Buck Showalter’s introduction as the new Mets manager is expected to occur Tuesday on a Zoom call with reporters.
Among the fascinating aspects of that press conference is Showalter — as a team employee — won’t be allowed to discuss his players, per MLB’s order during the lockout.
But the 65-year-old Showalter’s return to New York, three decades after he began managing the Yankees, is enough of a story for an organization that craved a proven leader to manage what has become a $264 million payroll (and likely still escalating).
A few questions to consider as we await the official start to the Showalter era in Queens:
How will Showalter mesh with the analytics staff?
Luis Rojas got the manager’s job before the 2020 season in part because he had an understanding of the information presented to him and how to distill it for his players — he had previously served as a quality control coach for the team.
Under Steve Cohen’s ownership, the Mets have moved in an even more technological and analytical direction. Showalter, during his Baltimore tenure, sometimes clashed with the front office over the use of analytics.
But Showalter impressed Mets officials during his interviews with questions about various technological tools that could help in his pregame planning. Showalter’s competitive nature is such that the Mets believe he will embrace the influx of information, but won’t hesitate to deviate from the script if the situation calls for it.
Whose hire was this?
Cohen clearly liked the idea of hiring Showalter from the start, but it would have been difficult to give him the job without general manager Billy Eppler’s endorsement.
Showalter and Eppler have a shared lineage, with their deep respect and working relationship with Gene Michael. It was Michael, as Yankees GM, who gave Showalter his break as a major league manager in 1992. Later, Eppler became a Yankees scout and spent many hours learning from Michael.
Already, Eppler had wanted to hire Showalter as manager with the Angels, following the 2019 season (he was overruled by owner Arte Moreno, who wanted Joe Maddon) so it’s hardly surprising that the GM and Cohen were in agreement on Showalter after two rounds of interviews.
What about the coaching staff?
Showalter and the front office have already begun compiling a list of candidates for various positions. At this point only pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is in place for next season.
As somebody who has managed in four different organizations, over 20 seasons, Showalter’s Rolodex is extensive. With the Yankees and Diamondbacks, he had Brian Butterfield on staff as the third-base coach. Butterfield, a highly regarded infield instructor, is a free agent after two seasons with the Angels. It also didn’t go unnoticed that Wayne Kirby, who spent eight seasons in Baltimore as the first-base coach for Showalter, recently left the Angels after failing to reach an agreement on a contract. Roger McDowell and Dave Wallace are two names with Mets ties who served as pitching coach for Showalter in Baltimore. That position is already filled by Hefner, but there is an opening for a bullpen coach.
Team officials are yet to discuss the possibility of Carlos Beltran as a candidate for the coaching staff, but it would hardly be surprising if the former Mets outfielder/manager is considered. Cohen, according to a source, was enamored with the Beltran hiring as manager two years ago. At the time, Cohen was in his first round of negotiations to buy the team. Beltran subsequently departed the organization, without managing a game, after he was implicated in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme. Beltran’s tight relationship with Francisco Lindor could help his cause.
The Mets aren’t in a hurry, and will likely take two to three weeks in completing the staff. The process will be collaborative, with Showalter and Eppler talking through the list of candidates before conducting interviews.