It has been widely reported that the Mets have finally gotten someone to agree to be their new general manager. It is Billy Eppler, who once worked for Brian Cashman with the Yankees and whose last job was running the Angels.
So it seems the Mets will finally have their man, perhaps as soon as the weekend. Now they need a manager. They ought to hire Buck Showalter, whom they need at this particular time a lot more than he needs them.
Buck first became a big league manager in 1992, when the great Gene (Stick) Michael made him the youngest manager in the history of the Yankees, and the two of them began to shape a team -- and a culture -- that would ultimately result in the Yankees winning four World Series in five years between 1996 and 2000. George Steinbrenner would fire Buck after the 1995 season, and after the Mariners came back from being down 0-2 to beat the Yankees in five games in an unforgettable Division Series.
It doesn’t change the work that Michael and Showalter did together. And Yankees fans who watched the ’94 team before a player strike ended the season in August will always believe that the Yankees -- who were 70-43 when the season ended -- would have won the World Series that year, two years before Joe Torre arrived.
The Yankees won 71 games in 1991, the season before Buck became manager. (They actually had the No. 1 pick in the Draft in 1991, believe it or not, which tells you a little bit about the state of the franchise at that point.) In 1993, his second season, New York won 88 games. I was talking to him not long ago about the state of the Yankees when he took over, and he quoted his father, William Nathaniel Showalter II, who had once been a high school principal in Century, Fla.
“He said that all tough jobs come with problems,” William Nathaniel Showalter III said.
It describes what he inherited with the Yankees then, and would describe what he would inherit with the Mets now. What he did, with Gene Michael’s backing, was make the Yankees credible then in the eyes of their franchise. He would do the same thing for the Mets now. Billy Eppler may turn out to be the executive who turns things around for the Mets the way Frank Cashen did in the 1980s. But Eppler’s hiring alone doesn’t make Mets fans think that things are about to get better for them, especially after the way the 2021 Mets fell apart over the second half of last season.
Buck Showalter does.
He hasn’t yet won a World Series. Neither has Dusty Baker. But there is a reason why he has been Manager of the Year with three different teams, and a reason why in his last job, with the Orioles, they had the best record for years in an American League East that sure did include the Yankees and the Red Sox. Nothing has changed since the last time the Mets had a managerial opening and first went for Carlos Beltran and then went for Luis Rojas:
There is no better manager out there who isn’t managing. The other day Sandy Alderson, owner Steve Cohen’s right-hand man, was talking about the club’s difficulty getting somebody to come be the GM, one that did spend an awful lot of time in first place this season.
"I think it's mostly about New York, and not about, you know, Steve or the organization or what have you," Alderson said. "It's a big stage and some people would just prefer to be elsewhere."
It’s a good thing Showalter wasn’t afraid of the big stage when he got the Yankees job in another borough of the city nearly 30 years ago.
When the 65-year-old Showalter’s name has come up for other managerial openings, you sometimes hear people reference his age. The idea that his age would somehow disqualify him from doing the hard-job work that needs to be done with the Mets, is hilarious. Or just plain dumb. Tony La Russa is 77, and discount his ’22 White Sox at your own peril. Dusty Baker is 72. Bruce Arians, whose Bucs just won the Super Bowl last February, is 69. Bill Belichick is 69 and is doing work as good as he’s ever done with the Patriots right now.
And at Madison Square Garden Tom Thibodeau, who has done so much to bring the Knicks and Madison Square Garden back to life, is 63. All of them are grownups. So is Buck Showalter, one of the best baseball men on the planet. There was a lot of talk around the Yankees last season, when they were struggling, that if the Yankees made a move with Aaron Boone, they should have brought Buck back.
There are a lot of candidates out there to manage the Mets. Buck Showalter wouldn’t be the only one. Just the best one. There have been other times in the team’s history when they needed a grownup in the dugout. Never more than right now. On a big stage he understands better than anyone Cohen and Alderson and Eppler are going to interview for the job.