The Mickey Callaway era did not scare the New York Mets away from rookie managerial candidates.
That’s one reason why Carlos Beltran, a former Met and likely future Hall of Famer, was named the team’s next manager on Friday.
Beltran, 42, has an intriguing skill set that makes him a fascinating hire.
He’s respected across the industry and will command respect from all his players. He’s a baseball savant. He’s bilingual. And he played in New York for a decade, giving him a deep appreciation of what it takes to succeed in this market, which is no small factor.
The tools are there for success, and had the Mets not tabbed him as their manager, he would have been leading a team at some point in the upcoming years.
For all those positive traits, though, it’s the lack of experience that stands out as the biggest risk in this move and allows one to question if Beltran is the right guy at this time.
The experience factor
Despite his 20 years in the big leagues, Beltran has never served on a major league coaching staff. He joined the Yankees’ front office after retiring following the 2017 season and will transition from the executive role to trying to conquering the world champion Washington Nationals and NL East champion Atlanta Braves.
The Mets tried the rookie manager route last time they hired a manager following that 2017 season, and turning to Callaway did not work out. They thought he was a rising star, but his star burned out fast.
Callaway had previously been a pitching coach, and his lack of experience showcased itself with his questionable in-game moves during his two tenures.
While it would be unfair to say Beltran cannot handle in-game decisions better than his predecessor, Callaway at least served on a coaching staff prior to being hired. Beltran is entering this role even more green than Callaway had been although he is much better suited to handle New York.
This Mets team is built to win now due to moves made by GM Brodie Van Wagenen that have all been about the future while neglecting the future. The Mets’ window is estimated by league sources to be closing as soon as the 2021 season since key players can leave in free agency.
Beltran could be a quick learner who perhaps can help this team thrive in his first year or two, but the odds say the safer choice to optimize this window would have been to hire a veteran manager such as Joe Girardi — who interviewed for the role — or Buck Showalter, who did not interview.
Girardi ultimately landed in Philadelphia, and should he thrive with the Phillies, the Mets will be reminded constantly of what could have been.
Hiring Beltran feels like a long-term move for a team that is all about the short-term. He very well could be a great manager soon, and perhaps in a best-case scenario it happens in 2020, but it may take him a few years to settle in and by that point, the Mets could be rebuilding.
Rookie managers who have won fast
That’s not to say that rookie managers can’t succeed.
Davey Martinez just led the Nationals to a title as a first-timer despite plenty of criticism of his managerial capabilities. Alex Cora did the same in the previous season. Both of those managers did enter their roles with experience having served on a coaching staff before being promoted.
Beltran’s former co-worker Aaron Boone perhaps is the best comparison since he took over the Yankees after serving as a television analyst. Boone has since led the Yankees to back-to-back 100-win seasons, and he has handled the New York spotlight well. Beltran should do the same.
While Boone did inherit a team much closer to being a championship unit than the one Beltran will lead, the Mets should be in the playoff mix again provided they make upgrades.
The Mets are clearly hoping that Beltran can be like one of those aforementioned managers, and his Hall-of-Fame worthy playing career should allow him to succeed.
A strong bench coach would certainly be a great first step for helping Beltran realize his potential, and maybe, as a former player, he’ll have a certain feel for the game that just can’t be quantified. He also might be what the Mets’ clubhouse needs since he can relate to the position players.
It’s certainly possible that the Mets have found their manager for the next decade or so, but there could be some bumps along the way as he eases into his role.
If Beltran can prove a fast learner, this hire will look quick smart. If it takes him some time, and the Mets struggle, there will be questions about why the Mets didn’t learn their lesson from Callaway.
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