I have to remind myself that it’s a different ballgame, this bastardized version of what you know as “hot stove season”. I’ve gotta pull the reins on myself, and I’ll have to do it for a few months.
Case in point: If this was three years ago, I’d see a trade like Dan Uggla for Omar Infante and immediately hit the keyboards with “Great, the rest of the division is shuffling their decks and preparing themselves for 2011 while the Mets are sitting around sending floral bouquets to Luis Castillo and allocating funds to bail various employees out of jail.”
But I have to keep a post-it on the computer screen that says “It’s a process. Shut up” in my new role of preaching patience.
I have to remind myself that bringing the Mets back to prominence takes much more than quick fixes and crowd pleasers. That’s what Jason Bay was last season. Sure I liked that Bay signed, but the fact that the signing wasn’t backed up with much else in terms of roster construction made the Bay signing nothing more than doing just enough to shut everybody up. Frankie Rodriguez was the “shut everybody up” move of 2009. Johan was the “shut everyone up” move of ’08 (though a damn good one.)
We all know that the Mets aren’t going to be capable of a lot of big splashes for 2011. That’s why the important updates revolve less around the courting of players and more around how animated the conversations are in the hotel lobby, or where the Mets brass goes to eat while interviewing the “final four”. So it seems to be that the only possibility of that “shut everyone up” move, the one most everyone wants, is to hire Wally Backman as the manager. Everyone’s had their two cents thrown in on the discussion, and I’ve so wanted to come up with the perfect soliloquy as to why Backman should, or shouldn’t be the manager. The one problem with that is that a) it’s not that simple, and my brain can only handle simple, and b) I had to look up “soliloquy” to make sure I spelled it right. Am I really the one you want writing the manifesto on this?
Wally could be a great manager. He could be a bad manager. He could be hired because the Mets feel he’s ready. Or, he could be hired because winter ticket sales are lagging. If he’s hired, we’ll be discussing the motivations for months. That along with the lack of experience relative to other choices will probably keep him out of the dugout this season. I think he’ll eventually get his chance after the man the Mets hire, whether it be Bob Melvin or Terry Collins, raises the Mets to a certain level but can get them no further. It’s very rare that one manager takes a team from terrible all the way to the very top. Mike Scoiscia, who succeeded Collins in Anaheim, is a rare exception, but usually one manager gets a team from terrible to okay, or okay to very good, and that’s when a team usually needs a change of voice to get them to that next level. I don’t know why this happens, but it seems to be a “natural order of life” thing.
There are many who think Wally is going to be the guy to turn this whole damn thing around. They might be right, but for the wrong reasons. To me, if Wally Backman is going to be successful, the main reason will be because he played for a manager who treated his players like men, but never had to remind them that he was the boss because they’ll know from jump. People seem to buy into the whole “fire in the belly” thing, and that the Mets need someone to “light a fire under them”. But those are just buzz words and catch phrases which are designed to take the place of real solutions that would take too long to explain and contain too many words. It’s the world we live in. We have to be careful not to fall under the spell of abstract phrases like “fire in the belly” which is merely a way to manipulate language to make a point. Wally Backman’s part, or any new manager’s part in turning the Mets into a winner is seriously a lot more complicated than that. (I find it fascinating that most of the people that want Wally Backman and his 1986-ness to manage the Mets are probably the same people that voted Endy Chavez’s catch a better moment at Shea Stadium than Backman’s team winning the World Series.)
Thankfully, we’re not going to have to preach patience for that much longer in terms of the manager. We’re probably going to have a new oneby the time we sit down for turkey and lasagna. Whoever that new manager is, I hope it’s for the right reasons. That’s all I care about. If Wally Backman is hired because he’s the best candidate on all fronts, awesome. If he’s hired because he was on the ’86 team, has “grit”, and people love his mustache, we’re all screwed.
And then, as we give thanks for having a manager in place, we must remember to continue to be patient in the quest for a new roster. And I have to remember to practice what I preach instead of bemoaning everybody else making big moves while the Mets negotiate with the likes of Jorge De La Rosa.