Huh? Unless you’ve been averting your eyes from all things baseball so as to not witness yet another Red Sox world championship, you already know that the New York Mets named super-agent Brodie Van Wagenen as the 13th non-interim General Manager in club history. I must say that out of all of the publicly-disclosed candidates, he was my least favorite choice for the role.
I somewhat swam against the tide of public opinion and was in favor of Doug Melvin, especially after his post-interview press conference when he seemed to correctly identify every Met issue. He also earned extra points for almost fleecing Sandy Alderson back in (sigh) July of 2015, when he nearly acquired Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler for a washed-up Carlos Gomez. Tampa Bay’s Chaim Bloom was my next choice, as going all of the way back to the mid-90’s Expos teams I have long advocated the Mets hiring any one of the architects of that prospect-rich, shoestring budget team. That Expos franchise seemed to just be able to find gem after gem, didn’t they? The Rays are their spiritual heir, coming out of nowhere nearly year after year to put together an exciting and watchable team rostered by players you haven’t heard of before.
Look, none of us can say with any certainty today that this is a good hire or not. But on the surface, this is a move fraught with potholes. The biggest is Van Wagenen’s former occupation, complicated by his relationship with several key Met players. It’s kind of like having a consultation with an attorney on Tuesday, only to arrive in court on Thursday to find the self-same barrister working for the opposing side. Toss in those comments from Player’s Union head Tony Clark, and this has all of the makings of a disaster, both at the operational level and from a public relations standpoint.
The other concern is from the early reports of the Mets plans to keep the triumvirate of Omar Minaya, J.P. Ricciardi, and John Ricco in place. This appears to be a confusing co-mingling of power and responsibilities, a Machiavellian plot probably hatched by Jeff Wilpon to keep all of his lieutenants at bay and at each other. Add the return of Mickey Callaway as manager (a move endorsed by Jeff) and one thing that is very clear is that the team is not getting a strong man at the tiller.
One has to wonder was said to Van Wagenen to get him to leave his very lucrative position. I assume he has made enough money to be set for life, as it isn’t like he can go back to his old role if (or when) he flops here. There is the hope that he convinced the Wilpons that he is the guy to help them act more like a big-market team. Maybe he has some connections to some rising hotshot analysts and player-development types that he plans on bringing in. At age 44, he is certainly not “old school,” but he clearly lacks the experience his predecessor brought to the table—not that this is a bad thing.
We will see, I guess. And, with 45 days between now and the end of the winter meetings, we probably won’t have too long to wait. Meantime, this situation is best summed up by that sage Ned Flanders: As the tree said to the lumberjack, “I’m stumped.”