Clint Hurdle was a one-time “Phenom” of the Kansas City Royals but inconsistent play, insufficient power and probably, a few too many beers (read the extraordinary SI article for details), relegated him to journeyman status by age 25 when he hooked up with the Mets. Hurdle appeared with the Mets in 1983 (wearing No. 33), 1985 (when he wore No. 13) and 1987 (wearing No. 7). Although his contributions with the Mets were modest, the Mets and manager Davey Johnson liked him quite a bit: when he was lost to the Cardinals on a Rule 5 pick in ’86, Johnson was so upset he reportedly cried. The Mets in fact liked Hurdle so much they got him started on the road to managership shortly after he retired: He managed Met farm clubs for 6 years then was hired by the expansion Rockies, for whom he became manager in 2002.
Aside from an extraordinary 21-1 run that vaulted the Rockies all the way to the 2007 World Series, Hurdle’s career in Colorado was remarkable mainly for its length. He is the only manager in major league history to begin his career with five consecutive losing seasons and not get fired. His ability to hang on, many say, was due to a willingness to take bullets for the front office, and for his personal charm. I’ve always enjoyed his guest turns on Mets Extra when the Rockies visited. He wore No. 13 throughout his tenure in Denver.
Those who’ve studied his managerial tendencies have not been impressed, noting an adherance character-building but ultimately witless strategies like the sacrifice bunt. Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times suggests Hurdle’s most striking tendency as manager “is that he has arguably done the worst job picking batters for the No. 1 slot of any manager in the last half century where the data exist.” After enduring five years of bunt-happy, passive baseball under Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph, I am sure a change would be welcome.
But if Hurdle’s malleability and charisma can trump his tendency to botch strategy, he might not be a bad choice for the Alderson-led Mets. He evidently is among the finalists.
Isn’t just like the Mets that they needed to be the dumbest team in baseball for five years before they realized they might need to be the smartest? They’re like George Costanza, author of the above title line, upon the realization that his own instincts had become so untrustworthy he needed to openly defy them by doing just the opposite of what they favored. The Mets have a long history of such behavior, whether it’s sitting on their hands whille the bullpen burned to the ground in 2008 then spending the offseason stuffing the roster with high-profile relievers; responding criticism of moves like the Scott Kazmir trade by aggressively promoting 19-year-old hard throwers to the majors; answering their near-complete tone deafness to the will of fans with regards to the new park by inviting bloggers to share a warm chat with executive Dave Howard. Of course they didn’t ask me.
And now it’s replacing the street-smart but improvisational front office of Minaya and Bernazard with the Harvard egghead set of Alderson, DePodesta and Ricciardi. Don’t get me wrong — I like the move and even I liked Omar — but at this time last year we could only hope to get through the offseason before a regrettably dumb move got made. This year, there’s reason to believe we will get through the offseason in better shape than we entered simply because the new guys will apply some discipline and processes designed to get the team pulling together for that purpose. If there’s one thing the previous administration didn’t do, it’s that. Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Mets had realized this when it was time to replace Steve Phillips?
What this all means to the ongoing managerial search remains a mystery although many seem to think it helps Terry Collins‘ candidacy: He’s reportedly admired by Paul DePodesta, got good reviews for his work with the Mets’ minor leaguers last year (he was the opposite of Tony Bernazard, natch), and has been compared favorably to Bobby Valentine for his energy, enthusiasm and international experience (ironically, Collins’ first managerial job was to replace the placid Art Howe in Houston). He was a finalist the last time the Mets interviewed for managers in the dawn of the Omar Era in 2005. On the downside, the veterans in Houston and Anaheim eventually tuned him out, he lacks any real Mets heritage and he’s unlike to excite the fanbase all by himself (but the support of the New Holy Trinity would say something).
Sartorially, Collins wore No. 2 while managing the Astros from 1994-96 and No. 1 for the Angels during their Disney period.
Realized the other day that I can’t remember a period during which I’ve had any less idea about what happens next with the Mets as I do right at this moment. And it’s a strange feeling.
We were all pretty certain that Jerry Manuel wasn’t coming back, and fairly sure Omar would go too, but even back then you were assured by the press that Wally Backman would be next in line, given the Mets’ financial situation, and that maybe for budgetary purposes and tradition they hand it over to John Ricco and a team of bickering advisors but that doesn’t seem all that likely anymore. For one, there’s the idea out there that Sandy Alderson can take the GM job if he wants it, and that would mean neither Backman (who might be fun) nor Bobby Valentine (good and fun!) would be his choice to mange. Well who then? Joe Torre?
And will it matter anyway, now that we’ve seen the accounts of Jon Daniels’ inability to hide interest in the gig? Or will Rick Hahn’s Wolverine background carry the day? If you asked me two weeks ago I’d have said Terry Ryan gets the GM chair. Maybe not now.
Today (Friday the 15th, if anyone asks) my bizarre hunch is that Alderson gets the GM job and names Wally Backman the manager … of Class AA Binghamton. Lee Mazzilli in an upset gets the Mets’ managing job and his No. 13 back. Sorry, Mike Nickeas, that’s just how I see it, today.
What do you guys think?