So far, the New York Mets have had a solid start to the season. Despite injuries, a sputtering offense, and an inconsistent bullpen, the team has managed to stay above .500 and in the thick of the early National League East race .
That’s the good news, along with the continued excellence of Matt Harvey atop an interesting and diverse rotation of young arms, not so young arms and Bartolo Colon.
The bad news? A growing rift between the field staff, the front office, ownership and the ownership group itself could be building to the point that could paralyze the team in the coming weeks.
I had been working on a column about the Marlins managerial decision — hiring their general manager Dan Jennings to be their new manager — that started more than a month ago. The main thrust of the article was based on a blog post on the Miami Herald website that discussed the rumor that Mets AAA skipper Wally Backman would be considered as a replacement for then-manager Mike Redmond in the event he was fired.
Was told Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria last week at Citi Field quizzed people who know Wally Backman about his managerial readiness.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) April 21, 2015
Then, a few days later, the Daily News reported that there was no contact between the Mets and the Marlins concerning Backman, and that Backman himself was surprised to learn his name was being discussed. I found that odd, especially considering many of the people Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spoke to were Mets employees.
It’s not the first time the Marlins had discussed Backman internally, and certainly not the first time a team has made an informal inquiry about Backman only to leave him off their initial interview list.
It seems that this inquiry died a quick death — again, according to sources — because Backman is under contract, and the Mets may have indicated to the Marlins “informal” requests that any conversation regarding Backman would not begin until compensation could be discussed. Then, and only then, did the Marlins look elsewhere.
But this is less about Backman as it is about how the Mets are currently doing business, and not just with other teams but internally.
Terry Collins job security has been speculated on in the media recently, even going back to last season, and according to sources close to and with the Mets organization, there is zero reason to believe Terry Collins is even remotely in trouble.
Why? Because as far as Mets CEO and principal owner Fred Wilpon is concerned, Terry Collins is the perfect man to lead his club.
Sandy Alderson’s already been record that he almost fired Collins last season.
In the upcoming book, Baseball Maverick, Sandy Alderson admits that he was closer to firing Terry Collins in 2014 than was being reported.
“Frankly, for me, that percentage (51%) has been eroding,” Alderson said last September, speaking to the book’s author, Steve Kettman, who says a meeting with the team’s hitters ended up saving their manager’s job.
According to sources we spoke with, it was Fred Wilpon, not Sandy Alderson, who “saved” Terry Collins job. Further curious, though it is well known through the front office that Alderson’s first option — in the very unlikely event that he is even allowed to fire Collins — is uninspiring bench coach Bob Geren. Yikes.
Jeff Wilpon, the embattled COO, is said to be on the outside looking in any decision regarding the manager. His first choice to manage the Mets has been and still is Wally Backman. For all of the younger Wilpon’s faults, he is the former second baseman’s biggest supporter. I support Backman’s candidacy myself, as anyone who reads this space knows well. But do I want Jeff Wilpon to be the king? Not so much.
So what does all this mean? It means that with the team on the cusp of some kind of real success, there is division in how things are done in Metland. Bickering between the younger Wilpon and the front office is constant, especially when it comes to the minor leagues, which is very much the privy of Alderson lieutenant Paul de Podesta. DePo, as he’s called by many in the baseball operations department and the media, is not only fed up with Wilpon “interference,” he especially doesn’t care for 1986 Mets.
The elder Wilpon, who has recused himself from much of the day-to-day operations of the club, still maintains the final say on any and all major acquisitions and manager hirings and firings. Yet, no one from the mainstream media ever seems to take this into account.
They are sadly mistaken.
Alderson may not yet have “Revived The Mets,” as his book claims, but he has a very large group of supporters among Mets fans. Neither Wilpon has any real popularity at the moment, but even the most ardent fans can sense that this particular manager is not the tactician many feel is needed to take the Mets to the next level.
So who are you rooting for to win this internal tug of war? You might surprise yourself with the answer.