All the billions in the world apparently can’t change one persistent truth about modern baseball: Everything takes time. The Mets will one day have a general manager, and the new owner, Steven A. Cohen, is sure to find players who take a small portion of his fortune. But right now the industry is adjusting their batting gloves, stepping off the rubber, and checking the card with the defensive orientation that’s tucked in the cap. So we wait.
In normal times, executives and agents roamed the halls of a Dallas hotel at this week’s winter get-together. The pandemic canceled the event but the Metroplex local team released some news. The Texas Rangers hired former pitcher Chris Young as general manager on Monday and hired a rising star who had interested the Mets in the same position.
Young, 41, served as the vice president of Major League Baseball, maintained player discipline, oversaw referees, and acted as the primary liaison between the commissioner’s office and field managers. After Kim Ng of the Miami Marlins, he is the second general manager to have hired the MLB office this off-season.
Cohen, whose record $ 2.475 billion purchase of the Mets closed on Nov. 6, had pledged to hire both a president of baseball operations and a general manager to work under Sandy Alderson, the new team president. Alderson, the general manager of the Mets’ pennant winning team in 2015, quickly realized that teams are increasingly protecting intellectual capital.
Alderson has been prevented from speaking to some of his top targets. He cut down on the search and committed himself to taking more responsibility for baseball operations. But the team still needs a general manager, and he reached out to Young, a coworker Ivy Leaguer who promoted San Diego when Alderson was the Padres executive in the 2000s. (Alderson is a man from Dartmouth; Young is a Princeton graduate.)
“Sandy is someone I really respect and admire,” said Young, who will report to Jon Daniels, president of baseball operations, with the Rangers. “Like JD, he has been a mentor to me throughout my career. Out of respect for him, I wanted to have a conversation there; he asked me. He has an incredible vision. “
But Young stated that he is raising his young family in his hometown of Dallas, where he grew up for the Rangers, the team he made his Major League debut with in 2004. There was nothing the Mets could do to catch this train.
“I’m a Texas Ranger,” said Young. “As much as I respect Sandy and think Steve Cohen will do great things in New York, I belong here.”
Free agency means free choice, as Brian Cashman, general manager of Yankees likes to put it, a reminder that some decisions are ultimately beyond the control of a team. So far this month the Mets have signed a free agent, former Minnesota Twins aide Trevor May, for two years and $ 15.5 million. But others will have reasons of their own for accepting or rejecting the Mets overtures, and as usual, the players at the forefront of the market – starter Trevor Bauer, midfielder George Springer, catcher JT Realmuto, infielder DJ LeMahieu – take their time.
Cohen’s influence will certainly help the Mets seek a World Series title within his allotted five-year timeframe. Not just his willingness to spend, but his fresh vision, lovable fandom, and customer engagement can make the Mets a more enticing target. After all, the man spent $ 410,000 to first own a certain small roller from 1986. His heart is in the right place.
But for Young, at least, the place wasn’t flushing. After joining MLB in May 2018, he lived in the New York area for a while but eventually moved back to Dallas. Young also has ties to the Mets – he posed for them in 2011 and 2012, kicking off his only World Series at Citi Field for the Kansas City Royals – but the chance to revive his favorite team was too tempting to resist.
“These opportunities don’t come often, and I realize what a special opportunity this is and am ready for the challenge,” said Young. “For me, that’s all. I’m a competitor by nature and what the Texas Rangers mean to this fan base and community and what they have meant to me – that’s the most compelling aspect of that decision for me. “
Young is a great loss to the commissioner’s office. As a 13-year-old Major Leaguer who didn’t play until 2017 – and who happens to be 6-foot-10 – he had respect and a good understanding of the game on the field, which many players in the league office lack.
Young’s formal role didn’t extend to labor relations, but it didn’t hurt to have a long-time employee – especially when the sites are still unsure of the rules changing for the pandemic year (universal hitter, extended playoffs, the Runners on the second base at the start of the extra innings in the regular season) will be back in play in 2021. Young was a point of contact for Commissioner Rob Manfred for everything from the composition of the ball to the impact of analytics on the pace of action. These big answers now have to come from elsewhere.
“We are at a time when a lot of information is available,” said Young. “Has that affected the style of play in our game? Probably to some extent. And does it provide the most compelling entertainment value? That’s what the headquarters assess “
As for Young, he’s only going to be judging one team now – far from New York, where a rich and willing superfan is learning all about the peculiar, trotting rhythms of winter baseball.