What should Mets be looking for in their next manager?

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Terry Collins, Mickey Callaway, Luis Rojas new Mets manager treated image
Terry Collins, Mickey Callaway, Luis Rojas new Mets manager treated image

So here we are again, speculating about the identity of the next manager. With the Mets hiring again, George Steinbrenner at his most impetuous would have been envious of all the chaos across town.

To review:

Mickey Callaway never should have been hired.

Carlos Beltran never reached the dugout.

And Luis Rojas never will get the chance to prove he’s better than his short-lived record would indicate.

The common denominator among the three managers who have come and gone since the fall of 2017 is fairly obvious and should offer something of a guide for the next hire: They were all first-time big league managers.

Not that Rojas was necessarily a mistake, and we may never know about Beltran, but if ever an organization needs to lean toward making a safe bet with this next hire, it’s the Mets.

Indeed, you’d think that landing someone with big league managerial experience will be a priority this time. Of course, I thought the Mets should have hired Joe Girardi over Beltran two years ago, and the ex-Yankee skipper hasn’t exactly been a savior in Philadelphia.

In truth, unless the manager is a Callaway-like disaster, getting the right players is far more important than who’s making out the lineup, especially in this era of collaboration with the front office.

With that in mind, it’s important to note the hiring of a new head of baseball operations in the coming weeks, as decided by owner Steve Cohen with input from Sandy Alderson, is the more urgent matter right now for a franchise whose roster needs a major shakeup after years of underperformance.

In addition, that new decision-maker on the baseball side is expected to head up the search for the next manager.

Still, several people in baseball who I spoke to the last couple of days believe that Cohen will have his say in every big decision after being embarrassed by the way his first year as owner went, and they all made the case that he’ll want as much “certainty” as possible in a new manager.

“Look, there are no sure things, especially the way things can go in New York,” says a longtime executive who has worked in the front office of a New York team. “Bob Melvin looks like he’d be a solid choice, if the Mets could make a deal with the A’s to get him, because he’s had a lot of success as a big-league manager, but then you look and see that it’s all been in small markets (Seattle, Arizona, Oakland) with very few expectations, and you have to wonder how he’d handle huge expectations, because New York can be a different animal for a manager.

“But having said that, I would think an owner like Cohen is going to want to eliminate as much risk as possible, and at a minimum that probably means somebody who has done the job at the big league level. And preferably he’d want someone familiar with New York on some level.”

That theory was met with almost universal agreement from others I contacted, at least to some degree.

“I’ll say this,” said another exec. “Everybody in this business is always looking for the next guy, not the guy who has already done it. Maybe a smart, young guy in your own system who has the savvy of an Alex Cora or someone who is praised around the game as a baseball savant like Carlos Beltran.

“But the Mets just tried that. The Beltran thing blew up in their face, even if it wasn’t their fault. And they probably thought Rojas was their Alex Cora, only they didn’t win for whatever reason. So I agree at this point you have to increase your odds of success by hiring somebody with some type of track record. Somebody who gives you some certainty at the position.”

If such speculation proves correct, the list of potential candidates is full of familiar names:

- Buck Showalter, recognized as a brilliant in-game strategist but also someone who wants more control than collaboration with the front office, which is why Brodie Van Wagenen barely considered him before hiring Beltran.

- Bruce Bochy, who won three championships with the Giants and is regarded in the Dusty Baker mold as an excellent leader who rallies players around one another but may not be open to collaboration with the front office. Also is said to be willing to manage again only in the “perfect situation.”

- John Gibbons, once a homegrown Met who had some success managing in Toronto and has the right personality for New York, in that he always seemed unfazed by criticism and knows how to handle players, in addition to being something of a media darling. Another old-school guy.

- Clint Hurdle, managed in the minors for the Mets before getting the Rockies to the World Series in 2007 and having some success with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Another guy with a big personality.

- Bob Melvin, as mentioned previously, has a strong resume built on winning with the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and A’s. He’s under contract so the Mets would have to give compensation to get him. Maybe it works if Billy Beane comes east as well to be the new head of baseball ops. Otherwise it’s worth remembering the last time the Mets plucked a manager from the A’s with Beane’s blessing, it was Art Howe. And that didn’t go so well.

In addition to those ex-managers, I heard the name of a less familiar one who I found intriguing.

- Walt Weiss, a local guy from Suffern, N.Y., is a former All-Star shortstop and currently the bench coach for Brian Snitker with the Braves. He didn’t have much success previously as manager from 2013-2016 with the Rockies but was recommended by two people familiar with him.

“He’s a great baseball man with high integrity and no ego or agenda who managed in a completely dysfunctional situation in Colorado,” one person said of Weiss. “I know he’s turned down other interviews, so it would have to be the perfect fit in terms of the people he’d be working with, but I think he’d be an outstanding candidate.”

“He’s a smart guy who is really important to Snitker in that dugout with the Braves,” said another person. “I’m not sure he’s as assertive as you might want in New York, but I know players respect him for what he did in his own career and how he sees the game. I think he learned a lot in Colorado and could be a very good manager the second time around.”

So that makes six former managers who would seem to fit the criteria for experience this time around with the Mets. Will any of them get the job? At this point it makes sense to wait and see who gets hired to make that call before speculating any further.