The MLB insider the Mets should hire to rescue the franchise

Francis Ford Coppola determined a singular word that embodied the theme of his movies, and that word would inform all directorial decisions from wardrobe to how to guide actors in a scene to whether a character should have a beard or not.

So “The Godfather” was about “succession.” “The Conversation” about “privacy.” “Apocalypse Now” about “morality.”

In September 2010, knowing the Mets were going to replace Omar Minaya, I fixated on the word that encompassed what was needed to direct Mets baseball operations.

For me, it was “gravitas.” The Wilpons were mired in the Madoff scandal. The team was adrift in not only bad decision-making, but horrible processes to reach those decisions. They had become a laughingstock. Someone was needed whose past would provide instant credibility and heft with fans, the clubhouse, the game and ownership.

I wrote the Mets required “a steadfast, smart sheriff to fix what too often has been a town without laws.” You know, gravitas.

I recommended, in order, Sandy Alderson, Pat Gillick, Terry Ryan and Gerry Hunsicker. Ultimately, Alderson got the job.

This time around, with the Mets seeking Alderson’s successor, my Coppola-esque word is “backbone.”

The Mets need a baseball operations head who will stand up to the worst instincts, habits and comfort zones of ownership, someone who through force of intellect, global understanding of the game and sturdiness of spine will force this organization into modernity and into maximizing a New York franchise with a large, passionate fan base, a beautiful, still relatively new stadium, and its own TV network.

My endorsement is Chris Marinak.

There is a decent chance you have never heard of him, and at least equally as good a chance that he would not take the job. But if I were the Wilpons — apologies in advance to Mr. Coppola — I would make him an offer he could not refuse.

Then I would hope the allure of a job with wins and losses and championships and the chance to elevate the potential of the Mets brand into something sustainably unique wins out over having perhaps the biggest voice in the commissioner’s office — short of the commissioner — on the future of the game.

Marinak was hired 10 years ago at MLB, steadily rising to become executive VP of strategy, technology and innovation. That title does not do him justice. There is not an important issue — pace of play, technology, scheduling, injury prevention, labor, team relations, etc. — that Marinak does not have a large voice in. Those who work with him describe intelligence, work ethic and — here is my important item — a willingness to take a stand on what he believes with conviction and with the ability to support his positions well. Teams have tried to hire him — the Twins, for example — with no success. You could understand why he has demurred in the past. Marinak turned 38 this week. He has been building his influence at central baseball, and if you were making a short list of who might be the next commissioner, Marinak would rank high.

Marinak did not want to comment for this column, nor did Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Within this hiring process, the Wilpons must appreciate that in their time as solo owners of the Mets, there has been no sustained success. Pockets of good have been followed almost immediately by dysfunction, dismay and losing. The constant in this has not been GMs or managers. It has been ownership.

This time around, the industry sense is that Fred Wilpon wants a traditional baseball type with whom he would bond, and it is why Terry Collins and Omar Minaya continue to have influence with him. The sense is Jeff Wilpon wants someone who will not impede his influence on day-to-day operations. There is a lot of talk of a compromise candidate in the end, and that is a compromise ownership itself would be wise to avoid.

The Mets require a strong, modern presence as president of baseball operations, and that is what I am talking about here — the hiring of Marinak in that role. He then would hire a GM with whom he is simpatico. Someone needs to be essentially the powerful executive fullback who deals daily with ownership to clear the way for the GM to implement vision and constancy to the product.

I think Marinak is uniquely qualified. He works with all the teams constantly, so he has relationships throughout the sport with pretty much anyone you would think of to be the GM. In fact, his reputation is such that his hire might make candidates who were previously not interested in working for the Mets, due to concerns about how they operate, more willing to at least consider it.

Marinak also has worked with Mets ownership, particularly Jeff Wilpon. He knows this ownership and he knows the other owners and he knows what is going on in the 29 other shops. So if Fred Wilpon says the Mets were too analytical under Alderson, Marinak could show the data that the Mets actually have the second fewest full-time analytic employees in the majors. Marinak also would be privy to ownership flaws, so he would enter with a better understanding than most how to navigate them. But he also would know — despite what many Met fans think — the Wilpons ache to win, which should be another selling point for anyone who believes they could set ownership on the correct route to do so.

Alderson was viewed as analytically driven because he was at the vanguard of the movement with the A’s a quarter of a century-plus ago. But by the time he reached the Mets, he was not as innovative or out front. Ultimately and unfortunately he got sick, and the diligence and energy had waned somewhat not only to do the job daily, but also to be in constant contact, and perhaps battle, with ownership.

Marinak, who played baseball at the University of Virginia and has a Harvard MBA, lacks experience in day-to-day baseball operations and reps dealing with reporters. Look, there are no perfect candidates. That is another reason this should be a two-headed hire in which the duo agrees on the big picture, but possesses strengths the other may currently lack.

The big traits, though, are having a large understanding of where the game is now, set beliefs on what sustains winning, and the intellect, endurance and backbone to convince, coerce and — ultimately, if necessary — pull ownership out of its familiar paths.

The Mets have all the assets to be a beast — that should make this job appealing even to someone perhaps on the commissioner pathway. The Mets need to hire someone with backbone to show them how to get there.

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