The New York Mets think they are close to being a contender, which is why firing manager Mickey Callaway was important for the franchise to do last week. With names like Baker, Girardi, Maddon and Showalter being tossed around as a replacement, there’s one person in the organization that will make this job unappealing to any managerial candidate who isn’t desperate for a job. Sadly for Mets fans, that person isn’t going anywhere, because he is the son of the owner, the team’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon.
Reports are that Joe Girardi is doing his “due diligence” on the current job openings for Major League Baseball manager, with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs drawing special attention. What Girardi will find when he looks at the Orange and Blue is a franchise in New York City that runs like a team from a smaller market; where the team, run by the Wilpon family, doesn’t extend themselves beyond their projected revenue totals, and the team is run like a business first, and a sports franchise a distance second.
Like many successful baseball teams like the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets believe that wins lie buried within the lines of the spreadsheets they use to feed the daily lineup to the manager and how every decision for every game is mapped out in advance. The leader of this pushbutton front office approach to running a baseball team is Jeff Wilpon, the same person who doesn’t give his front office the resources to compete with teams like Atlanta, Philadelphia or Washington, yet wonders why his team is so often behind these teams in the National League East standings. Just as Brodie Van Wagenen needs to answer to Jeff Wilpon for almost every decision he makes, so too will the next manager need to answer to both of them whenever any decision goes wrong, especially one that is “off script” for a franchise that has devalued the role of manager.
Every season many New York Mets fan buy into the hype that the franchise tries to sell the city; this year is was Van Wagenen saying, “Come and get us” when he proclaimed his team the one to beat in their division. So often, however, the New York Mets are one of those teams that needs everything to go right in order to compete, and when one move (like trading for Edwin Diaz) doesn’t work, the difference between being a 91-win or 86-win team, the different between making the playoffs or not, shows us in the standings. With the team playing so many players who didn’t contribute anything this season, that self-imposed margin of error came from Jeff Wilpon, who should, but won’t be held accountable for his actions simply because he is the owner. A fact the next manager of the New York Mets needs to bear in mind long before he signs on the dotted line.