By Zach Gewelb
The Mets have made a puzzling move, naming agent Brodie Van Wagenen as the team’s next general manager, while the Yankees continue scheming on how to overcome Boston Red Sox, the 2018 World Series champions.
The Mets could have played things safely and hired a veteran front office executive, but instead chose Van Wagenen to reshape the franchise. One of the sport’s top agents, Van Wagenen was introduced to the media Tuesday and to his credit, he offered politically correct answers.
“We will win now, and we will win in the future, we will develop a winning culture and a winning mindset,” he said.
While he is well versed in the dollars and cents of the business, there is much more to running an organization than money. He will need to surround himself with scouts and executives who know how to find and develop young talent.
Van Wagenen also needs to navigate the trade and free agent markets to improve the major league club. The Mets have needs at both corner infield positions, behind the plate and in the bullpen. Van Wagenen is responsible for filling those needs and fielding a competitive team in 2019.
He’ll also have to earn the respect of his fellow general managers around the league. He has worked with most, if not all of them as an agent. But it’s a completely different ball game negotiating as a GM than as an agent. It’s no easy task, but the Mets believe Van Wagenen is the man for the job.
“What stood out were some of the bright ideas he had,” Mets owner Jeff Wilpon said. “He’s going to bring some excitement, a different look at things than we’ve had from different GMs.”
As for the Yankees, they had to watch their rivals clinch their fourth World Series title since 2003, as the Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.
The Sox, like the Yankees, use analytics more than just about any other team. But what separates Boston from the other analytically-savvy teams is their willingness to let their manager manage with his guts from time to time.
The Yankees chose Aaron Boone to be their manager because of his belief of analytics and strong communication skills. They believed he could convince the players that using analytics to help make the club’s on-field decisions was the right thing to do.
But the Yankees have proven to be inflexible when it comes to analytics. There is no room for Boone to make gut-based decisions. That hasn’t been the case in Boston.
GM Dave Dombrowski allowed his manager, Alex Cora, to make decisions against the numbers if he believed if it was the right thing to do. As far as we know, Yankees GM Brian Cashman and his staff don’t offer Boone the same flexibility, and it cost them games this season.
Managing in baseball today should be a balancing act. A manager should have analytics available to him, but he should also be able to make decisions based on other factors, such as which hitters and pitchers are hot and cold, fatigue, etc.
If the Yankees allow Boone to manage the way Boston allowed Cora, New York may find itself back atop the American League East in 2019 and that much closer to their 28th World Series title.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe