argonbunnies October 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm

        If you had known as much about Collins in 2010 as you do today, when the Mets let Manuel go and went looking for a culture change, would you have picked Terry as a good fit for that job? I would have. He’s energetic, optimistic, shows some toughness, and his players seem to like and respect him as far as I can tell.

        You can see how much all that has gotten us over the past 4 years with this roster. With Maddon I don’t think it’d have been much different.

        Do you really think Maddon has greater culture-changing powers than Collins? If so, why?

  7. david October 26, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    It is easy to get bogged down int the minutae. But the premise of the article is sound and simple, and I agree. Hiring a winning manager and dumping a losing manager sends a message that to date has not been forthcoming from the Wilpons and Alderson.

    Whilst I think a big trade may be a better analogy for sending the same sign to fans, players and the league, Maddon gets results and it is not really to the point debating how he does it, or why Terry doesn’t. The results speak for themself.

  8. chris October 27, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I think it is sad that I have gotten so numbed to the Mets decision making it never even crossed my mind that they would go after Maddon.

    • Dan42 October 27, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      Not before Wilpon’s Point is a done deal.

      • david October 27, 2014 at 9:59 pm

        Wilpon’s Point – brilliant!

  9. Bat October 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    When I ready Cappy’s initial post I was immediately in total agreement although Argonbunnies makes a good point that hiring Maddon is something less than acquiring Piazza.

    I hadn’t considered that when I read Cappy’s initial post but I think that’s a very fair point by Argonbunnies.

    I mean, insert Giancarlo Stanton here as opposed to Piazza in Argonbunnies’ argument.

    Do you think the Mets would be better in 2015 if they (1) were able to trade a truckload of prospects for Stanton (i.e., I am saying exclusively “prospects” so no harm to the major league talent) or (2) were to hire Maddon (and obviously no harm to the major league talent here either…that’s what I’m driving at: trying to make it no losses to the major league team and an addition of Stanton or Maddon to make this something of an equivalent argument).

    Joe seems to disagree above but again I think I would agree with Argonbunnies that the bigger acquisition is a Hall of Fame-caliber talent like Piazza or Stanton.

    That being said, I think the addition of Maddon would be huge. It would be just totally enormous and un-Mets-like.

    If Stanton gained you somewhere in the range of 5-7 wins I think a strong argument exists that Maddon gains you something like half that: 2.5 to 3.5 wins, which is a very big deal for someone who doesn’t throw a ball, catch a ball, or swing at a pitch. Plus, other players may very well want to play for Maddon more than Collins (something I’m not even considering in the rough 2.5 to 3.5 win improvement, so maybe it’s more if that is a factor).

    Now we move on to which is more easily attainable: the acquisition of Stanton (extremely remote possibility) or the appointment of Maddon?

    The latter is much, much more possible.

    I do not agree with this foolish LOL comment of Yeats; Maddon has basically said “Look, I’ve never been free to choose my employer and now I want to choose.” If the Mets ponied up big money to sign him (and how much is big money for a manager? Like $3-4 million per year? A lot of middle relievers make that), then I think Maddon would relish the opportunity to make that kind of salary plus the opportunity to be on a huge stage (he was always complaining about the empty, outdated ballpark in Tampa) AND he will make endorsement money in New York if he wins.

    And he could win with that young pitching!

    I don’t think there is anything to LOL about. Maddon wouldn’t make as much of a difference as Piazza or Stanton, but his acquisition would be huge and in the context of player salaries, the money isn’t all that much.

    I never understood when owners like the Buss family of the Lakers wouldn’t re-hire Phil Jackson because he wanted too much money. He was asking for an amount of money that is not much when compared with a lower-echelon type talent and he would like to more WAR than that player I think; his career has proven that.

    Same for guys like Pat Riley, Bill Belichick, and some others. Is Maddon on their level yet? No, but he deserves to make a lot (relatively speaking) for a manager.

    Fangraphs says a single WAR is worth something like $5 million right? So you wouldn’t pay Maddon $3-4 million per year to win 2.5 – 3.5 more games per year? And again my estimate may be overly conservative as to his addition to wins.

    The Mets should fire Collins and get it done. But of course they won’t.