Who do I want the Mets to be their next GM? Dunno. To paraphrase Butterfly McQueen, I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ GMs.
Who should the new Met GM hire as manager? On that I have some definite ideas.
First off, no Bobby Valentine. Remarrying your old spouse is rarely a good idea. I liked Valentine the first time around, but I think he does better with a veteran team who can take his antics in stride. And Joe Torre is just a stupid idea – let him retire gracefully and not become a more literate version of Casey Stengel.
For me, we need a newly-minted manager, someone who’ll work well with a young team and can create a fresh identity and be identified as a Met.
Here are my top five potential candidates.
I like the idea of Mazzilli – a true Met – but there are several issues to be considered from his stint in Baltimore in 2004-2005. Several observers believe he didn’t get a fair shake with the peripatetic Peter Angelos. For one thing, he was not allowed to hire a single coach of his own choosing, which may have contributed to his overall losing 129-140 record. Maz didn’t exactly finish with a flurry – the O’s lost 16 of the last 18 games he managed.
More troubling is his reported managerial style. According to the Baltimore Sun in the wake of his firing, “Mazzilli was both lauded for his spurts of success and heavily criticized for his in-game managing, relationships with players and laidback style… [I]t was apparent that Mazzilli had lost many players in the clubhouse, several of whom privately desired a change. When Perlozzo took over for Mazzilli after he was ejected in the first inning of Friday’s game with the Chicago White Sox, one player said, ‘Did you see how smoothly things were when Sammy came in? It was obvious he knows what he’s doing, not like [Mazzilli].’… Mazzilli was heavily criticized for his handling of the bullpen, reliance on certain players and his constant shuffling of the lineup.” That last bit sounds awfully like the managerial stylings of the recently departed Met skipper.
A month before he was fired, the Sun reported “[t]here have been whispers that the team is winning in spite of Mazzilli and that the full clubhouse isn’t behind him.”
Like Mazzilli, Backman is a true Met, so it feels good and right, especially with all the other involved ’86 Mets. He’s obviously been successful – this past season, he led the Cyclones to a league-best 51-24 record, winning the McNamara Division of the NY Penn League by an impressive 12 games (although they were swept in the league championship season).
But Backman was euphemistically called “intense” by The Brooklyn Paper after he got tossed contesting a home run call in the ninth inning toward the end of a lopsided 16-3 victory. Backman’s explanation for going ballistic despite the huge lead? “That’s our pitcher, and those are his earned runs.”
On the surface, that sounds reasonable and even a positive thing as you try to bolster the confidence and ego of a young player, letting them know you have their back as they struggle through the traumatic experience that is the low minor leagues. But are Backman’s ballistic blow-ups a bit too over-the-top?
View this particular incident, taken from the documentary Playing for Peanuts, when Backman was managing the South Georgia Peanuts of the independent South Coast League. I can’t decide how much of it is put on for the camera, or whether or not this kind of misbehavior would have a positive or negative effect on his youthful charges.
Would Backman’s “intensity” over-shadow what’s going on on the field? Would young players positively respond to Backman’s bombastic passion? Even more of a question would be how Backman’s explosions would play in the unforgiving New York media.
Backman has said his role models have been Lou Piniella and Jim Leyland, who were fairly successful with young teams with similar volatile personalities. But it is possible to argue passionately without coming off like a madman.
I’m still smarting from that ball going through Teufel’s legs to lose Game 1 of the 1986 World Series, but he’s still part of the ex-Met Rat Pack, so most is forgiven. All he’d have to do is convince Ruben Tejada to give up number 11.
Teufel has been managing in the Mets minor leagues since 2003, first with Brooklyn and then in St. Lucie in 2004-2005. After a year off, he managed in Savannah, then he went back to St. Lucie in 2008-2009. He managed the AA Binghamton B-Mets this past season.
During these sojourns, Teufel has likely bumped into nearly every native Met player on the roster, which gives him instant familiarity and rapport with most of the potential 2011 squad. But no matter where he’s gone, he’s been a loser (I can’t find seasonal records, so I’m not even sure if he’s had any winning seasons anywhere). I know the word “loser” comes off as harsh, but Teufel’s career minor league managing record – all in the Mets’ system – is an awful 403-483, and the B-Mets were a disappointing 66-79 this year. Whether this record is a reflection of the Mets’ weak minor league system I can’t say, but that’s not a record that inspires confidence.
I’d like to see Teufel have a bit of success in the minors before getting a crack at the big league chair.
Oddly, I’ve not heard Oberkfell’s name even mentioned as a possible Mets manager, which surprises me.
Maybe Oberkfell isn’t seen as a “Met” since he spent his playing career with the opposition, first with the Mets’ arch-rival Cardinals in the early 1980s, then with the Mets’ arch-rival Braves in the mid-1980s. Just as I could not root for “Mets” Pedro Martinez or Tom Glavine, I would find it hard to root for Ken Oberkfell.
But Oberkfell has been the Mets’ AAA manager for most of the last four years, which means he has managed most of the kids on the current Mets’ roster. As with Teufel, trusting relationships with young players is a key part of getting the most out of them.
On the other hand, Oberkfell’s minor league managing record is less than impressive. Career-wise he’s just 944-958. With the Mets at AAA – at New Orleans for the first half of 2007 and all of 2008 and the last two years at Buffalo – he’s 273-299 (although that includes the time he spent as the Mets first base coach the last three months of 2007).
At first I rationalized this poor record by thinking teaching was more important than winning at AAA. Then I realized how difficult managing the Mets’ AAA squads must really be with his roster continually decimated with call-ups to the crippled major league club. In seasons with more-or-less intact rosters (no minor league roster is stable during an entire season), Oberkfell led the St. Lucie Mets to the Florida State League Championship in 2003, and managed the first few months of the 2007 Zephyrs’ Pacific Coast League American Conference champions.
Oberkfell’s familiarity of the current kiddy Mets, his success when given a relatively consistent roster, the major league improvement of some of the current Mets, and no negative stories of hysterics on or off the field, tells me he ought to have a crack as the new Mets manager.
It’ll just be tough to root for Oberkfell as a Met. But as with Oriole Davey Johnson, I’m sure winning would help me get over it.
After doing some research, I think Mets third base coach and infielders coach Hale has jumped to the top of my Met managerial wish-list.
First, according to Wikipedia, Hale, playing at home for the Portland Beavers, hit the ball on May 27, 1991, that Rodney McCray famously burst through the wooden outfield fence in a failed attempt to catch it. (Epilogue: McCray got his last hit in the majors the following year for – wait for it – the Mets. But I digress.)
He spent parts of seven seasons in the majors through the 1990s, mostly with the Twins being mentored by the quiet genius Tom Kelly, compiling a .277 lifetime average. After he hung ‘me up, he served as an auxiliary coach for USA Baseball in Tucson in 1999, and worked with both the national and International Cup teams. In 2001, he began a rather successful career managing in the Arizona D’Backs’ system.
In six minor league seasons, the last three at AAA Tucson, Hale compiled a 405-317 record, a .561 winning percentage, with four first-place finishes and two second-place finishes. In 2001, his second season at Rookie League Missoula in the Pioneer League, Hale was named national Rookie League-level manager of the year by Baseball America after leading his young charges to a 52-24 (.684) mark.
His last season at Tucson, 2006, the Sidewinders finished 91-53, more victories than any other minor league team that season. After leading the Sidewinders to a 7-1 postseason record and the PCL championship, Hale was named PCL manager of the year. He then spent 2007-2009 coaching third base and the infielders for the D’Backs.
All of which indicates he works well with young players. Really well, apparently.
When Hale returned to Arizona with the Mets his past July, the Arizona Daily Star quoted several players lauding Hale. Mark Reynolds said Hale was “a stickler infield-wise, and he would have us on the half field during spring training working and trying to get better. He works hard, and he takes the infield part pretty seriously.” All-Star Chris Young noted “[f]rom the time we had him here, really good personality, great guy, great baseball guy.”
After Hale was fired as a scapegoat for the D’Back’s disastrous 2009 season, Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen blogged: “…[I]n one of the most moronic transactions of the baseball season, the Diamondbacks fired third base coach Chip Hale…[A]fter losing 92 games, they fired the third base coach, a man who might have had the best baseball mind in the franchise. Brilliant.”
I’m trying to think of any egregious gaffs Hale made while coaching at third base, but not being able to think of any tells me he did an excellent job. Ron Darling supposedly said he was the best Mets’ third base coach ever. Zöe Rice, a Mets’ blogger, wrote about an illuminating Kevin Burkhardt report on Hale, who’ll be, at 46, nearly as young as his charges.
Somewhere I think I read he is well-respected and well-liked in the Mets’ clubhouse.
Sounds like a good choice to me.
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