The Mets’ top priority this offseason must be to hire a new leader of baseball operations, and owner Steve Cohen must be prepared to make whomever he appoints the highest-paid executive in Major League Baseball history. In my view, he should pursue three candidates: Theo Epstein, Erik Neander and Derek Falvey. Landing a top candidate will be key if Cohen truly wants world championship-caliber teams on a perennial basis.
The Mets have failed miserably with their past two general manager hires. Jared Porter was fired in January just 37 days into his tenure, then suspended through at least the end of the 2022 season by MLB, the result of an ESPN story that revealed Porter had sent dozens of inappropriate text messages sexually harassing a female journalist. Acting GM Zack Scott, who replaced Porter, was arrested last Tuesday and charged with driving while intoxicated in White Plains, N.Y. He was found asleep at the wheel of his car at 4:17 a.m., refused to take a breathalyzer test and failed a field sobriety test, according to police. Scott pleaded not guilty to the DWI charge and has been put on administrative leave by the Mets. Regardless of the legal outcome of the case, the Mets are not expected to retain him after the season.
The Mets have been the laughingstock of baseball over the past few years with seemingly one mistake after another and a string of public relations blunders. They have systemic organizational issues and a serious credibility problem, which will not be solved just by making one good hire. Those issues extend beyond baseball operations, raising questions such as whether team president Sandy Alderson, who returned to the Mets with a respected track record after Cohen bought the team last September but has overseen the dysfunction that’s ensued since, should help shape the next revamp. Cohen will have to answer that one. That said, to reverse the franchise’s fortunes and change the club’s culture, hiring a successful leader for baseball operations is an important step in the right direction, so let’s discuss, in my view, the top three options.
Epstein, a consultant in the commissioner’s office, is the obvious choice. He won World Series with the Red Sox and Cubs, breaking the longtime curses that plagued those franchises, and one can envision him hitting the trifecta with the Mets on his way to the Hall of Fame. It might cost the Mets a 10-year contract and more than $100 million, but Epstein would be worth it. He’s a respected, strong leader who cares as much about low-level ballpark employees as he does an assistant GM. He’s a team builder who expects staffers to hold themselves to the highest of standards. He gives people room to do their jobs but demands excellence. He’s always learning, adapting and thinking outside the box.
He didn’t have particularly diverse front offices in Boston or Chicago, but Epstein has said both privately and publicly that he’ll make significant hiring changes aimed at greater diversity.