ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Mets' first round of managerial interviews is complete. The second round may soon be complete, as well. The Mets announced on Tuesday that have whittled their initial list of 10 candidates down to four finalists: Terry Collins, Bob Melvin, Wally Backman and Chip Hale. General manager Sandy Alderson hopes to conduct callback interviews with those four this week at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, with the aim of completing the entire interview process by Friday.
If logistics allow, the Mets could name their new manager as soon as next week. "It's very possible," Alderson said, "that we'd have a manager announced by Thanksgiving." And despite an overriding perception that Collins is the clear favorite for the position, Alderson insisted on Tuesday that he has not yet made any decisions. "I think the field is wide open," he said. "Certainly it's not a foregone conclusion or we wouldn't be wasting our time with the number of candidates." "We're very excited," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "I've worked with each one of them and I'm really happy with the way it's worked out. There are some veteran guys, some new guys, kind of a good list." Collins, 61, is coming off his first season as the Mets' Minor League field coordinator. He was 444-434 in six seasons managing the Astros (1994-96) and Angels (1997-99), finishing in second place in five of those six years. Helping his cause is his big league experience, along with the fact that he has worked closely in the past with Paul DePodesta, the Mets' new vice president of player development and amateur scouting. Melvin, 49, saw marginally more success than Collins in seven years as a big league manager -- two with the Mariners and five with the D-backs. Posting three winning seasons but an overall losing record, he guided Arizona to the National League Championship Series in 2007. More recently, he has worked as a scout for the Mets -- and that familiarity with the organization could serve him well in the second round of the interview process. Hale, 46, served as third-base coach under manager Jerry Manuel last season. An accomplished Minor League manager in Arizona, Hale has never managed in the big leagues. The Mets plan to offer him another job in some capacity, if not manager. Backman, 51, led Class A Brooklyn to a New York-Penn League division title this year in his first season with the team. His lone Major League managerial experience lasted four days back in 2004, at which point the D-backs dismissed him amid reports regarding his financial and legal troubles. The former Mets second baseman and World Series champion later managed in independent leagues for 2 1/2 seasons before landing back in the organization. All four men worked within the Mets organization last season. "We weren't looking at any set group saying they had to have Mets ties, but that's kind of the way it worked out," Ricco said. "And we're fine with that." The second-round interviews, which could begin as soon as Wednesday, will include all five Mets officials who traveled to Orlando: Alderson, his assistants Ricco, DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. The process may also include principal owner Fred Wilpon, who is due in Orlando on Wednesday. Ricco was working Tuesday night to schedule interviews with Melvin, Backman, Hale and Collins, who must fly in from New York, Oregon, Arizona and the Dominican Republic, respectively. When they arrive, the Mets will gauge all aspects of each candidate -- not merely their resumes and experience, but also their personalities and creativity. On several occasions over the past month, Alderson has indicated his preference for a fiery on-field manager. But that, like big league experience, is merely a preferred attribute -- not necessarily a critical factor. "In dealing with losing, some people feel that you have to be demonstrably angry or you apparently don't care," Alderson said. "I don't believe that. Can a fiery manager provide those leadership qualities that we're looking for? Yeah. Can a less fiery manager do the same thing? Yeah, I think so. In a sense, a fiery manager is more fun. But I don't think that is a necessary ingredient for good leadership in the dugout."