Yeah, I exited Citi Field last week almost certain that Buck Showalter would be returning for the final year of his contract. Then again, there was that look of a manager who resembled a lame duck. I goofed last week writing that Showalter would get another year with David Stearns the incoming president of baseball operations.
I’ve been around this long enough. You hear the background banter, ask the questions, talk to so many in the industry and come to your verdict. Honestly, I was certain that Showalter would get one more year. As it is, Stearns will hire his own manager because that is the business of baseball.
Owner Steve Cohen referred to a managerial change having nothing to do with Showalter, but a Mets team that underachieved. They didn’t pitch, or hit, and their season was impacted right out of the gate with star closer Edwin Diaz and a freak injury at the World Baseball Classic. No need to rehash the expectations that became a historic losing season for a Mets franchise that had the highest payroll in baseball.
But Cohen compares ownership of the Mets to his successful hedge fund billion dollar business. Baseball has become big business which amounts to a new leader bringing in who they want, thus Showalter is out of a job and Stearns will be searching for the fifth Mets manager since 2017.
There are viable candidates to succeed Showalter who will resurface, and he put the Mets in a good place, this despite everything that went wrong and so many projecting there would be playoff baseball now at Citi Field. Stearns quickly went to work Monday to assure Mets fans that they will have a competitive team on the field in 2024.
First order of business is hiring a new manager and assembling an able staff. He indicated that Pete Alonso will be the first baseman on Opening Day, though Stearns now has that complicated task of signing Alonso to a long term deal.
Before I jump the gun again, and with all the talk of Stearns eventually coming here after his success with the Brewers, which was the worst kept secret in years, need there be a managerial search with a possible Stearns-Manager Craig Counsell reunion in New York?
Yes, there will be a search that is procedure. But Stearns looks at success based on his tenure as Brewers general manager. Much of that success is also attributed to his former manager Counsell, a free agent to be when postseason baseball concludes in Milwaukee.
I am speculating, but Counsell as Sterans’ manager is logical. The only obstacle is Counsell getting a more lucrative offer from the Brewers to remain there and not willing to relocate his family to New York. Then again, Steve Cohen has the resources that would surpass what Counsell would be offered in Milwaukee.
One thing is certain, the Mets are in their new era. I refer to the decision makers as the hierarchy of baseball management, Cohen and Stearns hashed their deal in the last year. GM Billy Eppler will remain a part of that decision making with construction of player development and the roster.
A manager of course must relate to his players and Showalter had all the criteria, though still without a World Series championship and manager of the year with four different teams, including 101 wins last year that saw the Braves overtake the Mets. Dismissal of Showalter caught me and many off guard and handled to the extent of a resignation rather than being fired.
Regardless, Monday afternoon was a good opening day for the 38-year old Stearns who comes with that reputation of building a winner. Cohen said he was an extraordinary hire with a reputation of leading a small market team (Brewers) to success. He has a familiarity with New York as a lifetime Mets fan and can handle the challenge of this huge market that differs from Milwaukee.
The manager search was bypassed to addressing the needs and looking in as the outsider about a Mets season that finished way below .500 and losing 87 ballgames. As Stearns said, “I think what happened to the Mets this year isn’t particularly unique to the Mets.”
No nothing seems certain with the Mets, then again this season that was built to win had every reason for success and playing baseball deep in October. Of course that did not transpire and now it’s in the hands of David Stearns.
So talk to me in a month when the postseason concludes and a World Series champion is crowned. I am almost certain the name of Craig Counsell will surface as the sixth Mets manager since 2017. It’s a reunion that will have baseball buzzing.
Then again, I was wrong about Showalter.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso