NEW YORK -- Outwardly, at least, Joe Girardi checked every box for the Mets. He is experienced, with 11 years as a Major League manager. He is familiar with New York and how to win there, having earned four World Series rings as a player and manager. He is, by all accounts, as prepared as any uniformed leader in the game.
But despite interviewing twice with the Mets, Girardi agreed on Thursday to become manager of the Phillies. The team has been deliberate in its managerial search, which could extend to a third and final round of interviews next week, according to a source. Whether the Mets simply disliked Girardi as a candidate or weren’t prepared to accelerate their timetable for him is unclear. In either case, he’s now gone to a rival club.
In Girardi’s stead, the Mets must find someone who can check as many boxes as he did. The team has held or plans to hold second interviews with Carlos Beltrán, Tim Bogar, Eduardo Pérez, Luis Rojas and Derek Shelton, per sources, and there may be another candidate or two whose name is not public. These interviews have not been the types of drawn-out, all-day affairs that many teams use, but rather shorter, intensive getting-to-know-you sessions.
The candidates are varied. Beltrán possesses a keen baseball mind and he can relate well to players, having been active himself just two years ago. Bogar and Shelton are respected lieutenants on winning coaching staffs in Washington and Minnesota. Pérez, who works for ESPN, is gregarious and he would undoubtedly handle the New York media well. Rojas, the Mets’ quality control coach, is well-liked in the clubhouse and a favorite of influential veterans including Robinson Canó. (Both Pérez and Rojas grew up in big league clubhouses alongside their fathers, Tony Pérez and Felipe Alou).
Those involved in the Mets’ search have described the process as extremely thorough, involving general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, his assistant general managers Allard Baird and Adam Guttridge, plus special advisor Omar Minaya, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and other high-level executives. The Mets aim to find someone not just to guide them to the postseason in 2020, but to remain here for five, six, seven years or more.
So they are being deliberate. For some perspective, the Phillies, the Cubs, Angels and Padres have already found new managers. The Mets don’t have much reported competition for the rest of the candidates they are interviewing -- including Beltrán, who said publicly that he only wants to manage the Mets. So with Girardi out of the picture, Van Wagenen can afford to take his time.
Consider it similar to 2010, when the Mets had interest in Clint Hurdle, but they let him sign with the Pirates rather than truncate their interview process to accommodate him. They hired Terry Collins instead.
Nine years later, the Mets let Girardi go to the Phillies rather than commit to him before they were ready to make a decision. The idea is to make the right choice, amidst plenty of pressure to do so.
Van Wagenen’s next move, whatever it is, will be one that affects the franchise for a long time to come.