Torre available, but Mets looking for more fire
Joe Torre announced Friday in Los Angeles that he was stepping down as Dodgers manager, but the fallout from that decision was felt roughly 3,000 miles away in Flushing, where the Mets already have begun to consider potential replacements for Jerry Manuel.
In those discussions among the team's upper management, Torre's name has not come up, despite his history with the Mets and great success in the Bronx. Even before Torre's announcement, he was expected to become available this offseason, but the Mets do not see him as the right fit in their restructuring plans this winter.
At this point, the two strongest candidates who could take over for Manuel remain Wally Backman and Bobby Valentine, but a person familiar with the club's thinking said the process is nowhere near completion. Plus, Mets ownership would prefer to have the team's front-office situation settled before getting a manager, and that is likely to involve a new GM or baseball-operations position.
In the meantime, the Mets failed in their role as spoiler Friday in a 6-4 loss to the Braves at Citi Field. With Angel Pagan scratched after arriving late due to scheduling doctor's appointments for his daughter, Atlanta scored all of its six runs - none earned - in the fourth inning. Jason Heyward supplied the big blow with a three-run homer off Jonathon Niese.
With one out in the fourth, David Wright's throwing error ruined a potential double play and that opened the door for the Braves' two-out rally. Though Wright's gaffe hurt, it didn't help that Niese walked opposing pitcher Tommy Hanson before Heyward's blast. The loss ended the Mets' four-game winning streak.
"There's no excuse for that," Niese said of the walk to Hanson. "One minute I'm winning 3-0, the next I'm losing 6-3. I tried to get through that inning and I couldn't do it."
Lucas Duda hit his first major-league homer in the fourth inning. It was the sixth by a Mets player to reach the Pepsi Porch this season. After starting 1-for-35 with the Mets, Duda since is 4-for-6 with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs.
"It was pretty cool," Duda said of the first homer. "I'm not sure where it went. I was running hard."
In sifting through some managerial names, the Mets have figured out their criteria for the position and that profile is a departure from the laid-back style of Manuel. Given the passivity the Mets have exhibited this season, Backman and Valentine would seem like quick fixes to that problem.
But the Mets are in a much different place now than Torre was during the Yankees' dynasty, and that Joe Cool demeanor could be a detriment in a second go-round in Queens. Torre also is 70, and with the Mets planning on a younger, cheaper roster for next season, he's not exactly the sparkplug who could fire up that type of club.
That constant comparison with the Yankees is another reason why Torre would be reluctant to return to his New York roots - on the other side of town. By now, Torre is over the nostalgia of his days managing the Mets from 1977-81, and his price tag has risen astronomically, as well.
Torre earned $45.5 million from the Yankees, and he turned down a one-year extension worth $5 million - with another $3 million in incentives - to bolt for Los Angeles. Torre's expiring pact with the Dodgers is a three-year, $13-million deal, and at this stage of his career, he's probably not giving any hometown discounts.