Van Wagenen’s test will come under fire
There was not much to take away from new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s introductory press conference Tuesday afternoon other than saying he and the Mets are committed to signing Jacob deGrom to a long-term extension this offseason and Mets COO Jeff WIlpon will be involved as part of the “collaborative approach” of building a team.
Van Wagenen said the right things such as wanting to win now and in the future along with developing a winning culture. Those are buzzwords any general manager would say when introduced to the media or else he would not be hired, so those quotes don’t mean much.
Quite frankly, winning the press conference is overrated. It’s more about results than promises. What the new Mets baseball boss does this offseason to improve the team matters more than whatever cliches or platitude he was offering in his get to know you presser.
Van Wagenen will have to make an impression right away. The Mets apparently feel they can still win a championship with Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and deGrom. If that’s the case, then it’s on him to get couple of more hitters to make the offense better. He is going to have to get better relievers somehow and someway.
He wasn’t hired to build for the future. His job is to get the Mets back to the playoffs next season, so he will be judged right away rather than three or four years from now.
It will be interesting how he reacts during the season. He is going to have to answer questions on what is going on with the Mets if they lose nine out of 10 during the season. He will have to answer about Mets manager Mickey Callaway’s job status as soon the Mets have their losing streak. He is going to have to deal with temptation to react if fans and the local media demand him to do something. His patience is going to be tested.
How he handles all this will determine how good he can be at his job. HIs people skills from being an agent is going to come in handy in these times.
Make no mistake. He is going to have to make a move in the trade deadline to bolster his team’s playoff chances. The NL East will be competitive with the expectations of the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies being even better than last season, and one has to figure the Washington Nationals will have a bounce-back season after a disappointing 2017 campaign.
He is going to have to get that one difference maker that lead the Mets over the top the way Sandy Alderson did in acquiring Yoenis Cespedes on the last day of July 2015. The Mets took off by winning 20 of their 28 games in August that helped them win the NL East.
Also, he has to handle Jeff Wilpon’s impulsive behavior when the going gets tough. HIs relationship with him was why he was hired, so how he handles him will go a long way to job security.
A trait of a good general manager is having the gut feel to make a trade when it’s time whether it’s dumping his best player or giving up on a player with potential. Van Wagenen’s instincts will determine whether he is the right man for job.
Yes, everything changes from being an agent to the general manager. Van Wagenen will be noticed and scrutinized for every move he makes. His quotes will be examined whenever he speaks. He will be followed around by the beat writers and columnists. He had an experience of all that Tuesday afternoon in an interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa.
How Van Wagenen handles everything that comes with being a general manager of a Major League Baseball team is going to be interesting. That’s the unique part of him being the general manager. If he has success, he will set a trend for agents to get into the business of being a general manager. Baseball is always looking for trends whether it’s analytics or using the opener to start a baseball game.
Give Van Wagenen credit for this: He is embracing the pressure. He wants to make the most of his opportunity now. There’s a good chance he may not get it again. If he fails as a general manager, he will go back to being an agent for good.
He did fine in his presser and in his interview with Francesa. But the real test begins in the winter meetings and during the season.
There won’t be a honeymoon period, ever.
There never is in New York as first-year Yankees manager Aaron Boone found out this year.
Here’s hoping Van Wagenen knows what he is getting himself into.