Mets Final Four

And then there were four …

The Mets have reportedly settled on four final candidates for the position of 2011 field manager, as Chip Hale, Wally Backman, Bob Melvin, and Terry Collins have alll been informed that they will receive a second interview.

Which one do you prefer, and why?

Let’s go through the candidates one by one …

Wally Backman
You know my position on Backman — heck, this site may as well have been renamed “BackmanToday” for the last month. Backman has the innate leadership qualities that the leaderless Mets have needed for several year. Additionally, he is a good soldier who understands how to create and foster a winning environment. And despite the lack of an Ivy League education, he also happens to have an incredibly bright baseball mind, in terms of in-game strategy, bullpen management, and getting the most out of his players. He’s also an outstanding teacher and communicator. His one knock is a lack of coaching / managing experience at the MLB level, but I don’t see that as a major issue — it’s not as though he hasn’t been in a big-league clubhouse before, and he has firsthand experience with the insanity of the NYC media attention. For the people who keep harping on the experience thing, I would like to know what type of disaster are they anticipating if Wally gets the gig?

Chip Hale
Hale is easily my second choice among the four. For one, he has six years’ experience managing in the minors, posting an impressive 405-317 career record (.560 winning percentage), including a first-place finish in 2006 with his AAA Tuscon Sidewinders. Secondly, he spent nine years playing in the Minnesota Twins organization in the 1980s and 1990s; thus, he was exposed to (and likely learned) proper fundamentals and how they can impact the final score of a baseball game. By all accounts, Hale is well-liked and respected by players and coaches, and is known to be a good communicator. How he’d do as a strategist is unknown, particularly since most of his managing experience occurred in DH leagues. However, he did spend 2010 with the Mets as third-base coach and three years before that with the Diamondbacks, so “real” baseball is not new to him.

Bob Melvin
Melvin is a former catcher, so he must be a tough guy with baseball acumen. He’s also a former Manager of the Year, having won the award in 2007 when he led the Diamondbacks to an NL West title. He has the reputation as a smart guy, evidenced by Mark Grace’s nickname for him — “The Mad Scientist”. Of the four candidates, he is easily the safest choice, since he has prior MLB experience as a manager and won 90 games with two different clubs. However, he has also lost 90 games once and 85 games twice; though, a manager can only be as good as the players he’s given. If Melvin has a flaw it is his inexperience with the media pressure unique to New York. Additonally, no one seems to have any comment on his personality; he appears to be low-key, cerebral, and quiet — which could be a good thing or a bad thing in New York. It’s a good thing if you’re Joe Torre and you win; it’s a bad thing if you’re Art Howe and you lose. By the way, Chip Hale was Melvin’s third-base coach in AZ, so there’s a good possibility Hale returns if Melvin is hired.

Terry Collins
This is by far my least favorite of the four. To begin, Collins hasn’t been in a big-league dugout in over ten years, mainly because he lost both the control and respect of the players of the two teams he managed (and failed similarly in Japan). In a player development role, Collins has earned high marks for his communications skills and ability to push youngsters to the next level. As a manager, he has a reputation as a controlling, hotheaded, type-A personality whose tactics can work for the short-term but eventually wear down players. Paul DePodesta supposedly loves Collins but I’m not sure why; if you look at his managing record you’ll find that his Houston Astros teams were at or near the top of the league in sacrifice bunts, stolen base attempts, and intentional walks. The one positive going for Collins is that his perennial second-place clubs finished first almost immediately after his departure; so maybe he’d be a good stopgap for the next two years while the Mets rebuild and finish fourth or lower, setting up the team for a playoff run led by another manager in 2013.

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. Nick November 17, 2010 at 11:37 am
    Good post. As a regular reader, I agree on Backman. My hesitancy on Hale is that he suffers from his association with last year’s team. It’s probably unfair, but I really think this team needs a completely fresh face.

    Melvin’s completely blah, so lets talk about Collins. If he is the Buck Showalter type – the guy who comes in and puts shit straight for the next guy – I could see that being pretty helpful for this team. Given our 2-3 year rebuilding plan, that seems a good fit, certainly enough to bump him up above Melvin and maybe Hale IMO.

    We haven’t heard much about Collins other than his Angels experience and his DUI, got any other info?

    • Joe Janish November 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm
      There isn’t much on Collins because he managed before Al Gore invented the internet, and my library got rid of the microfiche so it’s hard to find anything.

      Seriously though, Collins managed in places where there was very little media attention (Houston, Anaheim, Japan) so we have very little to go on. It would have been helpful if someone made a reality show about him, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. What we do know is that he completely lost control of his Angels team, wore down the players on an Astros team that immediately succeeded after he left, and he quit on his gig in Japan due after losing his passion for the job. He also managed Team China in the WBC, so if nothing else he has experience working with Asian ballplayers.

  2. Professor Longnose November 17, 2010 at 11:52 am
    How do you feel about the way the Oakland A’s have used the manager in the Alderson-Beane eras? As Michael Kay put it onthe radio yesterday, they consider the manager to be a middle manager, inplementing the vision of the front office and not to be a major strategic force in and of himself.
    • Joe Janish November 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm
      I think that concept is overblown, in that people think the A’s were the first to discover the idea that the manager’s job is to implement the FO’s vision. The truth is, that is a style of management that has been in place for winning teams for over a hundred years; it’s not new and not unique.

      What I believe gets lost is the fact that the A’s played in the AL, with the DH, where there are far less in-game decisions to make, and where you have many more HR hitters. So I think the idea of a “push-button” manager doesn’t exist in the NL — what is Sandy Alderson going to do? Give his manager a call-center-like script to follow that covers every single game situation?

      The Mets manager will indeed follow-through with the plan put in place from above — just as Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph were asked to do in the past. The difference now is that there is, hopefully, a better plan put in place.

  3. micalpalyn November 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm
    If Omar told you the next manager was a toss up of melvin and Terry collins (both whom he hired into the org) I doubt season ticket sales would have increased. Threats to Omar maybe…