This remains a timeless baseball truth: there is no rawer, redder meat to throw the masses than the head of a losing manager. The Mets waited less than 24 hours to part ways with Luis Rojas, 103-119 in two undistinguished years as skipper.
This is the newer baseball truth:
It’s hard to get worked up thinking who should replace him. On one hand, that is a practical matter; the Mets’ first order of business is making a home-run hire for their baseball-ops chief. That is the star of any good baseball organization. That is the key.
So for Steve Cohen, the necessity is locking down a press conference in the coming weeks where either Billy Beane, Theo Epstein or David Stearns ruminates on the splendid future at Citi Field, why the Mets will finally figure things out.
Then, a few weeks later, there will be another media gathering. And there will be plenty of chatter surrounding that hire, especially if it’s a manager with gravitas like Bob Melvin or Buck Showalter, or a guy with a winning background like Clint Hurdle or John Gibbons, or a wild card like Carlos Beltran or name-your-favorite-bench coach.
The hard truth is: this isn’t football, where the hiring of a Pete Carroll or an Andy Reid or an Urban Meyer or a Nick Saban can inspire civic holidays. This isn’t basketball, where you can actually see the impact a coach has with your own untrained eyes, Tom Thibodeau’s effect on last year’s Knicks being a wonderful example.
It’s baseball, and in 2021 baseball is an exercise in collaboration, and so even when you want to kill the manager, oftentimes, what you’re doing is actually criticizing the chain of command. And how much fun is it to rip a chain of command?
We’ve actually seen this coming. Think about the other sports in New York: how galvanizing Thibodeau’s hiring was, and Pat Riley’s, and Mike Keenan’s, and Bill Parcells’, and Barry Trotz’s. Tom Coughlin. Chuck Daly. Rick Pitino. Not every team hires a coach like that every time out. But they can. And when they do the reaction is tangible, visceral.
Now think about our baseball teams: when was the last time either hired someone that caused a sensation? Forget how successful they might have become; in the moment exactly nobody was jazzed about Joe Torre or Davey Johnson. Bobby Valentine had never won before; Joe Girardi was a clear people’s-choice runner-up to Don Mattingly.
If we’re being brutally honest, you need to go back to 1967 for the Mets, when they traded pitcher Bill Denehy and $100,000 to the Washington Senators for the right to make Gil Hodges their manager. For the Yankees you probably have to go back to Old-Timers’ Day 1978, when they rehired Billy Martin five days after he resigned under fire and received a bigger ovation than Joe DiMaggio. Even Martin’s three subsequent incarnations didn’t inspire that.
That’s how it is. Maybe someone like Showalter moves the needle for Mets fans. But even he would not be the key maneuver of the coming weeks; his boss will be. The Big Boss is the big star in baseball. Guessing the new manager is a fun parlor game; hiring the right president is the serious grown-up business. The Mets can’t afford to get it wrong. Again.
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