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 …
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?
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.
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.
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.