“I recognize that I am not that path of least resistance.”
Those were the words of the new leader of the New York Mets front office, Brodie Van Wagenen. As he was introduced as the 13th general manager in the history of the franchise, the hiring certainly raised eyebrows and drew criticism across the baseball landscape.
I don’t think being different is necessarily a bad thing. But with it being an outside-the-box hire, there comes natural concern.
A fresh approach can be a positive thing. Van Wagenen certainly comes into the job with his eyes wide open to the task at hand. He certainly made it clear that there will be changes and he said he has been given the autonomy to run the organization as he sees fit, including the major-league roster.
He did mention that there would be a collaborative approach within the organization as well. But, just because you were successful in another line of work within baseball, does not mean you will be successful in this venture. It is difficult to be a consistent winner in baseball unless you are a free-spending team. With this hire, the Mets made that job more difficult on themselves, not impossible, but just harder.
For Van Wagenen, he will embark on a job that he has never done before in a city and a marketplace that can be unkind to the inexperienced. Certainly, Van Wagenen looks the part. He is a smooth talker, good communicator and I thought, even though it was quick, had a good introductory press conference.
It was short on specifics, but the message was clear, he was brought in here to win. Great message, but tell me the GM that takes a job and looks to run a losing franchise. Put that aside, he was brought in to put a disastrous 2018 season in the rearview mirror and it looks like he is ready for that challenge.
Van Wagenen is young and hungry and looks to transition from super-agent to baseball executive in New York. Not an easy thing to do especially when you have never done it before or have zero experience in any MLB front office. He has a golden opportunity to do something that not many people get a chance to do. But, helping run an agency is not the same as running a baseball team.
We have not even mentioned the quagmire the hiring puts Van Wagenen in as far as being a former agent. Over the years, he has gathered information and when trying to maximize his clients’ worth. Now that information is being used in his new role. Current Mets like Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes were Van Wagenen clients and that certainly creates more than just an awkward situation moving forward.
Can he overcome that? For sure.
Dating back to his days at Stanford to his former position at CAA, all you hear is that Van Wagenen is a great leader and an organizational builder. That his drive and intelligence will lead him to be successful in any line of work. That he has been building toward this opportunity his entire life.
With all that being said, there is a lot that goes into running a baseball franchise. Scouting, the minors, player development and the support staff that ultimately leads you to sustained success on the major-league level. I am not saying that Van Wagenen can’t do it, but it is okay to question whether or not he can.
With many on the Mets initial list of GM candidates declining to even interview for the position, the Mets search for a new vision centered on an agent that they had great familiarity with.
Will he ultimately prove out to be a great hire? Only time will tell. Was he the best GM candidate that they could have hired? Nobody can say that.
But, there is always a question, even with experienced hires, if it will work or not. The Van Wagenen hire has more questions than most. Ultimately, winning solves all. If you can ‘win’ here, you will make it here.
Can the 44-year-old win with the Mets? Ownership, fans, and players certainly hope so and Van Wagenen believes he can.
What would ultimately make me feel more comfortable with the hire? Well, I would love to hear what his vision for the franchise is. What does he think a winning team needs to have. Characteristics, traits, talent and such. I get that is a drill down on the job, but specifics might alleviate some of the concern.
As legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks once said, “great moments are born from great opportunities.”
Van Wagenen, through hard work and success has been provided a great opportunity. With that, he hopes the great moments and championships will follow. Let’s see if the Mets gamble pays off.