Being a manager in New York is a unique animal. It's a totally different gig than can be found in another market and certainly isn't for the faint of heart.
To be successful and survive in this town, which has two baseball teams -- one of which is the most successful in sports history -- it's my contention that the manager must have had previous success in front of New York fans and/or experience as a big-league manager.
It also helps if the person is battle-tested in front of dozens of local reporters, enters with a strong relationship with members of the media or has experience working on-air, such as Aaron Boone.
Otherwise, the job quickly becomes overwhelming. It repeatedly forces the manager into a corner and eventually runs the person out of town, as we've seen with Art Howe, Jerry Manuel, Willie Randolph and now Mickey Callaway.
Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine recently told me that the job title is not accurate, and instead is less being a "manager" and more being a "director," which is what the job is called in Japan.
In Pittsburgh, there are three beat reporters that cover the Pirates, one of whom works for MLB.com. There are two sports talk radio stations, but a quick scroll through their archived audio clips for both of them show the focus has been on the Steelers since August.
By contrast, you will find no less than a dozen reporters and columnists in the Mets clubhouse from the start of Spring Training until the final game of the season. In addition to writers, there are also multiple cameras, TV anchors and producers.
Twice every game day, a New York manager has to face all of these people, most of whom are under pressure from editors and bosses to deliver more eyeballs and clicks than the competition. Meanwhile, the entire group can double in size when it's a big game, the team is contention or there's a special event.
Oh, and in case you forgot, there are 25 players, 13-15 coaches and trainers, a front office to keep happy and an entire game to manage before it all starts over again the next day for six to seven months of the year.
The media responsibilites also apply to players, the best of whom must answer questions asked in multiple ways each night by the same number of reporters that are speaking with the manager. This can be particularly overwhelming for young players that often have never faced this level of attention at any other point in their careers.
As a result, the New York manager spends a disproportionate amount time keeping his players focused on the job of playing baseball, while not get distracted by pressure from fans and the weight of constant news coverage. It also doesn't help, as Steven Matz told me in 2016, that much of what is written or being talked about is brought to the player's attention by local friends and family.
The point of all of the above is that, to be a successful manager in New York, it takes more than just being told what to expect when taking the job. The person has to have experienced it firsthand in some way, shape or form.
In Howe's case, even though he had experience as a manager, his affability was crippled by the frenzy of fans and media.
Randolph played 15 seasons in New York and coached under Joe Torre, so he likely felt prepared to handle the spotlight. However, his lack of managerial experience left him wide open to rookie mistakes that were blown to bits by frustrated fans and reporters. I also think he may have been too aware of how rough New York can be, so when the heat turned up, his sensitivity to criticism morphed to paranoia and it ran him out of town.
Manuel had experience as a manager after taking over for Randolph, with whom he was also a coach. For the most part he handled the job well, but got fired when a new front office rolled in to town due to losing more than winning.
Callaway is a patient, cool, intelligent man who is well-respected around baseball. But with no managerial experience, he looked increasingly overwhelmed and visibly frustrated with each passing day in the dugout - even when the team was winning.
The point to all of the above is that, at a time when the Mets have a terrific core of young talent on the verge of being great, Van Wagenen shouldn't hire a rookie.
In an effort to build trust and instill faith in guys like Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard, Van Wagenen needs to hire someone that players already know is a leader; someone they've seen hoist a trophy and wear multiple World Series rings. And they need to know that he is battle tested and can handle everything about to be thrown at him by fans and reporters. In having someone that has 'been there, done that,' it gives them space to mature and develop at a quicker and freer pace.
I'm talking about Joe Girardi, who is literally the only available candidate that hits on all of the above. Plus, for him and for us, it would be pretty cool to see him stick it to the Yankees by getting back on top and winning a championship for the Mets, which is something no one has ever done.
I loved Carlos Beltran as a player, but I see no evidence he is the right man for the job. That said, he would make a wonderful bench coach for Girardi, who is known for being a bit cold and robotic with his players. He'd provide Girardi someone slightly older than the players on their roster, while also having experienced the good and bad of New York as a player. Beltran's star status would also help market the Mets to players in Latin America, which has again become a priority of the organization after hiring Omar Minaya prior to the 2018 season.
In the past, the Mets have often stopped short of pushing themselves to the next level of success. Instead, they hold tight, cross their fingers and hope things continue on their metaphorical path. It doesn't work that way, though. This time around, I want the Mets to push even harder to be great.
This is no time for trial and error. Contending is for losers. The goal should be diamonds and pennants.
Girardi has both and can say to fans and to his players, "I know the way, now follow me."
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!