The Week That Was: The Mets GM Search Begins

      To paraphrase Mets broadcaster and Cardozo/Queens College alum Howie Rose, the Mets’ 2018 season is in the books and not a moment too soon.  

      The end of the season is obviously the time when ballclubs think about the areas in which they need to improve. However before the Mets can start to make strategic moves they need to hire a new general manager.  

     Sandy Alderson, who had the job since 2011, had to step aside for health issues during the 2018 campaign. He was replaced on an interim basis by the triumvirate of John Ricco, JP Ricciardi, and Omar Minaya. 

    Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon held a press conference before Sunday’s season finale. He stated that none of the team’s interim general managerial team is a candidate to be the next general manager. He said that the new man will have the freedom to bring in a new manager although it still seems like a safe bet that Mickey Callaway will return in 2019. The most surprising remark that Wilpon made was that he’s be willing to go after an A-list free agent slugger even if that means increasing the payroll next year.  

     Wilpon admitted that he apologized to Jacob deGrom for the fact that he won only ten games because of the Mets’ feeble offense. He should won 20,” he said with a scowl.   

     There will be no shortage of candidates for the Mets’ general managerial position but Jeff would be wise to interview the team’s current first base coach, Ruben Amaro Jr., who held that position for the Phillies from 2008 to 2015. He has proven that he can handle the pressures of working in a big market with a tough media. He is also a good evaluator of talent. Aaron Nola, who is one of Jacob deGrom’s competitors for the Cy Young Award, was selected by the Phillies under Amaro’s aegis. 

      Whoever the next Mets GM is had better have a good health crystal ball. Two longtime Mets, centerfielder Juan Lagares and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, play well enough when they are in the lineup but the problem is that every season they tend to wind up on the disabled list for very long stretches. Do the Mets bring then back in 2019 or do they cut ties with them? 

     My guess is that barring a trade, Lagares will be on the team when spring training begins because the team’s most expensive player, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, will miss most of the 2019 recovering from surgery on both of his feet.  

     It would be wise for the Mets to have centerfielder Austin Jackson back as well. He is a veteran who played well and provided clubhouse leadership after he was signed as a free agent in August. 

    This has been a fraught time in Sino-American relations because of President Trump’s launching of a tariff trade war with Beijing. The Mets though proved to be American goodwill ambassadors last Friday as they hosted Roy Wang who at age 18 is China’s answer to Justin Bieber. Major League Baseball is hoping to make in impact in China the way that the NBA has and the Mets did their part to establish some much needed goodwill.  

    Ozzie Virgil was the first player born in the Dominican Republic to play in the major leagues. He was honored by the Mets, for whom he has run their operations in the Dominican Republic for the last eleven years, last Wednesday. 

    He lashed out at players who seem more preoccupied with their stats than whether their team is winning. “There is no greater feeling than being on a winner,” he said.  

    Ozzie did not sugarcoat the fact that he and other Hispanic players in the 1950s and early ‘60s  faced prejudice. “In St. Louis we were not allowed to stay in the same hotel or eat in the same restaurants with our white teammates,” he said without bitterness.  

     The 33rd annual fund-raiser for the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, which is also known as the Miami Project, was held at the New York Hilton last Monday and its emcee was Astoria native and longtime NBC sports voice, Bob Costas. As per custom, past and present sports figures were in attendance. 

     Jamaica High School alum and Olympic gold medalist Bob Beamon has long been a supporter of this wonderful nonprofit whose work has helped many regain motor function after being involved in horrifying accidents. Bob told me that he was excited to be honored at City Hall two days later by Mayor DeBlasio to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his then record-setting long jump at the 1968 Summer Olympics that were held in Mexico City. “I just wish that Jamaica High School was still in existence,” he said with a trace of bitterness. 

     The Buoniconti Fund was started by NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti after his son, Marc, who was a linebacker at the Citadel, was paralyzed after making a tackle during a football game. New York Giants legendary linebacker Harry Carson revealed at the dinner last week that like Marc Buoniconti he was paralyzed after making a tackle in a Cowboys game in Dallas but thankfully it proved to be very temporary.  

    Connor Barwin, who is currently holding down harry Carson’s old job for Big Blue, told me that he was excited to be playing in the New York area after playing nine years for NFL teams as the Eagles, Rams, and Texans. He admitted that the taxes are a bit higher here than in other NFL locales. “I did have it good for four years playing in Houston!” he laughed. Texas does not levy a state income tax on its residents. 

    Jets offensive tackle Brent Qvale accompanied Barwin to the Miami Project event. He said that he was looking forward to playing three straight home games in October at MetLife Stadium but he added that he hopes that the Jets won’t be having to make up for a lot of lost ground. Unfortunately for Gang Green that is exactly what they’ll have to do as they enter Sunday’s game with the Denver Broncos with a 1-3 record after absorbing a 33-12 pasting at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

    The NFL had a presence at last Friday’s semi-annual TTPM (Toys, Tots, Pets & More) trade show. Tudor Games showed off its 70th anniversary of Electric Football which is a tabletop game that uses modern technology to help players make plays on both offense and defense. Jakks Pacific displayed its NFL Fanheads line. Fanheads are replica helmets that you blow up like balloons that you can wear for fun to show support for your team at tailgating parties. 

    Ralph Lauren grew up in the Bronx so it’s not surprising that he has been a huge Yankees fan since childhood. Two weeks ago he threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium to help promote that his company, Polo Ralph Lauren, had launched a joint venture with the Yankees to manufacture a limited edition baseball jacket and cap. Polo Ralph Lauren is celebrating its 50th anniversary. 






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