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Where Mets managerial search stands as Buck Showalter interviews

For the last two years, the Mets were managed by a man in his late-30s. Luis Rojas celebrated his 40th birthday amid very un-celebratory conditions last season, as the Mets were already deep into their freefall by Rojas’ birthday on Sept. 1.

Following his dismissal, the Mets have widened their search for his replacement. While several of the reported candidates also skew to the younger side, the one generating the most buzz began his managerial career before several players on the Mets’ roster were even born.

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According to several reports, Buck Showalter, who was set to interview for the job on Wednesday, is the favorite to fill the vacancy in Citi Field’s home dugout. Showalter, with 1,551 wins and three Manager of the Year awards from his 20 seasons as an MLB manager, is the classic establishment figure. Apart from managing in a World Series, the 65-year-old has seen nearly everything the game has to offer.

He managed old Don Mattingly and young Derek Jeter in four years with the Yankees. After moving on from the Yankees and their gilded history, Showalter went to a franchise with no history, becoming the first manager of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998. After leaving both of his first two gigs — he resigned after getting pushed out by the Yankees and was fired by the Diamondbacks — the teams won the World Series in the first year after Showalter’s departure.

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Later stints in Texas and Baltimore crossed Showalter’s path with Alex Rodriguez and Manny Machado but playoff appearances came only thrice in 13 combined seasons with the Rangers and Orioles. If he does in fact end up with the Mets, he’ll have no shortage of star power again. One of those high-wattage players, Max Scherzer, is said to have expressed his preference for Showalter. Former Mets manager Terry Collins also lent Showalter a vocal show of support.

The Mets, who have not been to the playoffs since losing the Wild Card Game to San Francisco in 2016, also have five other names in their pool. Former Tigers and Angels manager Brad Ausmus, who was hired in Anaheim by current Mets general manager Billy Eppler, has already interviewed. So has Matt Quatraro, the Rays bench coach whose only managerial experience came in the low levels of Tampa Bay’s minor league system during the late 2000s.

The other names that have been connected to the job are Houston bench coach Joe Espada, Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren and Pirates bench coach Don Kelly. Of those three, Geren is the only one who has managed in the big leagues. He ran the show in Oakland from 2007-2011 and guided the A’s to a .470 winning percentage.

At 60 years old, Geren is grayer under his hat than either Espada (46) or Kelly (41). Geren was the Mets’ bench coach from 2012-15 and has a relationship with Sandy Alderson from that time, which included the Mets winning the National League pennant. This is not the first time Geren’s name has come up in regard to the Mets’ manager position. In 2017, when Collins’ retirement was initially rumored, Geren gained some steam and even drew praise from Alderson, who liked that Geren was “tuned into analytics.” That job ultimately went to Mickey Callaway, who was fired in 2019 and is now banned from baseball until the end of the 2022 season due to alleged sexual harassment.

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Espada, Geren and Kelly have not formally interviewed with the club yet. Showalter’s interview on Wednesday (like Ausmus and Quatraro’s before him) was over Zoom. The plan, reportedly, is for the Mets to complete the first round of virtual interviews with Espada, Geren and Kelly.

Buck Showalter appears to be gaining some traction with the Mets.
Buck Showalter appears to be gaining some traction with the Mets. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The history of baseball, both recently and historically, tells us that there is no right way to hire a manager, just like there’s no one-size-fits-all style of managing a game. Kevin Cash, the Rays’ two-time reigning AL Manager of the Year, is the poster child for experimental new age tactics. Craig Counsell is the closest thing on the National League side. Neither of those managers has won a World Series. Meanwhile, the 2021 World Series featured the oldest manager matchup of all time. The Astros’ most recent World Series appearances came with a 45-year-old A.J. Hinch and a 72-year-old Dusty Baker. Fresh eyes can see the game just as well as bespectacled ones.

Most of the chatter out of Mets land has Showalter in the lead. In his last big moment under the spotlight, Showalter famously kept Zack Britton — who had been a one-man wrecking crew in the Orioles’ bullpen — off the mound in the 2016 Wild Card Game. He instead summoned Ubaldo Jimenez, a career starter, in the eleventh inning. Jimenez gave up a walk-off home run while Britton and his 0.54 ERA were curiously left unused.

Not using a dominant closer in a tie game on the road is an example of the bygone baseball orthodoxy that rarely flies in today’s game. Stability is sorely needed, though. A fourth consecutive first-time manager (including Carlos Beltran, who was technically hired but never saw a game) is a risky proposition, which is perhaps why Showalter has risen to the top.

While the Britton fiasco painted Showalter as out of touch, he’s previously been on the record about his role in removing the “black cloud of unknown” off of analytics for some of the uninformed crowd he oversaw in Baltimore.

A black cloud has been circling the Mets for years now, and whether it’s through the almighty power of analytics or not, the path toward sunshine is getting wins however they can.

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