Sandy Alderson's primary agenda for his weekend visit to Southern California was to interview three more internal candidates for the Mets' vacant manager's job: Wally Backman, Chip Hale and Terry Collins. But Alderson is not finished with reshaping the front office, either. He was expected to make a pitch to Padres executive Paul DePodesta during his visit to San Diego, according to a person familiar with the situation.
In the past week, the Mets have hired a new general manager in Alderson, who then convinced J.P. Ricciardi to come aboard as his special assistant. Ricciardi turned down a standing offer from Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and came to Flushing instead. With Alderson also pursuing DePodesta, the former A's general manager is trying to reunite his Oakland front office from the late '90s.
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DePodesta, another key figure in "Moneyball," is best known for his reliance on statistics-driven evaluation, which is at the heart of Alderson's roster-building philosophy. Even before the Mets made his hiring official, Alderson had targeted his two former lieutenants - Ricciardi and DePodesta - as crucial components to help in his decision-making process.
With the general manager meetings scheduled to begin Nov. 16, Alderson likely views it as more important to have his front office in place than to settle on a manager. He's already made two significant offseason moves in picking up the $11-million option on Jose Reyes for 2011 and cutting ties with Hisanori Takahashi, who priced himself out of the Mets' rebuilding process.
Like Ricciardi, DePodesta is a former general manager, though his tenure with the Dodgers lasted only two seasons (2004-05). If he does join the Mets, that could be a boost for Collins, whom DePodesta once tried to hire in Los Angeles. Collins also impressed the Mets in his first year as the team's minor-league field coordinator, a wide-ranging position that basically oversees the entire farm system.
With his Dodgers background, a managing stint in Japan and high motor, Collins, 61, is similar to Bobby Valentine. It's a comparison he's admitted to hearing many times. In spring training, Collins was praised by ownership for his boundless energy and enthusiasm as he constantly instructed players. With Alderson seeking a candidate with major-league managing experience, Collins also has that - six years total with the Astros (1994-96) and Angels (1997-99).
Backman, 51, was considered an early frontrunner when Jerry Manuel appeared to be on his way out. Despite a troubled history, Backman seemed to pass a probationary period with Class A Brooklyn this season, but the hiring of Alderson might have been a blow to his chances.
As much as Alderson praised the attributes of a "fiery" manager during his introductory news conference, his philosophy for that role - that of an obedient front-office instrument - doesn't seem to fit with Backman.
Hale, 45, also established himself in his first season as infield/third-base coach on Manuel's staff, but he lacks managerial experience in the majors. He was a manager for six years in the Diamondbacks' minor-league system, including three with Triple-A Tucson, where he compiled a franchise-best record of 91-53 in 2006.