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Mets begin search for new GM and manager

A report by Sports Illustrated says the Mets

A report by Sports Illustrated says the Mets will not bring back manager Jerry Manuel or general manager Omar Minaya next season. Credit: Newsday.com composite

"We failed."

That's how Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer, began yesterday's news conference at Citi Field. With his father, Fred, the team's principal owner, seated beside him, the younger Wilpon briefly explained why the Mets dismissed manager Jerry Manuel and relieved Omar Minaya of his duties as general manager.

Less than 24 hours after the Mets finished the season with a 14-inning loss to the last-place Nationals in a nearly empty Citi Field, the Wilpons informed Manuel and Minaya of their decisions Monday morning. Manuel has an expiring contract, but Minaya has two years worth roughly $2.2 million left on his deal, and he will await the hiring of a new GM to see if he stays with the organization in a different capacity.

"It was one of those things that you have to do," Jeff Wilpon said. "We handled it in the most humane way we could. We'll look for new leadership to reinvigorate this franchise by approaching things in a different manner. We need someone who will instill and promote a winning culture through all levels of our organization."

In 2004, the Mets believed that person was Minaya. Two years later, the Mets came within one Carlos Beltran hit of reaching the World Series.

Since then, the Mets have been in a steady decline - two September collapses followed by a pair of sub-. 500 seasons, which the Wilpons considered unacceptable for a team with a $130-million payroll.

"As you all probably know, our family has owned the New York Mets for a very long time," Fred Wilpon said. "We've had a lot of good years and too many poor years. That's painful. But I must say that the last four years have been the most painful to me and probably the most disappointing in what is over 30 years."

That frustration had been building since the All-Star break, and Jeff Wilpon said Monday that the decision to remove Manuel and Minaya actually was made weeks ago.

Finding their replacements, and especially a new GM, will be a more challenging task. Complicating matters is the perception that Jeff Wilpon has a very active role in the team's baseball operations. The question of "full autonomy" for any prospective GM was brought up again during the news conference.

"It's a perception that is out there that is an incorrect perception," Fred Wilpon said. "The perception is out there that we're picking baseball players. We're not capable of picking baseball players."

But the Wilpons now are forced to pick a GM, something they have not done outside the organization since they hired Frank Cashen in 1980. The Mets asked other clubs for permission to speak with candidates by late Monday, and their list had been narrowed to about seven for the first round of interviews. That group is expected to include proven organization-builders such as Sandy Alderson and John Hart to up-and-comers such as White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn and former Arizona GM Josh Byrnes.

The plan is to hire a GM by the start of the World Series and then work with that person to select a manager. The Mets will look to keep pitching coach Dan Warthen and third-base/infield coach Chip Hale on the staff.

"We would also encourage the person not to come in and clean house on Day 1," Fred Wilpon said. "But take an assessment and then decide which people or which players, what he thinks should be moved."

As for the players on the current roster, Jeff Wilpon added: "I think they would have to come up with the creative ideas and the new ideas of how to move the pieces around. You can't just dump every salary onto the street. But then again, somebody with some new ideas might have some good ways to do that."

And what if one of those "creative" ideas involves trading a franchise player such as, say, David Wright?

"I can't imagine it," Jeff Wilpon said. "But again, if you're going to listen to the new GM and he's going to tell you it will bring back five pieces or something, then I guess you have to listen to it.''

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