NEW YORK — The New York Mets are facing a busy offseason complete with new front office hires and roster and coaching staff changes. Following another failed season, in which they underwhelmed on offense, struggled with injuries and made headlines for off-field fiascos, the Mets have a ton of work to do to ensure their fans the product they saw in 2021 will be significantly upgraded next season.
Here are four critical components that must be on the Mets’ offseason checklist to help the team move in the right direction for 2022:
1. HIRE A PRESIDENT OF BASEBALL OPS
The Mets attempted and failed to hire a president of baseball operations last offseason during Steve Cohen’s first few months as owner and Sandy Alderson’s return to the club’s front office. The Mets were denied permission from multiple teams last year to speak to executives who were still under contract. They were unable to secure meetings with their top candidates, so they switched to hiring a GM and assistant GM, with the plan of grooming them for eventual promotions to president of baseball ops and GM, respectively.
That plan, of course, fell through once GM Jared Porter was dismissed after 77 days on the job for sending inappropriate messages to a female reporter. Assistant GM Zack Scott took over acting GM duties until last month, when he was placed on administrative leave following a DUI arrest. Alderson has overseen both team president and GM roles over the last year, but he is leaving it up to the Mets next president of baseball ops to decide how much he should be involved.
“What I’m hopeful for is that we can find someone that’s going to be invested in the team long term and will get in the weeds and provide us not only with the leadership and expertise that we need on the baseball side,” Alderson said last month. “From my standpoint, I’m happy to turn that over to someone that we find who’s more than capable.”
The Mets will start fresh this winter, and Alderson hoped there would be fewer roadblocks in finally securing a head of baseball ops, but there is no guarantee.
2. HIRE A VETERAN MANAGER
The Mets are on the way to hiring their fifth manager in five years. There has been no stability in the skipper’s office and that trickles down to the clubhouse in terms of continuity, trust and forming relationships. The 2021 Mets would have benefited from a veteran manager and the 2022 club will be no different.
The word “veteran” in this context means hiring an individual with at least a few, or several, years of experience dealing with the daily grind of being a modern-day manager. And for that, the Mets will need to change their structure a bit from figurehead for the front office to letting the manager have some autonomy, particularly for in-game tactics.
3. DEVELOP ORGANIZATION-WIDE WINNING CULTURE
The Mets organization must change fundamentally and work toward developing a winning culture. That change won’t start with a new owner, as evidenced by the team’s losing season under Cohen’s first year, and it won’t start with trading for a superstar shortstop, as evidenced by Francisco Lindor’s debut season as a Met. The organization must begin by holding everyone accountable — from the minor leagues to the majors — for their shortcomings and failures. Limit the participation of yes-men and increase the value of contrarian core beliefs.
This past season, we saw more of the same dysfunction under Cohen that we did with the Wilpons. There was an overload of toxic positivity, in which Luis Rojas and the clubhouse talked more about loving one another and trusting the process than, at least publicly, holding each other accountable. Almost one year ago, Cohen had a plan in place when he discussed the Mets shifting their culture. He knew it would take some time, but Cohen and the Mets must remember the objectives he outlined in November 2020 to get there.
“I want professionalism, I want integrity,” Cohen said last year when asked what the Mets culture will look like. “I’m not going to put up with maybe the type of stuff that’s happened in other places. I want to hire the best and brightest, and I want to create a great farm system, develop our players and provide an environment — and let’s not forget the fans — provide a product, and when they interact with me at the stadium or on our media platforms, wherever, that their experience is extraordinary.”
4. IMPROVE FLAWED HIRING/VETTING PRACTICES
Before Alderson hired Porter last offseason as Mets GM, he said he cast a wide net to thoroughly vet Porter ahead of a decision. “We had references from a variety of organizations, a number of individuals, people that had known him for a long time, people who endorsed him, who knew him from his earliest days in college,” Alderson said. “There wasn’t really a dissenting voice.”
Alderson said he didn’t speak to any women about Porter during the Mets’ routine background check.
Porter was dismissed by the Mets in January 2020 after an ESPN report detailed his inappropriate behavior and explicit messages toward a reporter in 2016, while he was a member of the Cubs front office. In October 2017, Alderson hired Mickey Callaway as Mets manager. Earlier this year, a report by The Athletic detailed Callaway’s sexual misconduct toward several women across three cities and three teams.
Alderson later referred to the Callaway hire as “shortsighted” and “in retrospect, there probably should’ve been a broader assessment of his qualifications.”
Last offseason, The Mets were also a finalist for free agent Trevor Bauer, who ended up signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was later placed on administrative leave after being accused of sexual assault. Bauer’s previous history with harassing women was online and public for all, including Cohen, Alderson, and the Mets, to see and dissect. Still, the Mets heavily pursued Bauer. This September, months after Bauer has been under investigation, Alderson said: “That’s an unfortunate situation. And the good news is it didn’t happen on our watch.”
If Alderson and the Mets are serious about wanting to change the culture, they must improve their flawed hiring and vetting practices. Inappropriate behavior, whether it’s stemming from top Mets leaders or anyone in the organization, will not be tolerated, Alderson has said repeatedly. As he is tasked with hiring a president of baseball ops again this offseason, Alderson must do a better job of weeding out the unqualified candidates and their potential inappropriate behavior before he welcomes them into the organization.
Here’s what Alderson said last month when asked how his vetting practices have improved:
“After the Jared Porter situation arose, I think I made it clear that we would do what we could to expand the process, both identifying candidates, interviewing candidates, doing backgrounds on candidates, and that has been the case. There’s never a perfect background investigation. There’s never the ability to perfectly predict what circumstances might arise.
“I think we’re being more fulsome in our review process and broader in the types of people we talk to, men and women, more senior and less senior. What we’re doing to the extent that we can, is to make sure the process is more systematic, deeper, broader and includes feedback from as many different sources as we can possibly get.”