Apologies once again for being absent from the blog all day. It's just the nature of the beast. I'm running around all day, no time to sit at the computer.
The Mets have officially completed their first round of managerial interview, and they intend to conduct their second-round interviews here in Orlando, with the idea of having a manager in place by Thanksgiving.
I reported earlier tonight that Chip Hale will be a finalist, and we already knew that Terry Collins and Bob Melvin would advance. There additionally is a report that Wally Backman has advanced, although I haven't confirmed that yet. The Mets will likely make all of this official tonight with an announcement.
UPDATE, 8:58 p.m.: My Newsday teammate David Lennon has confirmed that Backman, Collins, Hale and Melvin constitute the final four.
Sandy Alderson said, "I think the field is wide open," but Backman, if he indeed a finalist, has to be labeled a major long shot. I still expect him to be offered a promotion to managing Class A St. Lucie.
Collins and Melvin have to be considered co-favorites, but I'm not ready to rule out Hale altogether. He seems like an excellent fit with Alderson and his staff, and he lacks the baggage that Collins and Melvin carry from past experiences; the flip side, of course, is that Collins and Melvin carry experience that Hale lacks.
In any case, by the time the Mets (and I) leave Orlando, we should have an excellent sense of who will be managing the team in 2011.
--Alderson said he met with Carlos Beltran in Puerto Rico, but it was just a get-acquainted session. The subject of a position change did not come up, and Alderson indicated that Beltran - if he's still with the team, which I'd say is likely - would get a chance to play centerfield in spring training. That makes sense. It's not like moving from centerfield to rightfield would be so dramatic that Beltran couldn't do it in a few weeks' time.
--Alderson said that he didn't expect a major revamp of the club's medical staff. I expect the big change to take place philosophically, as Alderson will be far more conservative with player injuries than Omar Minaya was.
--The owners have begun to roll in, with the GMs still around, too, and the Yankees' Hal Steinbrenner expressed optimism on bringing back Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
"We go through this every year. We’re now in our initial phases. We’ve sat down with Mo’s agents already. We’ve sat down with Derek’s agent and Derek. It was a good meeting. We’ll just continue to talk to them," Steinbrenner said.
I asked Steinbrenner if the Jeter meeting increased his hopes that the negotiation would not be "messy," to use his word from a couple of weeks ago. He responded: "Any negotiation can. Let's hope not. I have no idea. We’re really in the initial phase.
"…The circumstances are a bit out of the ordinary. We know what we’re dealing with here. We’re dealing with two great Yankees. But nonetheless, the process is the same."
--Brian Cashman has more interviews to conduct for the team's pitching-coach opening, and he won't disclose who else is coming in, but it sounds like the favorite already has been through the process. That's Gil Patterson
--The Yankees reportedly inquired about Arizona's Justin Upton, but a trade for Upton is a major longshot.
--Texas general manager Jon Daniels, president Nolan Ryan and CEO Chuck Greenberg visited with free agent Cliff Lee at Lee's Arkansas home Monday.
--The Yankees have reached out to free agent lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano, who pitched quite well for the Mets in recent years. "It's certainly an area where I would like to have two left-handers in the bullpen," Cashman said. "I don't know if we'll be successful or not, but we'll pursue that."
--Big trade: The Braves acquired Dan Uggla from Florida for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn. Victory goes to the Braves, as the Marlins were clearly looking to cut payroll. Infante and Dunn are useful players, however.
The Marlins are now turning around and signing John Buck to a three-year, $18-million contract. I like Buck, but that's a significant overpay and will impact the entire catchers' market. It makes it even less likely that the Yankees will find a veteran catcher to work alongside Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Jorge Posada.
--The actual meetings today were all about the upcoming negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement, set to expire after next season. There is confidence on the management side that a deal can be reached.
Expanded playoffs appear quite unlikely for 2011 and quite likely for 2012.
--Have a good night.