Well, the Mets did not listen to me.
Surprising? No. But I was fairly confident that Joe Girardi was the right choice to be the team’s next manager. For a team that claims to be in “win now” mode, hiring a manager with winning experience seemed only logical.
Instead, Brodie Van Wagenen and the front office chose a first-time manager to replace their failed experiment of a first-time manager. I’m not saying it won’t work, it just doesn’t make complete sense to me.
Carlos Beltrán was a fan favorite in his near seven-year stint in Queens. He signed as a free agent in 2005 for seven years and $119 million before he was traded to the Giants in 2011 for Zack Wheeler. For many, his stay in Queens was marred by a NLCS ending strikeout (it was a truly nasty curveball to his defense), but he hit for a .280 average and 149 homeruns in his time in the blue and orange. Mets’ faithful welcomed him back with open arms when the team made the announcement on No. 1.
— New York Mets (@Mets) November 1, 2019
In his 2017 stint with the Astros, Beltrán finally became a World Series champion. He was a leader amongst a young core of Houston superstars and left a meaningful impression on the bunch. One of his former teammates described him as a “game changer” for the Mets.
“He’ll be an amazing manager,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said, as reported by MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “When he shows up and gets a job with the Mets, I feel like he’s going to change the culture of that clubhouse, he’s going to show the young players how to take care of business, how to study the other teams, how to take every single advantage that you can. He’s going to be a game-changer.”
That’s good news coming from a player. Mickey Callway, the Mets’ manager for the last pair of seasons, claimed he was going to build a good rapport with the players in the clubhouse. After he was fired, it was reported by players that that never happened. Beltrán has similar aspirations as the 22nd manager in franchise history.
“I understand what players like, what they don’t like,” Beltrán said to The New York Times. “I just hope I can create a culture that is positive and fun. Because at the end of the day, baseball should be fun.”
While the 20-year MLB vet has plenty of game experience, this is his first time in a coaching role. After his retirement in 2017, Beltrán became a special advisor for the Yankees and even interviewed for their managerial opening that eventually went to Aaron Boone.
This time around, Beltrán interviewed five times for the Mets’ manager position and his connections to former Royals GM Allan Biard and former Mets GM Omar Minaya played a large role in getting him to Queens as both currently serve roles in the Mets’ front office. Unlike the rest of the interviewees, he was the lone applicant interviewing for one job. He only wanted the Mets job. He said he was way more prepared to be a manager this time around than he was in 2017.
Brodie Van Wagenen said that, during the interview process, Carlos Beltran talked a lot about how he evolved during his 20 year career.
What area of evolution prepared Beltran the most to take on a challenge of this magnitude? pic.twitter.com/577ag0oBFU
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) November 4, 2019
“When I first got the interview with the Yankees before this one, I wasn’t prepared,” Beltrán said in the same Times article. “That caught me off guard because I was coming out of retirement to that. But this time, after understanding and seeing where baseball is going and the things that are important, an opportunity came, and I was like, ‘O.K., maybe I can be the guy for that opportunity.’”
It will be interesting to see how he adapts to a completely new role. Yes, he’s familiar with the game and the organization, but like he said, baseball is constantly evolving. Analytics are more prominent than ever and finding the right balance of numbers and the old-fashioned eye test can be the difference between winning a World Series or not. (Just ask the Astros and the Nationals). Beltrán said he refers to analytics as “information,” as it’s easier for players to grasp and likened it to making a financial investment.
Hiring a first-time manager is still unsettling to me. After getting burned by a poor hire in Callaway, I’m a little gun-shy to jump right back into a pool of first timers. Girardi was the safe bet and some will argue the only correct choice. But there are plenty of first-time managers having success in the league. A.J. Hinch and Aaron Boone are great examples of that.
This just seems to be an unnecessary risk for a team that desperately needs to win. Sure they won over fans with the hire and I do have faith that Beltrán will have success. I just can’t help but be skeptical to the idea that ownership went with Plan B when they had first crack at Plan A.
The words of former teammates and baseball minds across the league put my mind at ease a bit, but I’m still worried about the 2020 season. Beltrán was Step 1 in a long offseason to-do list for the Mets. While his decisions in the dugout will be crucial to the team’s success, just as Callaway’s were detrimental, Van Wagenen and the owners Jeff and Fred Wilpon still have work to do.