Why Brodie Van Wagenen might succeed as Mets GM

MLB, Uncategorized

Mets

As the Mets move toward the finish line in their search to replace Sandy Alderson as GM, reports are stating that Brodie Van Wagenen, Doug Melvin, Kim Ng and Chaim Bloom are receiving second interviews. It has been a ponderous process for the Mets with rumors, innuendo and the familiar mocking the club must endure as a matter of course.

The inevitable questions about control, inherited staff, financial parameters and how much influence Jeff Wilpon will have will continue regardless of whom the Mets hire.

A total outsider like Van Wagenen might be viewed as a blatant attempt on the part of the Mets to reinvent the wheel, but it does make some sense and could succeed.

Let’s look at why.

Understanding both sides.

Any good lawyer will know how to make the other side’s argument. As a longtime player agent and co-head of CAA Sports’ baseball division, Wagenen has relationships with every major-league team and its executives. When trying to maximize the value of contracts and endorsements for his clients, he also needs to understand what the other side is thinking. It’s a short step over the velvet rope from being seller to the buyer.

This is not someone who will be parachuting in with theories, demands and expectations without having the faintest clue as to what really happens in the trenches.

He played baseball at a relatively high level.

Van Wagenen played baseball at Stanford University (as a teammate of Astros manager AJ Hinch). He wasn’t great, but he was serviceable. Playing at a Division I school in the Pac-10 – especially a school like Stanford that does not provide academic breaks to its athletes – is notable.

Many front office staffers are inhabiting a persona based on their environment. Chewing dip and carrying around an empty bottle in which to spit the juice does not make one a peer of professional athletes. If anything, it invites eye-rolling and ridicule from those same professional athletes. Similarly, uttering the lingo of athletes and trying to be one of them is transparent and deservedly ridiculed.

No, he did not make it to the major-leagues. He didn’t even play professionally. But as a former player, he will have a well-rounded idea of what it’s like to play and run a ballgame on the field, limiting the reactive know-it-all responses and insecurity that is inherent from those who cannot say the same and find themselves in an undeserved position as a front office boss, top-tier executive, or well-compensated analyst.

Delegation.

It is highly unlikely that Van Wagenen will be in the middle of every single deal big and small and interfere with the heads of the baseball departments.

The best executives are the ones who hire or retain smart people and allow them to do their jobs. If Omar Minaya, John Ricco, et, al. are part of the deal and will not be replaced, Van Wagenen can accept that and let them work without looking over their shoulder, sowing discord, and making passive aggressive maneuvers and statements to undermine them.

Managing the owner.

For an organization like the Mets, with Wilpon insisting that he will be involved, it takes people skills that a player agent must have to nudge him in the right direction without him knowing he’s being nudged. The idea of autonomy is secondary to this peacekeeping nuance.

Younger GMs are looking for autonomy and control in part because it grants them at least three years of on-field results being irrelevant. That’s three years of job security and blamelessness. They’re heavy on data and short on interpersonal skills. That is not an issue with Van Wagenen who understands the numbers, but also knows how to persuade.

The tactics.

There are repeated demands that the Mets tear the entire structure of the organization down to its exoskeleton and start over. Is that wise? With Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Amed Rosario among others, the team is not destitute at the big-league level. In the minors, the farm system is better than it was given credit for in preseason assessments.

Certainly, when there is a barren farm system, bloated contracts and declining players, it makes perfect sense to gut it and start over. The Mets are not in that position and hiring Van Wagenen is not only a signal that the Mets are serious about contending quickly, but that the Wilpons are ready to give him some money to spend to make that a reality instead of a bait-and-switch to sell season ticket plans with the same digging through the bargain bin, crafting an “if everything goes right” roster and hoping that it somehow works out.

Salesmanship.

What is an agent if not a salesman?

To take the job, he will need to divest himself of any agent-related interests in the players, but the relationships will remain in place because he got his players paid and because most players will be smart enough to realize that he might turn around and go back to being an agent after his tenure with the Mets concludes. Other organizations will know it too.

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At first glance, the mentioning of player agents running an organization sounds quirky for its own sake. In the case of the Mets and Van Wagenen, it’s a radical departure from what the Mets and the Wilpons have done in the past and, in the grand scheme, it isn’t such a terrible idea.

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MLB Draft Slot Bonuses—The Point?

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

What’s the purpose of a “rule” that is universally ignored and bears no punishment for its flouting?

The MLB Draft has a slotting system for bonuses with recommendations for the amount of money that should be given to a drafted player for signing based on where he was taken in the draft.

It’s well-meaning in a communist sense to try and rein in spending on amateurs and level the playing field for clubs who don’t have the same amount of money to spare that the Yankees, Red Sox and a few others do.

But how’s this work when there are no repercussions for disregarding the recommendations? And what of teams that try to be good soldiers and find themselves missing out on players that the big money deviants who roll their eyes at the “stop or I’ll yell stop again” aspect of MLB mandating and spend more than they’re “supposed to” anyway?

It has no teeth.

Check out MLB Trade Rumors for the number of players who signed and whose bonuses surpassed—by a lot—what was preferable to MLB. And it wasn’t only the first rounders either—AL/NL.

If this is some attempt at slight-of-hand by MLB by having clubs use fudging the slotting amounts as a carrot to say, “well, we’re going over-slot for you”, are they seriously thinking that’s going to work on Scott Boras?

Daniel Hultzen, Brandon Nimmo, Anthony Rendon, Taylor Jungmann, Alex Meyer and a whole host of other names who may or may not set foot in the big leagues all signed for a lot of money.

This slotting bonus concept is another MLB “innovation” that is useless in both plan and execution.

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Swift And Deadly 6.7.2011

Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

The MLB Draft and destruction of legendary tales.

I…I’m almost unable to speak; to fathom; to understand.

The new Mets front office was supposed to be immersed in Moneyball, objective analysis, and all the faith-based tenets.

I’m shaken to the core.

The Mets drafted…HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS; and worse, they drafted a…HIGH SCHOOL PITCHER!

Selecting high school outfielder Brandon Nimmo and high school pitcher Michael Fulmer directly contradicts that which he who appeared from the heavens to teach us the proper way to run a baseball team.

Wasn’t it Michael Lewis who wrote in the sacrosanct text of Moneyball that drafting a high school pitcher was “delightfully mad”; that it “defied reason”?

What happened?

Are they not “card-counting”? Was it a ruse?

I…I can’t believe in anything anymore. My faith has been shattered.

Leave me be. Please. I…need some time to myself.

Speaking of Moneyball, Billy Beane and “genius”…

In all seriousness, I wasn’t as sold on the Athletics before the season as others were.

Much like in 2009, there was a benefit of the doubt aspect to assessing the Athletics. Intentional or not, there is an underlying expectation of Beane figuring it out, somehow.

I had them at 84-78 and a few games out of the top spot in the AL West.

My book with said predictions is still available by the way. Click on the links in the left column.

I did provide warnings as to the fleeting nature of young pitching. Dallas Braden is already out with Tommy John surgery and Brett Anderson might need the procedure.

There’s no one to blame for that, but it’s symptomatic and proves my point that there’s no “genius”. There never was.

The A’s have lost 7 straight, demoted Kevin Kouzmanoff and manager Bob Geren doesn’t appear long for his job.

I can write the pending press conference statement for the eventual Geren firing if the “genius” likes.

“This is no reflection on Bob.”

“Everyone in the organization is at fault and the main culprit is me.”

“We feel we’ve underperformed and something needed to change.”

“We’re better than this.”

“I’m taking full responsibility for this club’s problems.”

Blah, blah, blah.

I can’t wait for the Moneyball movie; although I don’t know if 74-88 will be a selling point for the “genius” of Billy Beane.

Lenny’s new accommodations kinda fit.

Lenny Dykstra wanted to be a billionaire; he talked and spent as if he was.

People believed him until they were caught in the middle of his schemes, scams, tricks and lies.

Now he’s in jail on a whole slew of different charges from those he was arrested for last month—NY Times Story.

I doubt we’ll see Dykstra at any Mets/Phillies reunions unless it’s to hit people up for his legal defense fund.

It’s just as well.

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