So now that the New York Mets have narrowed down their general manager hiring process to either Sandy Alderson or Josh Byrnes, the next task will be to bring in a field manager to replace Jerry Manuel. There has been plenty of speculation out there, but not as much as you might think, because the manager won’t be hired until a GM is in place to hire (or at least have a huge hand in hiring) that person. So with that, here are a few possibilities for manager that this writer thinks will fit well:
1. Gary Carter: Everyone is talking about Wally Backman, who is already managing in the minors for this franchise. But we’ll get back to Backman in a minute. Carter has always wanted to manage the Mets, the franchise he helped lead to their second World Series title as a player in 1986. He has also managed in the Mets’ farm system, leading the St. Lucie Mets to the Florida State League title in 2006; he led the Long Island Ducks to a division title in 2009; and he currently manages at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Carter hasn’t managed at the major league level, but it’s not like he doesn’t know how to manage, and he surely would have both the respect of the players and the love of the fans. Let’s give "The Kid" a shot.
2. Wally Backman: One thing the Mets have been missing of late has been that "fire in the belly" everyone talks about. No matter what has happened in the postseason, the Phillies have that fire. So do the Yankees and Rangers. So do a lot of other teams besides the Mets. Backman would no doubt bring some fire to this team. He also might bring to mind the likes of Earl Weaver or Billy Martin - managers who weren’t afraid to kick dust in an ump’s face. He’s the kind of guy that might tell Mike Pelfrey to throw one high and tight around Chase Utley’s eyeballs, or to make sure that all of his players how to slide to break up a double play. And, oh yeah, Backman, like Carter, was on that ’86 championship team, winning a World Series ring - with the Mets. That means a lot right there.
3. Bobby Valentine: Would Alderson or Byrnes give the managerial reins to someone like Bobby V, who might want more authority with personnel decisions than Carter or Backman would? Probably not, but Valentine did lead the Mets to their last World Series appearance a decade ago, and then won a title in Japan. When you look back, that 2000 squad was not the most talented Mets’ team ever, but Valentine had a huge hand in guiding them to a pennant.
4. Ryne Sandberg: It’s kind of a mystery why the Cubs would promise MLB Hall of Famer Sandberg - one of the most beloved players in franchise history - a managerial job at the major league level someday, and then shun him when the opportunity came up. Lou Piniella retired this past summer instead of at the end of the season as he had planned, and everyone expected Sandberg to be promoted from AAA where he was and is manager of the Iowa Cubs. Sandberg was even named 2010 PCL Manager of the Year. But the Cubs went with Mike Quade and Sandberg is understandably perturbed. Who knows what is behind all of that, but the guy deserves a shot at the major league level, and he might be a good fit for the Mets, even if they only play the Cubs six times during the season.
5. Joe Torre: As Joe Torre left the Dodgers in the capable hands of his right-hand man, Don Mattingly, he would not rule out returning to the managerial ranks somewhere. The Mets, of course, would be a good fit for Torre, because it’s where he began managing, and he has roots to both the Mets and to New York. He also has quite a few World Series rings. Still, the Mets may want to go with more of a "fresh start" here.