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Judging by some of the end-of-season quotes from their players, the Mets needed stronger leadership from Luis Rojas, who perhaps wasn’t willing to be the bad guy at times and push players to get the most out of them.
In that case, Walt Weiss, whose name I’ve been hearing from various baseball people, might be an ideal fit as the next manager of the Mets.
Dan O’Dowd, the former Colorado GM who hired Weiss to manage the Rockies going into the 2013 season, explains it this way:
"Walt is a really smart baseball guy who has a lot of the same traits the Mets liked about Luis Rojas, but he’s also got an edge about him. Most managers don’t like confrontation with players but that’s not a problem for Walt at all. He’s not afraid to confront issues and get them resolved.
"He creates great relationships with players partly because he listens very well and builds trust with them, but if players need to be challenged to perform at their best, he’s more than willing to be that guy. It doesn’t matter who it is. I saw him do (it) with (Nolan) Arenado."
That sounds intriguing, to be sure.
Of course, discussing potential candidates is all speculation until the Mets hire a new president of baseball operations, as that person is expected to have the most say in hiring a manager.
Still, it makes sense that whoever is making the call, the Mets would benefit from someone with managing experience, after the mistakes and underperformance that marked the short-lived reigns of Mickey Callaway and Rojas over the last four years.
Most of those ex-manager names are familiar, starting with the likes of Buck Showalter and Bruce Bochy, but Weiss is one I hadn’t thought of until he was suggested by baseball people I’ve talked to over the last couple of weeks.
Currently the bench coach for the Atlanta Braves, Weiss managed four losing seasons for the Rockies during an especially turbulent time for the franchise in a rebuilding phase that included changes in the front office. Sources say Weiss clashed constantly with then-GM Jeff Bridich (who has since been fired) and resigned after the 2016 season, telling reporters that his "working relationship with the front office wasn’t healthy or productive."
Weiss, who played 14 seasons in the big leagues as a shortstop, was hired in Atlanta as bench coach for manager Brian Snitker in 2018, and according to an executive with knowledge of that organization, has become an invaluable component in the Braves’ recent success.
"Snit leans on Walt heavily for strategic decisions," the exec said.
Adds O’Dowd, "He sees the game in a way like very few guys I’ve been around. He had serious challenges managing in Colorado due to everything going on there, and I think he’ll really benefit from all that when he gets a second opportunity. But he’ll only go somewhere that he’s sure he’ll get along with the front office."
Again, then, most everything depends on who owner Steve Cohen hires to run the baseball side of the organization, as Sandy Alderson moves over to the business side.
Regardless of who that turns out to be, Weiss should have some appeal. He grew up in Suffern, so he has a New York background. And he was talented and heady enough to be entrusted as the everyday shortstop at a young age for the mighty Oakland A’s of the late 1980s, who won a championship in 1989 under Tony La Russa.
With all of that in mind, longtime ESPN writer and TV analyst Tim Kurkjian thinks Weiss has a perfect pedigree to manage the Mets.
"He’s a New York guy and he’s got great street smarts in that New York way," Kurkjian says. "I love talking baseball with him. He learned a lot from Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox about playing the game the right way. He doesn’t dismiss analytics but he’s got a lot of old school baseball in him and as a manager he’s not going to let players get away with anything."
Kurkjian related a story Weiss has told him about his former Braves teammate Greg Maddux, the Hall-of-Famer.
"Walt says Maddux never threw a straight pitch to the plate," Kurkjian recalls. "Everything moved one way or another. But he said that every time Maddux started a 1-6-3 double play he threw a perfectly straight strike to him at the bag. Every single time, he said. It’s just a little thing but it speaks to how observant Walt is, how much he loves talking about the details that can make a difference between winning and losing."
So what’s not to like?
One reporter who covered him in Colorado said Weiss was "beyond great" with the media there, especially the beat writers, but another person who knows him well admitted some concern about how he’d fare with the media in New York.
"He doesn’t have a vibrant personality," the person said. "I wonder how that would play in New York."
To that point O’Dowd said he believes Weiss’ substance would prevail.
"He’s not a huge talker," O’Dowd said. "But he’s really smart and, as I said, he listens very well. He’s not going to be the most quotable guy, because he’s always going to defend his players and make sure he doesn’t damage relationships, but I think in New York he would be appreciated for how well he knows the game and for his integrity. The more people are around him I think the more they appreciate that he’s a really special guy."
Finally, people who have either covered Weiss or know him make a point of saying he has something of a football mentality, going back to his high school days, that surfaces from time to time.
"He has a different kind of intensity," one reporter said. "He’s got the football background and he’s studied martial arts as well. He’s not a guy to be screwed with."
For a team that may well have needed more of a push to play to its potential the last couple of years, the Mets should at least consider Weiss, no matter who winds up doing the hiring.