The one Brodie Van Wagenen box Joe Girardi couldn’t check

The one Brodie Van Wagenen box Joe Girardi couldn’t check

There were always two interview processes ongoing as the Mets determine their next manager. There has been one involving Joe Girardi and one involving everyone else.

Brodie Van Wagenen’s penchant is to be methodical. Those who have been briefed about the search have noted the thoroughness. They have said how the Mets general manager has allowed key lieutenants such as Allard Baird, Adam Guttridge and Omar Minaya to be more than members of the choir. He wants involvement and detail.

Van Wagenen would have exited his preferred method for one reason — if he had decided at any point that he had to have Girardi. That Girardi is going to be the Phillies manager is a wordless public statement that Van Wagenen never positively, absolutely had to have Girardi.

A long-time powerful agent, Van Wagenen understands both the leverage of multiple suitors and the power of timing. It was not a well-kept secret in the industry that Girardi had moved to the top of the Phillies’ list, ahead of Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter. Van Wagenen knew this when he met with Girardi for a second time Tuesday. Yet he nevertheless met Eduardo Perez on Wednesday and had Nationals coach Tim Bogar scheduled for a World Series off-day Thursday. So Girardi did not move Van Wagenen off his process. What was coming from the Mets was if Girardi went somewhere else, so be it.

The Mets and Phillies were having very different interview processes. Philadelphia had a narrow group of only veteran managers and was moving quickly. Girardi was the only publicly known Mets candidate among the eight who interviewed with major league managing experience (not counting interim stints).

The Mets have stayed publicly mum as they have traversed through weeks of trying to find Mickey Callaway’s successor. But what everyone briefed by the Mets seemed in accordance with is the team was searching for a reason to hire Girardi. He checked the most boxes of any candidate, namely because he had “championship manager in New York” on his resume already. No one for one second believes Girardi is anything but an ace for three hours in the dugout when the game is ongoing.

But something else that has slipped out is this: Van Wagenen is hoping that he is not picking the Mets manager for just a two- or three-year contract. He wants this to be the person who manages the team for a long time. Which means being his partner for a long time. And so he was looking for someone with whom he felt not just comfort, but a bond moving forward. Someone who would be a confidant and sounding board, someone with whom he would form easy union in good times and especially bad.

That was always going to be the hard box to check with Girardi. He can lack outward warmth and humor; he can project “smartest guy in the room-ism”; his face so often betrays what he will not verbalize, from tension to condescension. That Girardi is the Phillies manager — a manager in the NL East, no less — screams that the bond was never formed.

Look, we can learn at some point that it was Girardi who was using the Mets. He called the Yankees his dream managing job after the 2007 season and kept negotiating with the Dodgers as leverage until signing to succeed Joe Torre. But unless that is proven to me, I will believe Girardi preferred the Mets job. He gushed about the personnel on national TV a few times this year and has always come off as a creature of habit, and he knows New York well.

If that is the case, Van Wagenen has again shown he is not risk-averse. He won his job by saying no to a rebuild. He shocked by acquiring Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline rather than selling. You can accuse Van Wagenen of many things, but not of being an idiot. He knows he works for ownership that greatly cares about what the media and fans want — and Girardi was the people’s choice.

The easiest thing was to move him to the top of the list and tell Perez, Bogar, Carlos Beltran, Luis Rojas and Derek Shelton thanks, but we are going with the experienced guy. Instead, he has let the championship manager go elsewhere in the division. The Mets will face Girardi 19 times a year. There are haunting possibilities here now that can consume the rest of Van Wagenen’s regime.

Of course, all that really matters is being right, not popular — that you are picking Phil Simms through the boos of the fans and the dubiety of reporters. Still, the pressure clearly elevates on Van Wagenen. But just a reminder that last offseason, Bryce Harper jumped within the NL East from the Nationals to the Phillies, in what felt like a blow to one division team and a boon for another. Philadelphia missed the playoffs again. Washington might win the World Series.

Van Wagenen did not do what was popular — just let Girardi win that individual process within the Mets’ larger process. Instead, the Mets’ methodical search persists.

More than ever, Brodie Van Wagenen had better be right.

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