So Sandy Alderson said late last night, after interviewing Chip Hale, that the Mets will execute the following timeline for their manager search:
Thursday: Interview Wally Backman and Terry Collins.
Friday and Saturday: Personal time for Alderson, as his father's memorial is Saturday.
Sunday/Monday: Choose a manager (and that means Sunday, of course).
Tuesday: Introduce the manager at a news conference.
From listening to Alderson last night, it's increasingly clear this is a two-man race between Terry Collins and Bob Melvin. Hale did spend a longer time with Mets officials yesterday than Melvin did, yet it sounds like it was more a matter of Hale getting to know Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, neither of whom participated in Hale's first interview.
Melvin's second interview sounded more like what you'd expect from a second interview: Follow-up questions, more specifics, discussions beyond the realm of the playing field.
Based on conversations with people these last three days, both here at the general managers' and owners' meetings and on the phone, here are some additional thoughts on the candidates:
1) Everyone with whom I spoke agrees that this is an uninspiring group. There's no instant home run here. Each of the candidates will suffer through some form of growing pains. But remember that the 2011 Mets figure to embody growing pains. The whole year will represent a test run of sorts for Alderson and company.
I heard from some Mets fans, including here on the blog, wondering why the Mets didn't go after Florida's Dan Uggla to play second base. The answer is, because that's a win-now move, and the Mets are not a win-now team.
2) Collins is a man of mystery of sorts, only because it has been so long since he managed; the 1999 Angels were his last gig. Yet he has strong advocates not only in DePodesta, who wanted to hire him to manage the Dodgers in 2006, but in Sandy Koufax, who has pull with the Mets because of his longtime friend Fred Wilpon.
People who know Collins describe him as a "solid baseball man," and many industry people predict he will get this job. What stands in the way? That 1999 season. Amazin' Avenue produced a strong write-up here of what went down. It reads like a baseball version of "Lord of the Flies."
3) Melvin assured us, in a brief interview yesterday, that he could dispel the concerns about him not being "fiery" if he got a chance to manage the Mets. But that is his rep. He's largely blamed for "losing the clubhouse" in Arizona in 2009, leading to his dismissal, and I spoke with a former player of Melvin's who _ speaking on the condition of anonymity _ felt that he was a poor communicator and, yes, a bit "soft."
An advocate of Melvin's noted that he simply clashed with Arizona GM Josh Byrnes at the end, not appreciating Byrnes' suggestions for lineup changes, which begs the question: How would he feel about Alderson doing the same thing?
Despite these concerns, there's no doubt that Melvin is sharp and presents a good face to the public. He knows what he's doing once the game starts. After watching Jerry Manuel run a game for two and a half years and say crazy things before and after games, Melvin would come as a welcomed dose of competence.
4) I've quietly rode the "Hire Chip Hale!" train, as I think he could be an interesting compromise choice given the doubts about Collins and Melvin. He's a growth stock, at a time when the Mets can afford to make such a buy.
Or can they? I spoke with someone who was around Hale when he managed in the minor leagues, and the person credited Hale for being an excellent communicator and for knowing how to use players.
The downside? "New York might be a challenging first job for him. He gets pretty emotional about all of it."
The Mets' thinking about Hale seems pretty clear: We like him a lot, but we can keep him here as a coach - and as a potential future manager.
5) As mentioned here yesterday, I've found myself arguing with the vocal contingent of Mets fans who not only believe that Backman will and should get the job, but who do so claiming inside knowledge of this. Yeesh.
Of course, this makes it come out as though the Mets have no use for Backman. And that's just not true. The Mets, including Alderson, like Backman. They simply think that, at this juncture, it makes the most sense to let Backman work his way back up the food chain some more. In two or three years, who knows?
Who wins? My gosh, I think it's really close between Collins and Melvin. At the moment, I'd go with Collins, but it's pretty close to a coin flip.
--Busy day today. Backman and Collins, Bud Selig will address the media and the AL Cy Young Award will be announced, which will surely get people going one way or the other. So check back here.
--And don't forget there's a live chat tomorrow at noon.