With the inevitable end of Jerry Manuel’s tenure in blue and orange looming down the homestretch of another dreadful Mets season, the question on every fan’s mind is who will be his successor come 2011. There are the obvious and popular “sexy” choices to take reigns, as well as the low profile names who have had success within the organization. Here’s my take on the possible candidates:
The Mets manager from the end of the 1996 season through 2002, Valentine has proved he is capable of bringing rejuvenation to the franchise, but the question is at how high a price it would cost this time around? Bobby V. is a New York guy with a New York attitude and exercises the underdog persona that the Mets fan base can cling to. On paper, the teams he brought to the playoffs in ’99 and 2000 were very ordinary. However, he got the most out of his rosters and put a scrappy, competitive, and excuse-free product on the field. There has been a lot of speculation about how interested the organization is in bringing Valentine back to Queens. We have reason to believe that Mets people were in his ear when he bowed out of the Marlins managerial candidacy earlier in the season.
With Wally at the helm, the proverbial light switch would be turned on in the Mets clubhouse. Backman is a Met to the core and would be the candidate, in my opinion, most likely to bring the most excitement and intensity to the team and franchise as a whole. Several major league players, including Dan Uggla and Aaron Rowand, have vouched for Backman and talked about how he was such an integral part of their individual development in professional baseball. Although he has never managed at the big league level, Backman has had success at all of his minor league stops. His hard-nose approach during his playing days has certainly translated well to his coaching career. Backman considers himself an “educated aggressor” from the bench and is known for utilizing the hit-and-run. I can go on and on about why I want Backman taking over the Mets next season, despite what a lot of the “experts” think. Although we can’t be sure that his coaching style will have the same results with Major League players (and their ego’s), I do believe that Wally’s leadership can help embody a more competitive, no-nonsense sentiment throughout the organization. I’m all for “Wally Ball.”
The current manager of the Mets triple-A affiliate in Buffalo is kind of a dark horse for the big league job. Obie previously managed the Mets prior triple-A team, the New Orleans Zephyrs, and also served as the Mets first base coach for a portion of the 2008 season. the blue-collared, quiet Oberkfell would be a logical hire, as he is familiar with the organization and a lot of the players who are in and have been through the Met system. Like Backman, Obie would be a cheap hire and would make life easier for ownership by promoting from within. Oberkfell is a “safe” pick for the job and isn’t getting a lot of attention because he isn’t a flamboyant or known personality like Backman or Valentine. Obie played for some very good Cardinal teams during the 1980′s, but his record as a minor league manager is sub-.500. He has recently transformed the Bisons from the laughing stock of the International League to a contending squad which may play in his favor when ownership comes to a decision this off-season.
Like Oberkfell, Teufel is another candidate flying under the radar. Teufel is the manager of the double-A Binghamton Mets and was the usual Mets 2nd base alternative to Wally Backman during parts of the 1980′s against left-handed pitching. Teufel has been all over the Mets organization, and has managed at pretty much every minor league level except triple-A. A common misconception about Teufel is that he may lack the toughness to manage the big club. I’ve indulged in some interesting reading material about Teufel and know that he doesn’t take crap from anyone. Like Backman, if Teufel were to be promoted to the big leagues, it would be an instant connection to the roots of the Met glory days.
If Melvin were to land the job, I think the outlook of next season would be a continuation of this season for fans. Melvin would be a very vanilla choice for the job. Now serving as a scout for the Mets, Melvin experienced some success as Diamondbacks manager, but was ultimately canned early in the 2009 season. I feel as though at this point, Melvin will receive much less consideration from ownership than the other candidates discussed.
The biggest long shot of the group. With way too high a price tag, Torre would instantly have the respect of the players, but would probably be way too laid back to be what the Mets need. I don’t even know why I included him on this list, as I don’t think even the Wilpons would be dumb enough to bite at Torre’s bait.
Obviously, the success of a team starts with player personnel, but as we have seen very recently, managerial flaws have been one of the team’s many setbacks.
With the exception of the last two possible candidates on my list (who I don’t see as realistic or logical options at this point), I feel all of these guys bring qualities to the table that can help the organization tackle the future. They all have diverse baseball backgrounds and valuable managerial experience, even if three out of the four have never been big league managers.
Watching the Mets lately, I’ve seen David Wright not bust it out of the box on a deep fly ball to left that went off the wall. I’ve seen Carlos Beltran not even break for a ball hit to the gap. I’ve seen hitter after hitter go up to the plate and swing at the first pitch late in the game down by a few runs. It’s almost as if the team needs to re-learn the most basic fundamentals of baseball. Along with that, the team needs an injection of vigor, and as fans, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that our new manager in 2011 can help provide that.