In an exceedingly crowded Mets front office, the dysfunction of the recent past can creep back in unless everything filters through Brodie Van Wagenen.
Think of Mets GM, Brodie Van Wagenen, like an octopus with eight limbs that can simultaneously perform many tasks with relative ease and dedication – as long as two or more of those limbs don’t get tangled up with each other due to accidental or intentional interference from the outside or another object.
The hiring of David Wright as an addition to the Mets front office makes sense, if only as a means to keep Wright in the Mets family following his retirement from baseball. But this hiring does add yet another layer to the hierarchy of power and responsibility in the Mets organization. Here’s a snapshot of those at the top of the Mets Baseball Operations:
Of importance is the listing of Brodie Van Wagenen at the top, and followed by the others, which if under the pretenses of a corporate structure for companies like Microsoft or Amazon, means they all report to Van Wagenen, and he, in turn, reports to Mets ownership, Jeff and Fred Wilpon.
Of note too is what we see within the titles assigned to each man, with only Mickey Callaway as Manager and Allard Baird as VP of Scouting & Player Development having specific responsibilities assigned to them. All the others come wrapped up in nebulous titles as Special Assistants in charge of what – who knows?
This kind of vast open structure in the Mets organization can work well – as long as everyone agrees to play nice in the sandbox.
But what happens, for example only, when Omar Minaya happens across Jeff Wilpon in the office’s elevator and mentions to Wilpon that he’s thinking of spending a couple of weeks in Venezuela, scouting a few players he’s had his eyes on. Hearing no objection from Wilpon, he goes ahead and books the trip – without running it by Broadie Van Wagenen, as well as a courtesy call to Allard Baird.
Nine times out ten, Van Wagenen would approve the expense and direct Minaya to report back to him at the conclusion of the trip. But what if Van Wagenen had another assignment in mind for Minaya, or worse if he had previously given Minaya a job that stands as incomplete, or not even started.
With this, and hundreds of other feasible and similar scenarios comes dysfunction. Unless, of course, Brodie Van Wagenen makes it clear to all that he is the filter everything must pass through. To each man under him, the message is if you don’t know what you should be doing – ask me. But don’t ever run off the reservation on your own, because once that happens, we’re no longer a team.
Like any manager, Van Wagenen can’t do it all himself, so he must delegate responsibilities, which, in turn, means ceding some element of power to that individual. And over time, just as with Van Wagenen’s relationship with his boss, Jeff Wilpon, a level of trust hopefully develops and the range of “don’t tell me, just do its” increases exponentially as a result of that trust.
We see a mirror image of what Van Wagenen and the Mets ultimately need to strive in the operations of teams like the Cubs with Theo Epstein, or the Yankees and Brian Cashman, where, in all instances, the face of the front office is the general manager, and no other person on their staff makes “announcements” on behalf of the team, or makes any attempt to do a walk-around of the GM.
Just recently, for instance, Omar Minaya made news, reaching the back page of the New York Post, when he declared that Yoenis Cespedes could be lost to the Mets for the entire 2019 season. Where did that come from? Is it something Brodie Van Wagen asked Minaya to do, or perhaps Jeff Wilpon? Or, was it Minaya operating on his own?
Minaya, Terry Collins, and now David Wright are some high-powered names that are easily recognized by Mets fans. When they speak, we listen.
I am not suggesting there is currently any friction between Van Wagenen and his staff. But, I am forcefully implying that for the organization to function, everything needs to flow for filtering by Brodie Van Wagenen before any action being taken.
Otherwise, the Mets will once again descend to the dark days of dysfunction we witnessed in the latter days of Sandy Alderson’s reign. No one is there to babysit Van Wagenen to ensure the Mets operate efficiently and successfully. Instead, Van Wagenen must do it himself, and even for himself, if he’s going to see the end of his contract in four years.
Off to a good start in remaking the team we see on the field, the pulling together of his team off the field is destined to be equally as important, if Brodie Van Wagenen’s name will ever be spoken in the same sentence as say, former GM Frank Cashen, who won five pennants and three World Series with the Orioles and Mets.
In a couple of months, we’ll track wins and losses on the field. But of significance too, we’ll also want to stay in touch with how well the Mets are operating off the field, with a specific eye on the management skills of Brodie Van Wagenen.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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