So, to get you up to speed: Dodgers manager Joe Torre announces he’s not coming back to Los Angeles next season but cracks the door open for potentially managing the Mets. (He actually said, “That is why I didn’t shut the door,” lest you think we’re being lazy with that door metaphor.) Current Mets manager and dead man walking Jerry Manuel took umbrage, took some serious umbrage, saying, “I find it also curious when someone comments about a job that someone already has … I don’t know him from a personal basis. But when things like that come out, or are said, you question the integrity. That’s what comes to my mind.” Then Torre, having lost umbrage at the hands of Manuel, says he’s sorry and he doesn’t want the job anyway. So much trouble this umbrage causes.
First off, it might be time to dismiss this “no manager should ogle any other manager’s job” business. Sure, it’s theoretically untoward, at least if we were talking lifelong factory jobs, some outside contractor trying to rid an assembly-line operator of his job just three weeks before he earned his pension. But we’re talking about baseball managers, a job for which the one constant is being fired. Jerry Manuel is being canned at the end of this season, because he hasn’t turned the Mets around and because he has a tendency to make managerial decisions as if he were spinning Wheel of Fish. Everyone knows this. It is not wrong for Joe Torre to assume the job was open — which he now claims, unconvincingly, that he wasn’t doing — because the job is open. Manuel should understand this; after all, Willie Randolph, his predecessor, accused him of doing the exact same thing.
All this said, it’s unclear why the Mets would want Torre as their manager anyway. Obviously, he’s a local legend, but not because of the Mets; every time Torre walked out to make a pitching change, every time the Mets were on national television, every time he did anything, the whole world would still think of him as a Yankee. The Mets would be getting a castoff, twice removed. It would be a celebrity hire, grabbing the first hot name on the managing market, which is exactly the sort of trouble the Mets got themselves into with Art Howe and, to a lesser extent, Randolph.
More to the point: Torre hasn’t exactly been the most turbo-charged manager in recent years. His bullpen usage has been erratic at best, his treatment of Matt Kemp over the last two seasons has bordered on the criminally negligent, and, frankly, he has the countenance of a man lacking the time or energy to take on a project as big as the Mets job. Joe Torre is 70 years old and set in his ways, as any manager who has won that many World Series should be. The Mets, though, are not a manager away from a World Series; there are difficult, long-term-thinking decisions to be made with this team. Is Joe Torre really the man to sign up for that project? Is it really smart to hire a manager before you’ve hired a general manager, assuming the Mets clean house this winter? (Never a safe assumption.) Is Torre really going to change anything? It seems unlikely. It seems that Torre did the Mets a public-relations disservice by lobbying for the job in the first place, and then did them a public-relations favor by taking his name out of the running. This is not a terrible thing for Torre, either. It’s one thing to leave a team worse off than you found it on the other side of the country where few people are awake to notice; doing it in Flushing would require a lot more time to forget.
This winter will bring massive managerial turnover, and the Mets will have their choice of many former managers. Or they can take a chance on a newcomer, or a rehab act like Wally Backman, who desperately wants the job and might be perfect for it. They can also figure out what they’re doing with Omar Minaya first, before they worry about an on-field general. This Joe Torre thing was getting out of hand. Having it nipped in the bud as early as possible is the best news the Mets could have hoped for on a day they were eliminated from the playoffs. Now the real work begins.