ATLANTA — The Mets haven’t quite lost their battle to find a baseball operations head as much as they have succumbed to the mercy rule.
Barring a dramatic change of heart by either Theo Epstein or Billy Beane, each as likely as Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil attending a Halloween party together dressed as a rat and raccoon, the inevitable introductory news conference will be more awkward than celebratory. The slew of rejections, on top of last year’s fiasco, will leave a mark.
Nevertheless, Steve Cohen can still win this war. After all, the silver lining in not yet making a hire is the Mets haven’t made a bad hire. If the person winds up succeeding, then the origin story will acquire charm and humor.
There are two keys to landing this ultra-turbulent flight:
1. Due diligence. At this juncture, it appears considerably more likely than not that the top hire will be an unproven commodity, not dissimilar to the Mets naming Jared Porter as their general manager last offseason when Porter had risen to assistant GM with the Diamondbacks.
We’ll never know how Porter would have fared at the actual baseball operations because the Mets fired him barely a month after hiring him, the result of an ESPN report exposing his lewd conduct with a female journalist. And no matter how much insight or information we gather on the next such person, we won’t know for sure how they’ll do in such a spot. Some inexperienced hires do great, many others less so.
Given everything that has befallen the Mets since Cohen purchased the club, then, the bar has actually lowered in a way: Just get this person into spring training, for crying out loud. Avoid embarrassing news from the person’s past that will send the organization into further disarray. And the best way to accomplish this is to enact far better due diligence than the one that led the Mets to Porter last offseason. Mets president Sandy Alderson vowed the day the Mets dismissed Porter to speak to more diverse voices after acknowledging that not a single woman was consulted about Porter. It’ll be time for that process upgrade to do its work.
2. Add a graybeard. Since a super-experienced and super-accomplished person appears unlikely to first-chair this effort, that creates an even greater need to bring such a person aboard in an advisory/special assistant role. Yes, Alderson of course possesses his own Hall of Fame résumé, yet he’s overseeing the entire company, both baseball and business. Someone else should come in, with a fresh set of eyes, to focus on baseball ops.
It can be Brian Sabean, the man who constructed the Giants teams that won three titles last decade, or Bobby Evans, his deputy in San Francisco. It can be Dan O’Dowd, the MLB Network analyst who put together a successful run with the Rockies. It can be a more familiar face like Omar Minaya or J.P. Ricciardi.
It must be someone with a real seat at the table making real money who can work well with the main hire. Not only will this person enhance the Mets’ chances of winning, but the hire also will score points with a fan base that has been strongly, understandably disillusioned by the Cohen era as it approaches its first anniversary.
At this point, the Mets’ current front-office crew, sparse as it is, appears likely to make the calls on qualifying offers to Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. Beyond that, the uncertainty of this baseball winter, with the prospect of a Dec. 1 lockout (and the de facto freezing of business) looming, simultaneously creates less and more urgency to find someone, the former because of the potential for an unscheduled quiet period, the latter because November could be busier than usual due to impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.
All is not lost, even if it can feel that way. But it’s time for the Mets to start picking up some wins, however small, and begin their climb out of this gaping hole.