PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jerry Manuel emerged as Mets manager shortly after 3 a.m. ET on June 17, 2008, once the Mets fired Willie Randolph at a Costa Mesa, Calif., hotel after the first game of a western swing.
Two years later, Manuel is the one needing a quick start or facing possible termination. He doesn't need his black-rimmed glasses to see the organization has accumulated no shortage of potential replacements.
"You know, perception would say, 'Hey, Jerry, turn around,'" Manuel said this offseason, with a laugh. "But I'm not turning around. I'm just going to go do my thing, and do the best I can. We have the means to acquire, and have, a good team. And I think if you've got a good team, you should be OK. So I don't have a problem with that."
Manuel is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. He has a 125-130 record at the Mets' helm.
What if the Mets are, say, 10 games under .500 in May? Then Manuel might be back home in Sacramento, Calif. And the title "interim manager" might belong to one of these men:
Bob Melvin. The clear-cut favorite in the event of Manuel's ouster, Melvin has managerial experience with the Diamondbacks and Mariners, going 493-508 in seven seasons. He was hired by the Mets as a professional scout during the offseason -- despite no ties to the organization -- and assigned to the American League East and West. Melvin actually has made his offseason home in Manhattan for years because his daughter was studying acting in the city. Odds: 3-5.
Terry Collins. Hired to run the Mets' farm system as minor league field coordinator after VP Tony Bernazard's ouster, Collins might be too valuable in that teaching role. But Collins, too, has no shortage of experience, having managed a combined six seasons with the Astros and Angels, during which he finished in second place five times while posting a 444-434 record. He more recently skippered the Orix Buffaloes in Japan's Pacific League. Odds: 4-1.
Tim Teufel. Players from the Mets' 1986 World Series title team are all around the organization, from coaches Howard Johnson and Randy Niemann on the major league staff, to television commentators Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Bobby Ojeda, to club ambassador Darryl Strawberry and minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator Mookie Wilson. If the Mets went the nostalgic route, none might be more suited than Teufel. The former second baseman is slated to manage Double-A Binghamton this season after spending four of the past five seasons as Class A St. Lucie's skipper. Odds: 5-1.
Ken Oberkfell. A major league infielder for 14 seasons, including with the 1982 champion Cardinals, Oberkfell earned another accolade this offseason. He led Dominican Republic-entrant Escogido to the Caribbean Series title. Oberkfell is entering his sixth season as the Mets' Triple-A manager, having led the organization's top minor league affiliate through stops at Norfolk, New Orleans and now Buffalo. In his first Triple-A season, in 2005, Oberkfell was named Baseball America's Minor League Manager of the Year. Odds: 7-1.
Wally Backman. Had past misconduct not come to light, Backman, not Melvin, was poised to manage the Diamondbacks in '05. Instead, days after introducing him as its manager, Arizona dumped Backman. He remained out of affiliated baseball until now. Backman is poised to take over as manager of Class A Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League. Because the Cyclones' season doesn't start until June, and because the Mets want to see Backman on his best behavior in the minors before considering a bigger role, it's a long shot that he would be tabbed to replace Manuel early in the season. Odds: 10-1.
Bobby Valentine. A commentator on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" after successfully managing the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan's Pacific League, Valentine is no stranger to the Mets. He guided the team to a 536-467 record from 1996 to 2002. Valentine would not be considered a favorite for the position, but his availability undoubtedly would create the most chatter on the talk-radio airwaves. Odds: 12-1.
A current coach. If Manuel is ousted, first-base coach and ally Razor Shines simultaneously would be handed his walking papers. On the staff, the top candidates to succeed Manuel would be new third-base coach Chip Hale -- who merited consideration for the Diamondbacks job that went to A.J. Hinch -- and Dave Jauss. Jauss, the new bench coach, served in that capacity with the Orioles the past two seasons, and also has coaching stops with the Red Sox and Dodgers. Odds: 12-1.