But home whispers sweet nothings. And that’s why Craig Counsell is the manager of the Chicago Cubs today, and not the New York Mets. Counsell, instead of following David Stearns to the Mets, took $40 million over five years to manage the Cubs, who are a mere 90 minute Amtrak ride away which means that Counsell doesn’t have to move. So while money does talk, sometimes even Steve Cohen’s money gets drowned out by other factors.
It’s disappointing, because the Mets had to pivot. And when they did, they pivoted to 43 year old Carlos Mendoza. The good thing about Mendoza is that he has taken the traditional road to this job, being a manager and a coach in the lower levels of the minor leagues. The bad news is that this is another first time manager what will be learning on the job. I’m sure David Stearns will laud over the fact that Mendoza is a highly respected baseball man. (Let’s face it, mobody will ever say “well yeah he’s a clown, but we’re taking a chance on him.)
But no matter how highly respected a baseball man you are, there are details as a manager that Mendoza will experience for the first time. How will he react to them? Luis Rojas was baseball royalty, coming from the Alou family. He’s been around baseball all his life. He was a “respected baseball man”. And he struggled, just like Mendoza will struggle. And that’s not to say that Mendoza doesn’t know his stuff and will eventually be a good manager. But the question is “how long, and how badly will he struggle.” The answers to those questions for Rojas and Mickey Callaway were not good.
And it’s not the difference between old school and new school. It’s the difference between experience and no experience. There have been plenty of managers who have won after their first jobs. They don’t need to be Hall of Famers like Dusty Baker or Bruce Bochy either. Consider this, if you would: Since 1985, and we’re talking close to 40 years now, there have been eight managers that have won their first title in their first job. We’ll go chronologically backwards on this list:
- 2021: Brian Snitker
- 2019: Davey Martinez
- 2005: Ozzie Guillen
- 2002: Mike Scioscia
- 2001: Bob Brenly
- 1987: Tom Kelly
- 1986: Davey Johnson
That’s it. 40 years.
And that’s not to say that Carlos Mendoza won’t be successful as a manager. But what I’m saying is that people who expect a manager to be successful because “they’re young and they can grow with a young team” and that they’re goign to be mainstays like Tommy Lasorda was are somewhat misguided. Because it rarely happens. Tom Kelly and Mike Scioscia are the exceptions and not the rule (and Scioscia only won the one title.)
Davey Johnson had that synergy, coming up with the organization and managing all of his guys from Tidewater that came up through the minors like Doc Gooden and Ron Darling. He had a loaded roster. He used computers and trusted the numbers … analytically … before a lot of people knew what a computer was … and he only lasted to 1990. That’s not a knock on Davey Johnson. He was successful in every stop he made after the Mets (even without a title), and I think he should be voted into the Hall of Fame when his name comes up on the ballot this year. But it’s just an example that it’s tough to become a rip-roaring success at your first job.
And yet people apply that logic to hiring first time managers because “new is always better than old”. If you’re not a first time manager, you’re a retread. Even if you’re a sure fire managerial Hall of Famer … “retread.” “You need to connect wtih the younger players”. they say … which is nonsense because Buck Showalter got star players to love him. It’s all generalities, which is nonsense
The bottom line is this: The Mets got their second choice, and they got a serious unknown in Mendoza. Maybe it works out. But more likely is that if he works out, he’ll work out for someone else. But even more likely than that is that with front offices being able to run the sweetest scam in the world, which is to control everything that a mnaager does but then fire that manager when it doesn’t work out and satiate everyone who is looking for blood, it really doesn’t matter how good a manager Mendoza is, because managers do less and less anyway yet somehow still carrying the brunt of responsibility when things go wrong. The more likely cause of Mendoza’s success or failure is the level of talent on the roster. Shohei Ohtani or Juan Soto would make any first time manager look really good. A revamped starting rotation will make Carlos Mendoza look really smart.
The level of talent on the roster is completely up to David Stearns.