Why the Mets May Consider Tony LaRussa

tony-larussaTony LaRussa is currently busy leading his St. Louis Cardinals into the postseason. But he could be on table of discussion in the Mets front office right now.

After two consecutive collapses and a godawful premiere season in their brand-new, billion-dollar ballpark, the Mets have to do something signficant to win back season-ticket sales their fans in 2010. They absolutely cannot stand pat, or make a few minor changes. In order to sell tickets compete in 2010, they have to make a sales-inspiring announcement drastic change at some point this winter.

But what can they do? If they were tightening the purse strings last winter — BEFORE the Madoff scandal came to light — then certainly they won’t have much money to spend this offseason. So forget about the Mets bidding for the services of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. In fact, I’d be surprised if they have the money or gumption to go after Chone Figgins, John Lackey, or Rich Harden. My guess? We’ll see Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, Jon Garland, Benji Molina, Nick Johnson, and Jason Marquis on their radar. Nice complementary pieces, but hardly impact players.

Further, the Mets have next to nothing to offer in trade for a big-name player. No one of value is healthy enough nor expendable, and they’ll get lambasted if they empty their farm system for one player for the third consecutive winter. So, with no big trades and no big free agent signings on the horizon, the Mets will have to try another route to the back pages.

They will start by promoting John Ricco, either to GM or some kind of parallel position to Omar Minaya. With their budgetary concerns, I would be surprised to see them eat the rest of Minaya’s contract — particularly if they plan to eat Jerry Manuel’s. At the same time I don’t see them spending big bucks to lure Pat Gillick out of retirement, or hiring another big-name GM. They won’t do that because a) they don’t want to spend the money; and b) Jeff Wilpon wants to remain the puppet-master. So forget about the nonsense of bringing in a strong-minded personality such as Billy Beane or Bobby Valentine.

Instead, they’ll do the financially prudent move of keeping Minaya in the organization — in some type of “player evaluation” capacity — and promoting Ricco to GM. Such a decision will be a cheap way of making it look like things are changing, and they’ll spin it by positioning Ricco as a young Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein — a numbers-crunching uber-geek who can use his calculator to lead the Mets into the Promised Land. Maybe he can do that, who knows? … but the decision will be financially motivated, and in keeping with the “Jeff’s in charge” theme.

Still, a change in GM and a few mildly impressive free-agent signings won’t be enough to stimulate season-ticket sales improve the 2010 Mets. Soon after Ricco is promoted, expect to see Manuel ousted and replaced with Tony LaRussa.

LaRussa is most likely a bad fit for the bright hot lights of New York City — he barely gets through the mild-mannered press and forgiving fans in St. Louis. But convincing LaRussa to manage the Mets (3 years / $18M?) will be much cheaper than signing a big-name free-agent. Most importantly, it will be seen as a major change in “the right direction” — substantial enough on its own to sell season tickets position them as a contender.

I could be wrong — the Mets may not have enough money to even afford LaRussa. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scenario similar to this unfold in the offseason. If not LaRussa, then another big name that won’t cost a fortune (in comparison to an impact free agent). Perhaps Lou Piniella is let out of his Cubs contract, or Frank Robinson comes out of retirement. Or maybe they do something completely off the wall and hire Gary Carter or Wally Backman (not likely). Whatever it is the Mets do, it will be newsworthy, but unlikely to break the bank.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mark August 24, 2009 at 8:44 am
    Well I guess Omar killed that idea yesterday. He works well with Jerry Manuel. I guess I’m going to show up to work today with a whole new standard of “works well” so I’m pumped.
  2. wally August 24, 2009 at 10:24 am
    Omar and Jerry are as good as gone. Wilpon “guaranteeing” they’d be back may as well have been the official announcement of their being fired.

    See: Willie Randolph, who was given such a “guarantee” days before being fired.

    See: Bobby Valentine, who was told he’d be “manager for life”

  3. jay Lund August 24, 2009 at 1:08 pm
    Is it too soon to ask what it would take to pick up Brian Banister? and since I’m raiding the Royals system, how about their catcher Pena (.265 with a little power is better than .165) or take Mike Philips back for first. i don’t remember if he was a better defender than murphy. Philips will hit stronger in a deeper lineup as he did 4 years ago. Murphy is great. i want him to marry my 12 year old in 20 years. but when will he learn to hit the gaps at citifield? for that matter, when will the team start realizing that? look at pagan’s 2 hits sunday. funny that the opposition has no problem hitting homers in our stadium.
  4. kenny August 24, 2009 at 2:01 pm
    Omar and Jerry are going to stay. Until Jerry is fired mid-season and is replaced by Razor Shines.

    The Wilpons won’t hire a manager with a past DUI. That means LaRussa is out and so are you, Wally.

  5. sincekindergarten August 24, 2009 at 5:17 pm
    Five to seven years.

    That’s how long it will take the Mets to become competitive again. Thus, they throw away the contributions of Johan Santana, who was the only reason to watch the Mets–albeit every fifth day.

    I want the Mets to blow the rest of the season, so we can be high in the draft pick order. Restock the farm. Give some of the fans a reason to hope.

  6. jdon August 24, 2009 at 6:45 pm
    I don’t get it—no strong personalities like Valentine or Beane, but yes to Tony L.?
  7. joejanish August 24, 2009 at 7:15 pm
    Beane would be a GM, and Bobby V has intimated that he would prefer to be a combo manager/GM. GM’s have more power than the field manager, particularly in regard to player personnel.

    LaRussa has a strong personality, yes, but he’ll still have a GM between him and Jeff Wilpon.