Mets Grab Geren – But Who is in Charge?

Big news in Flushing — the Mets have hired former Oakland Athletics manager Bob Geren to be their 2012 bench coach.

The hiring comes as a surprise, since Bud Selig / MLB generally ask that teams hold off on huge announcements at this time of year, so that focus does not waver from the excitement of the postseason. But those brash and defiant Mets — who once almost wore illegal hats in a baseball game — laughed off such policy and came out with the news anyway.

What? The hiring of Geren isn’t big news to you? Maybe because you’re still on the edge of your seat waiting to hear who the first-base coach will be. Or, maybe you’re more focused on whether the Mets will take advantage of their exclusive negotiating window and talk to the agent of a certain switch-hitting shortstop.

In all seriousness, I find the hiring of Geren interesting, in that it smacks of a Sandy Alderson move. Whether that’s good or bad is hard to measure — it all depends on your perspective, which we can argue in the comments. To set up the discussion, consider these factors:

1. Terry Collins‘ choice for bench coach was his good friend Jim Riggleman. So, you could look at this as Alderson making a power play — though, not necessarily as an ego thing. I’m sure that Alderson genuinely prefers Geren for valid reasons, but the point is that ultimately, the Mets hired Alderson’s guy and not Collins’ guy — even though Collins is the one who will work most closely with the new employee.

2. The hiring of Geren comes off the heels of Chip Hale‘s move to Oakland, and the firing of Ken Oberkfell. Both Obie and Hale were leftovers from the “previous regime”, and rather than promote from within, Alderson chose someone outside the organization. At the same time, though, Alderson DID promote Tim Teufel to third-base coach. Which brings me to the third consideration …

3. Was Bob Geren really Alderson’s hire, or was it Jeff Wilpon’s? Further, was the hiring of a bench coach given to Alderson because Jeff had dibs on the hiring of a third base coach? Teufel is a longtime friend and trusted soldier of the Wilpons, and as such this promotion could be interpreted as a personal reward as much as it was one for performance.

I know a lot of Mets fans would like to believe that Sandy Alderson holds the Mets future in his hands. Those of you who have that belief probably also think that Omar Minaya singlehandedly “destroyed” the organization. Maybe you’re right, but I have my own conspiracy theories, and would just like to point out little things here and there that could support my silly ideas (hey, with no Mets games going on, there’s a lot more time to dream up this stuff).

There have been rumblings from “those in the know” that Alderson is already growing tired of “arrangement” that looms above him — and by that I mean the owners’ exercising their right to have a say in what happens with their company. A year ago, ownership was in a precarious position: they were in financial straits, were coming off two consecutive poor seasons, and had the Irving Picard suit looming. They were down, and they needed help. In response, Bud Selig sent Alderson in to Flushing on a white horse carrying a sack of secret cash to help turn things around. A year later, things are looking just a bit brighter for Mets ownership. For one, the Picard suit looks like it will cost them almost a billion dollars less than they thought. Further, Alderson has and is continuing to slash payroll. And, ownership seems to feel confident they can pull in a few investors over the winter. Those three developments have made the future look a bit brighter, and perhaps injected the Wilpons with just a bit of chutzpah. Why is this important? Because if they feel as though they’re “in the clear”, Fred and Jeff Wilpon are likely to go right back to doing what they’ve always done — which is, run the Mets. Again, that’s their prerogative — it IS their company, after all. For those who forgot, the Mets have been the Wilpons’ company exclusively since 2002, when they purchased the other 50% of the franchise from Nelson Doubleday (ironically, with some help from their good buddy Selig’s accountant, who Doubleday felt was “cooking the books”).

The Mets record since the Wilpons took over complete ownership in 2002? 795-823, for a .491 winning percentage. In those ten seasons, the Mets won the NL East once, reaching the postseason once. They’ve been through 5 managers and 4 GMs in those 10 seasons.

What do you think about this hiring of Bob Geren? Is it a clue to the beginnings of a behind-the-scenes power struggle? Or am I off my rocker creating conspiracy theories for lack of better content? Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments.

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. Barbella October 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm
    Fire The Wilpons. Remember, Bad Decisions Roll Down Hill!
  2. LongTimeFan1 October 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm
    I find that extremely far-fetched that Jeff had anything to do with Geren’s hiring. This smells of Alderson exercising his authority to sign an Oakland connection and nix what seems like a Collins preference of Riggleman

    The Teufel promotion is in keeping with having a former Met on staff especially from the ’86 team. He’s worked his way up the ladder and deserves it.

    I don’t like the Geren hiring which seems a buddy signing that has zero to do with giving Collins someone with recent experience in the NL. At least he has catching experience because the Mets will need such a person on staff throughout the season.

    • Joe Janish October 16, 2011 at 1:24 am
      Did I suggest that Jeff hired Geren? Or is your opinion that Jeff had nothing to do with the Teufel hiring, ergo there was no “tit for tat” regarding the Alderson hiring of Geren?

      I’m not buying the Teufel promotion as being purely something that is “deserved”. Surely, his loyalty to the organization had something to do with it, but my guess is his loyalty to, and friendship with, the Wilpons was more of a factor. My reasoning is that Teufel didn’t do anything noteworthy in his 8 years with the organization. Actually, the only thing of note was the astonishing ineptitude of the teams he managed (other than his first year in Brooklyn). After Brooklyn, he never had even a .500 ballclub, and two of his teams were under .400. Sure, he may not have had much talent to work with, but jeez Louise, when a manager has one losing team after another through 7 years you have to start to wonder if maybe there’s a problem with the leadership.

      And as for the connection to the ’86 team … well, most fans who remember that year also remember Teufel being the guy who made the error in Game 1 of the WS that gave the Red Sox the win. That and the “Teufel Shuffle” are the strongest memories for most Mets fans.

      Now understand: I was a big Teufel fan when he was a player, and I still really like him — he’s a tough S.O.B. and that appeals to me. But I’m being objective, and as much as I’m happy that he’s going to be the third-base coach, I really wonder WHY he was given that job — rather than Collins or Alderson hiring someone from the outside. Teufel’s friendship with the Wilpons is well-documented and would seem to have a strong influence.

      On another note, I’m curious to know why Oberkfell was dismissed, considering all the years he put in for the organization. Was there a personality conflict with Collins? With Alderson? Or was there some way that the Mets measured his performance as a bench coach (if such a thing CAN be measured)?

      And, I agree with you on the Geren hiring, in that it’s mind-boggling why the Mets didn’t give Collins a NL guy. Managers from the Adulterated League can pretty much sleep through most of the ballgame, considering how much strategy is removed thanks to the Designated Pinch Hitter.

      • Izzy October 16, 2011 at 10:08 am
        I think you are a decade or two out of date when it comes to managing in either league. The NL manager no longer has to make decisions about whether to take out his starter or PH for him based on the score and game situation. All he does now is ask about the pitch count. Pitch bad you still get to 100 pitches, who cares if you win the game. Pitch good and you’re out after 100 pitches. Same who cares.
        • Joe Janish October 16, 2011 at 11:03 am
          My clothes are a decade or two out of style too … or, perhaps it’s long enough now that they’re back in style?

          I get what you’re saying, but also think that the tide may be shifting — some around baseball are realizing that the 100-pitch count is nonsense, and always has been. Though, I’m not clear on how Sandy/JP/Paul/Terry feel on the matter. And there’s more to NL strategy than when to remove the starting pitcher. For one, there are usually at least 2-3 (or more) pitching changes during the game, which in turn create other changes around the field and in the lineup. So by nature it is a more fluid ballgame, and as such the NL manager needs to be paying attention to many more details than his AL counterpart. Tony LaRussa is demonstrating this right now.

        • Izzy October 16, 2011 at 11:43 am
          I’ll give you the tide is turning hopefully on pitch count and then you can be ahead of the times vice behind. Anyway its the only discussions to be had until some players start moving.
      • SiddFinch October 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm
        If you’re theory is correct about Teufel then it stands to reason the next stop for him will be the Mets bench as manager when Collins departs. Of course, there’s Backman vying for that space as well. Ironic, the old keystone platoon-mates may find themselves competing for manager’s job in a couple of years. One would think Backman was given some verbal incentive from Alderson at least to remain. If so, that will set up an interesting scenario of “who’s really in charge of the Mets” when the next manager position is open again.
  3. Izzy October 16, 2011 at 6:13 am
    Normally, I would agree that it would be a bad move to NOT allow the manager to pick his right hand man. But if it is true that Collins wanted Riggelmann than this is the exception to the rule. How could anyone pick a major league quitter like Riggelmann to be his right hand man. How can anyone expect the holier than Collins “respect” thing to work when you have your main man being a guy who was so into himself over team that he walked out on his guys like Riggelmann did??? Alderson did Collins a favor.
    • Joe Janish October 16, 2011 at 11:06 am
      I agree with you on Riggleman — and had he been hired, I likely would have ripped the move for exactly that reason.

      However, I’m looking at this argument separate from Riggleman — focusing on Terry wanting a specific guy, and not getting him. You may be right, though, and it’s probably not smart of me to look at the decision in a vacuum — all points must be considered. Further, the friendship between Collins and Riggleman could be overblown — we’re only guessing based on rumors spilled to the media.

  4. emmett October 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm
    There is some very valid points made, IMO, feel that in order for the Mets to suceed and be consistant winners year after year, they need new ownership. The Wilpon`s, I am sure are very nice people but they have no idea on how to run or put a team together. I always felt Mr. Doubleday was the main reason we won the 86` World Series plus we had a fantastic GM who knew what he was doing. If the Wilpon`s want their team to be win consistinly then let Alderson do his job. As for the shaking up the coaching staff, I don`t know if Collin`s did not like Mookie`s and Oberkfell`s coaching, but it was purely Alderson`s decision to make changes. Now whether the Wilpon`s had a say in the Tuefel hiring, I don`t know but if it is true, well we know they are not good at hiring the right people or signing the right players. Lets just hope they won`t undermine Alderson`s ability to reshape the Mets.
  5. Walnutz15 October 17, 2011 at 8:35 am
    This is a strange choice; obviously Geren’s from the “sabermetric school” so that helped his cause.

    …….only time will tell how it all shakes out.

    I can’t see it from any other perspective than:

    If things played out the way the way other organizations handle hirings (Manager selects his own coaching staff), then there’s no doubt in my mind – that Larry Bowa would have been our bench coach heading into the 2011 season with Collins managing.

    He and Collins have been friends a long time…..and it would have been an obvious hire (IMHO), provided Collins was permitted to take on his own guys.

    I think that’s why we saw Mr. Bowa speak out against the Mets’ “commitment to winning” only a couple of weeks back. Think he sees the broken process they use to piece together a coaching staff – and thinks it’s horsedung.

    Otherwise, I absolutely hate what has been said by Huston Street and Brian Fuentes about Geren’s communication skills:

    “In September 2008, Street had to be separated from Geren by shortstop Bobby Crosby after getting pulled from a game in Detroit. Calling himself “selfish,” Street later held a meeting to apologize to his teammates.

    On Tuesday, Street, now with the Rockies, offered his harshest public criticism of Geren in a text to Chronicle reporter Susan Slusser:

    “Bob was never good at communication, and I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but it was a sentiment reflected in many conversations during the two years I spent in Oakland, and even recently when talking to guys after I left. For me personally, he was my least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports from age 6 to 27. I am very thankful to be in a place where I can trust my manager.”


    “There’s just no communication. Two games on the road, bring the closer in a tied game, with no previous discussions of doing so. And then, tonight, in the seventh inning, I get up. I haven’t stretched, I haven’t prepared myself,” he explained. “If there was some communication beforehand I would be ready to come into the game — which I was, when I came into the game, I was ready. Just lack of communication. I don’t think anybody really knows which direction he’s headed.”

    So, let’s just hope that Geren’s a better bench coach than he was manager.

    Whether or not it will amount to a hill of beans in the end, I just think that whoever’s in the dugout managing should be granted permission to pick his bench coach.

    We’ve seen strange “force fits” by the Mets through the years; and how “well” that’s worked out for them.

    Notoriously strange.

  6. gary s. October 19, 2011 at 12:04 am
    Joe, The more things change in flushing, the more they stay the same.Can’t wait to see how the moron owners screw up changing the dimensions at citcavern in a few weeks