Manuel, Mets agree to new contract

Manuel, Mets agree to new contract

NEW YORK -- Addition by subtraction is the process Jeff Wilpon said the Mets might employ in the offseason in an effort to upgrade their on-field product for the 2009 season. The club COO applied his thinking to the player roster Thursday, but clearly it was addition by subtraction Friday when the club eliminated the word "interim" from the job title of Jerry Manuel.

Manuel is now the Mets' manager, period, having agreed to a contract for the 2009 and 2010 seasons that provides a club option for 2011. The agreement, confirmed by several people familiar with Mets developments Friday afternoon, was confirmed by the club late Friday.

"I am thrilled and appreciative for the opportunity that ownership and [general manager] Omar [Minaya] have given me to continue to manage the Mets," Manuel said in a statement released late Friday.

Negotiations had hit a snag of some sort Wednesday, prompting general manager Omar Minaya to speak ominously Thursday during the conference call that followed the announcement of his own contract extension.

"We probably will continue to negotiate with Jerry," Minaya said. He did so, and now the Mets have their general manager signed through 2012 and their manager through 2010.

Despite the uncertainty he expressed, Minaya hardly had seemed pessimistic about signing Manuel.

"We'll see how it ends up, but I always think of good things and good endings," Minaya said later in the conference call.

Nontheless, several players contacted Thursday night were surprised that Manuel's return was any sort of issue. They didn't regard Manuel as an interim manager. They assumed he would return. To them, he was as permanent as any manager in franchise history.

The Mets had lost 35 of 69 games under former manager Willie Randolph, when the former White Sox manager who had served as one of Randolph's coaches since the beginning of the 2005 season was appointed. The Mets won 55 of their final 93 games under Manuel.

Clearly, Minaya and the Wilpon family weighed more heavily the overall reversal the Mets executed than their performance in the final 17 games of the season. In that stumbling sequence, they squandered a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League East, as well as a two-game advantage in the Wild Card race. The Mets finished in second place in the East, three games behind the first-place Phillies and also a game behind the Brewers in the Wild Card.

"Jerry did a very good job taking over the club midseason, and we believe that he is the right person to manage our team and lead us to the postseason," Minaya said in a statement released late Friday.

The second-place finish, the Mets' second in two years, was the fifth for Manuel. His White Sox teams placed second in the American League Central in 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003, third in 2001 and first in 2000.

Manuel being appointed as the permanent manager was widely regarded as a done deal well before the Mets' fall from first place, and the situation hardly appeared to change even after the fall. Owner Fred Wilpon spoke quite favorably of Manuel on Sunday, hours before the loss to the Marlins that ended the Mets' season.

The Mets didn't announce Manuel's salary, But it was believed to be at least $1.5 million for two years.

Randolph, who had no big league or Minor League experience as a manager, signed a three-year, $1.875 million contract late in 2004. After the Mets finished one victory short of the 2006 World Series, he was given a contract extension -- three years for $5.65 million -- though it took until January 2007 for a deal to be struck.

Manuel, who turns 55 in December, had sought a three-year contract, according to one person within the Mets' hierarchy. The club wanted to limit his contract to two years. The option for a third season was the compromise.

Eighteen men served as Mets manager before Manuel. Four of the 18 never had the "interim" qualification removed. Salty Parker managed 11 games in 1967, Roy McMillan 53 games in 1975, Frank Howard 116 games in 1983 and Mike Cubbage seven in 1991.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.