Fred Wilpon, left, and Jeff Wilpon

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Keidel: It Might Not Be In Mets' Culture To Nail This GM Hire

Team Believed To Be Down To 3 Finalists

Jason Keidel
October 24, 2018 - 12:02 pm
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In sports, we've summoned so many mantras and cliches -- from toughness to teamwork to chemistry -- we've become numb to their early meanings. 

But of all the catchphrases, perhaps culture is the one that bears a wider lens. 

How do we define or measure it?

Does a team with a healthy culture attract the best players? Or do the best players create a healthy culture? Since team sports is such a transient business, it's more likely that management sets the tone for a franchise, which then lures the best athletes. 

MORE: Doug Melvin Insists He's Not Too Old School For Mets

If you take a longview of our biggest team sports, the same clubs seem to win and lose. There are exceptions, of course. For instance, the Mets stormed their way to the 2015 World Series, which goes against their historical grain. But even in the Fall Classic, the Mets blew three games in which they were leading in the eighth inning. 

Joel Sherman wrote a scathing piece for the New York Post a couple weeks back shoving the Mets through a car wash of criticisms, all of which were earned. The column revolved around the team's GM search, which is comical at best and a microcosm of the club's culture. So clearly the Mets' culture is set by the bosses, and that would be the Wilpon family, who give their fans a host of conflicting impulses. 

There's no reason they should not have found a successor to Sandy Alderson by now. Except these are the Mets. They say the team is too dependent on analytics, yet they already have a microscopic analytics department. How can they find the best and brightest when analytics, by any objective measure, is sweeping across the game? 

They want a GM who can run the club with autonomy, yet have given part of the responsibility of hiring the next GM to the men who could report to him. Over the last few months, the Mets have been run by an odd trinity of John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Riccardi, all of whom would likely love to have the job themselves. Now they're being asked to handpick their potential boss, who will also be asked to fertilize one of the most sterile farm systems in the majors. 

MORE: Mets GM Candidate Faces Conflict-Of-Interest Questions

The three finalists seem to be Brodie Van Wagenen, Tampa Bay Rays Vice President Chaim Bloom and former Brewers GM Doug Melvin. But since Van Wagenen is an active MLB player agent -- who also represents the Mets best player, Jacob deGrom -- then it's more likely that Bloom and Melvin are the most serious contenders for the job.

The Mets job is so unappealing to high-end personnel men that they were turned down by Indians general manager Mike Chernoff. Twins GM Thad Levine and former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington weren't interested, either. 

And, of course, all insider reports suggest there could be a darkhorse candidate revealed any day, which is typical of the opaque corporate coda of the New York Mets.  

While the Yankees have a sprawling montage of October moments, 27 World Series titles and an army of players whose numbers are honored in Monument Park -- they've have so many great players, they actually had to retire the No. 8 twice -- the Mets are best known to tease their fans with close calls and also-rans. If you ask Keith Hernandez and the dearly departed Gary Carter, they would tell you that their 1985 club was even better than their 1986 club, which actually won the Fall Classic. 

The Mets are haunted by a phalanx of failed careers from players who were destined for greatness, from Doc and Darryl to the Dark Knight of Gotham. Generation K was supposed to lead the Mets to glory. Gregg Jefferies was supposed to be the next Joe Morgan. On and on. Is it a coincidence that this keeps happening to the same squad? Or does the culture all but assure this kind of solemn script? The Mets have won the NL East twice in the last 30 years and one World Series ring in 49 years. And their best player over the last two decades, Mike Piazza, was drafted and developed by the Dodgers. 

Say what you will about the Bronx Bombers and their dubious history of infighting, there's no question GM Brian Cashman is in charge. By vivid contrast, consider what Sherman wrote in the Post: "Mets ownership has promised autonomy before, but no one has ever left a Mets front-office job saying the head of baseball operations actually has unfettered power."

Maybe the next great GM is out there and would actually take the Mets GM job. The problem is the last team that could find and pick that person is the New York Mets. It's just not in their culture. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.