The word out of New York Mets camp is that they have a final “six or so” managerial candidates, though only five have been identified. That only deepens the mystery.
Could the sixth be a chair they are holding for David Wright in case he changes his mind? (It doesn’t appear that way, as Wright seems determined to try to play; plus they discussed Wright, and beyond the obvious experience factor, he’s almost un-fireable – and as you know, managers are hired with the option to be fired).
Anyway, here’s the field, as we know it …
1. Kevin Long, Mets hitting coach. Four out of five have Mets ties, as predicted here early, and nobody has closer ties at the moment than Long, as he is the popular hitting coach who has a rapport with the front office, players and media (he was the Yankees hitting coach before this; the Mets snapped him up after the Yankees let him go). He’s been well-liked as hitting coach (even Alex Rodriguez, who is picky about hitting coaches, loved him), but his managerial experience is extremely limited, having been a high-A manager many moons ago.
2. Alex Cora, Astros bench coach. He is the hottest name, with all four teams with openings looking seriously at him. He would appear to be the favorite in Boston, and since he has ties to both teams and the Red Sox look a little better on paper at the moment, there’s a question if the Mets would be his first choice. He’d bring energy and enthusiasm, he’s bilingual, very young (which is a good idea for the Mets) and media savvy (he worked at ESPN). He also doesn’t have much experience, which seems to be a switch for Sandy Alderson, whose history is to hire the experienced.
3. Joe McEwing, White Sox coach. He’s been prepping for years as an energetic, enthusiastic coach, and has strong Mets ties, having been a likable backup (and close friend of Wright). He’s in the mix in at least Detroit, too.
4. Mickey Callaway, Indians pitching coach. Another hot name, the Indians people love him, and he was seen as the favorite to replace Paul Molitor in Minnesota (before Molitor shocked everyone and showed a 26-game improvement). Indians president Chris Antonetti says he’d make a great manager, and a rival GM called him “the best pitching coach in baseball the last few years.”
He’d certainly help with an obvious Mets issue, which is how to get the best out of their young pitchers, and maybe even keep them healthy. Some suspect he’s a long-shot candidate, with the obvious benefit being a chance to pick up a few pitching pointers. But he’s certainly worthy in a group where nobody else has a great managerial pedigree, either.
5. Manny Acta, Mariners coach. He makes a strong presence, was a Mets coach in the Omar Minaya era and is the one guy on the list with previous major-league managerial experience, having done it in Washington and Cleveland with mixed results, at best. It seems like everyone who goes through Cleveland has a glow to them (their organization is much admired), but his era wasn’t the highlight, and by the end he had lost the clubhouse. This feels a little like a favor to someone they like (could be wrong, of course).
6. Mystery man. There may not be a sixth candidate, as five is really a rough estimate for “six or so,” or perhaps someone expected to be on the list has already been eliminated, perhaps Brad Ausmus, who surprisingly took himself out of the running, seemingly to pursue a Red Sox position, where he’s seen as quite likely the second choice (the word is he has a home on Cape Cod, his daughter is at Dartmouth, where he went, and of course the Red Sox are built to win — but his son is headed for NYU, too).
The word is they didn’t get a sense Robin Ventura was gung-ho for the job. Bob Geren, while succeeding as a Dodgers bench coach, wasn’t loved by Mets ownership. And Chip Hale, who supposedly finished second last time, hasn’t been contacted after the initial contact. There is also said to be no current thought they’d try to steal Joe Girardi if he takes a break from the Yankees (the Mets wouldn’t exactly be a break!) or make a play for Don Mattingly (seems set in Miami) or Dusty Baker (he’d like to stay in Washington).