During Monday’s news conference to announce the dismissals of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon insisted ownership is interested in interviewing GM candidates with varying levels of experience -- ranging from those who have served in that role before to assistants viewed as up-and-comers.
Regardless, the next GM needs this skill set:
Discipline: Factoring in raises for arbitration-eligible Mike Pelfrey, Angel Pagan and R.A. Dickey, the next GM will inherit a 2011 payroll commitment that may exceed $130 million before any offseason activity. But longer term, working in New York affords the opportunity to throw around big dollars each winter to free agents. Minaya used a wad of cash to bring in Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez and Jason Bay. However, by not showing restraint in mid-level contracts to the likes of Luis Castillo (four years, $25 million) and Oliver Perez (three years, $36 million), he lost the payroll flexibility to be able to acquire, say, Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros at the trading deadline.
Common sense: It’s easy to post signs all over Citi Field and at the spring-training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., emphasizing “Prevention & Recovery.” But what’s the point if it’s not executed? When Jose Reyes injured his right oblique muscle in San Juan in late June, common sense dictated the shortstop should be placed on the disabled list in order to knock out the injury. Yet a week later, in too much discomfort to swing from the left side, the switch-hitting Reyes was allowed to face right-handed pitching from the right side of the plate. Predictably, the oblique issue lingered for much of the season’s second half.
Attention to detail: Doing the little things wins championships, and too often the Mets have been rudderless in recent years. Case in point: If Nick Evans is going to be a major leaguer with the Mets in 2011, he likely would need to serve a Fernando Tatis-type role as a right-handed hitter for the bench who is capable of playing left field as well as first and third base. Yet Evans played only a game and a half in the outfield in the minors this season. What happened when he was called up? He only played outfield.
Willingness to exploit the rules: The Mets have been good soldiers in Bud Selig’s fight to hold down signing bonuses by generally showing unwillingness to sign draftees to big bonuses outside of what Major League Baseball recommends. That largely is not how the other big-market clubs do it. So the Mets miss the chance to exploit the drafting system by signing talented players who slip in the draft because financial demands scare away smaller-market clubs who do not have the same means to sign them.
Communication/PR savvy: In New York, it is essential to have an executive in charge who can articulate a plan and who inspires confidence from the fan base, using the media to relay that message.
Decisiveness: It is one thing to act rash. But too often other teams complained the Mets were difficult to deal with -- that each decision had to go through a labyrinth of decision makers and that there was never a clear direction. That falls on ownership, too. The perception around baseball is not that the Wilpons pick players; it’s that they require so many updates and are so involved in the process that the organization loses its nimbleness.
Multi-tasker: The Mets went through previous offseasons with comedic simplicity. They only seemed capable of working on one area of need at a time -- first the big bat, then the pitching, then the backup infielder. The organization needs someone who can work along parallel tracks simultaneously and adjust to market conditions.
Intelligence: Not an egghead or stat geek, but someone who can grasp the complex statistical analyses available today. Also, someone who is shrewd enough to put together a multi-year plan that recognizes it makes no sense to sign Castillo to a four-year deal if Orlando Hudson will be a free agent the following season and wants to be a Met. Also, someone who can foresee upcoming changes in the market and does not give a closer a three-year, $37 million deal with a vesting option for a fourth season at $17.5 million when the market for closers is headed in the opposite direction.