Listen to Seattle Sports: M's-Royals live on Seattle Sports

Eppler, joining Mets, embraces return to `intimidating’ NYC

Nov 18, 2021, 11:28 PM | Updated: Nov 19, 2021, 1:29 pm
FILE - Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler watches during spring training baseball prac...

FILE - Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler watches during spring training baseball practice on Feb. 17, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. The New York Mets were close to completing a deal Wednesday night, Nov. 17, 2021, to hire Eppler as general manager, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. Eppler and the Mets were nearing a four-year contract, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not finalized. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Billy Eppler embraced the bright lights of the big city, promising on his first day as Mets general manager to pursue pricey free agents and create a perennial World Series contender.

Hired late Thursday by owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson, Eppler was introduced Friday and tasked with the responsibility of reversing an underachieving organization coming off consecutive losing seasons, management turmoil that included an arrest and the loss of a talented star pitcher to free agency.

“I’m willing for the right deals and the right free agents to go and get the players we need,” Cohen said.

He estimated 2022 payroll currently at $185 million, with more spending ahead.

“We’ll be able to take a little bit bigger swings in free agency,” Eppler said.

Alderson said last week that some GM candidates had no desire to move to the Big Apple because “it’s a big stage and some people would just prefer to be elsewhere.” Eppler, 46, embraced what he termed New York’s “rabid fanbase.”

“Big buildings. It’s intimidating,” he said. “It makes you feel really small. But if you go and you learn and evolve, the city starts to teach you. I think the city teaches patience. I think the city teaches resiliency and ingenuity, and there’s really no other place like it.”

Cohen and Eppler said during a digital news conference that money will flow. They need to replace pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who agreed to a $21 million contract with the Angels.

“We want to tackle the free-agent market as well as the trade market,” Eppler said. “In my dialogue with Steve and Sandy, it’s evident that we’re going to have some resources behind us. So I don’t think anything eliminates itself at the outset here. And I look at the roster and definitely want to address the pitching.”

Eppler spoke from his home in California, while Cohen and Alderson sat together at Citi Field. The Mets have not won the World Series since 1986, and since then have had three principal owners (including feuding co-owners) and 11 general managers (not including interims). The manager Eppler hires to replace Luis Rojas will be the 12th.

Cohen bought the Mets last November. He brought back Alderson and hired GM Jared Porter, who was fired in January after 38 days over revelations of sexually explicit text messages.

Zack Scott, Portér’s replacement as interim GM, was sacked following an arrest on drunken driving charges and after the Mets became the first team to spend as many as 103 days in first place and then finish with a losing record (77-85).

Eppler, a San Diego native, is familiar with Gotham from his time with the Yankees from 2004-15, when he rose to assistant GM. He moved back to California to become GM of the Los Angeles Angels, and was fired a year ago after five losing seasons. He was hired in September by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment as a partner to run its baseball player representation practice with Jim Murray and Michael Stival.

During Eppler’s time with the Angels, the team hired Mickey Callaway as pitching coach after he was fired as Mets manager, and Major League Baseball suspended Callaway in May through the 2022 season following an investigation of sexual harassment allegations.

Eric Kay, the Angels’ former director of communications, has been indicted in federal court for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death or serious bodily injury, charges connected with the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

“It’s an organization, and Billy’s just one person in that organization,” Cohen said. “We vetted it in multiple ways. We spoke to a lot of people that were around the organization at that time. We spoke to people within baseball, and we’re incredibly comfortable with Billy and his decision-making and his ethics and his integrity.”

Eppler would say only that the industry vetting process has evolved.

Eppler understands Cohen and Alderson may hire a president of baseball operations above him a year from now.

“This is not necessarily a one-person job,” Eppler said. “If that comes to pass, then I would welcome that opportunity because I know that it’ll be somebody that kind of looks at the world similar, or looks at the baseball world, I should say, similar to how I do.”

He cited the late Gene Michael, a longtime Yankees executive, for teaching him to evaluate players’ focus and movement, not to just rely on analytics.

Cohen said he enjoys interracting with fans via Twitter. When it comes to roster decisions, he says he defers to the baseball department.

“It’s not my job to dictate who the players are going to be,” Cohen said. “My job is to when they come to me, is to say, `Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s spend on this. Let’s make this trade, I agree.'”

And looking to the future, Eppler will help supervise a front-office buildup.

“The resources that I talked to Steve about being able to have here give me a really good feeling that we’ll be able to shore for some of those issues and really build a comprehensive best-in-class scouting operation, player development operation, performance science and analytics operations,” Eppler said. “Those departments will ultimately drive the long-term success.”

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Navy gets first win with field goal in 2nd overtime

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Daniel Davies, who came into the game without a field-goal attempt this season, made all three of his tries Saturday night, including a 36-yarder in the second overtime and Navy beat East Carolina 23-20. The teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime before Davies connected again. Owen Daffer’s 37-yard attempt […]
19 hours ago
Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Cal Quantrill reacts to a third base umpire call during an at-...
Associated Press

Quantrill 10th W in row, Gonzalez 2 HRs, Guardians top Texas

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Cal Quantrill won his career-best 10th consecutive decision, rookie Oscar Gonzalez hit two home runs and the Cleveland Guardians moved closer to clinching the AL Central, beating the Texas Rangers 4-2 on Saturday night. The Guardians won for the 17th time in 20 games. They began the day with a magic […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Vantrease rallies Georgia Southern past Ball State 34-23

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) — Kyle Vantrease threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and ran for a score to rally Georgia Southern to a 34-23 victory over Ball State on Saturday night. Georgia Southern (3-1) trailed 23-20 after Ball State’s Ben VonGunten kicked a 25-yard field goal with 12:39 remaining in the game. Georgia Southern was forced […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Liberty holds on to defeat Akron 21-12

LYCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Jonathan Bennett threw two touchdown passes and Dae Dae Hunter ran for the clinching touchdown as Liberty defeated Akron 21-12 on Saturday night. Bennett threw touchdown passes of 22 yards to Khaleb Coleman and 30 to Treon Sibley to put the Flames (3-1) up 14-0 in the first minute of the […]
19 hours ago
Toronto Blue Jays' Whit Merrifield hits a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ...
Associated Press

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night. The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Houston’s defense makes 2 big plays late in win over Rice

HOUSTON (AP) — Nelson Ceaser returned a fumble for an 11-yard score with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter and Thabo Mwaniki intercepted a tipped pass on the next possession as Houston beat Rice 34-27 on Saturday to retain the Bayou Bucket for a record seventh consecutive time. Houston pinned Rice at its 6-yard line […]
19 hours ago
Eppler, joining Mets, embraces return to `intimidating’ NYC