Why Jerry Shouldn’t Come Back

Jerry Manuel is going to get a contract, and going to manage the Mets next season. Why, I’m not sure, though 99% of those who follow the Mets seem to think he’s some kind of a rainmaker. That said, I’ll speak for that one percent who did not drink the Kool-Aid, and who are seeing clearly.

He’s a Nice Guy
This is the reason Manuel is coming back — because he is a genuinely nice guy, and everyone loves him. He says all the right things, takes the heat off his players, and makes people feel comfortable. That doesn’t mean he knows how to win.

As Leo Durocher once said, nice guys finish last (ironically, he said it about Gil Hodges). Or in Manuel’s case, they finish second. Jerry Manuel has been a manager 7 times — five times he finished second, once third, and once first.

To refresh everyone’s memory, Art Howe was a nice guy, too.

He’s not a very good tactical manager
This has been the crux of my complaint since the beginning of the Jerry Era — this incomprehensible judgment of Manuel as some kind of a managerial genius. He’s not, despite the wild claims by Keith Hernandez and the rest of the pom-pom carrying SNY crew. Manuel made the exact same moves — dreadfully predictable, by-the-book decisions — that Willie Randolph was crucified for.

Manuel isn’t necessarily a bad in-game manager — he’s just not particularly good. A monkey can make the moves he makes — bring in a lefty pitcher to face a lefty batter. Send in Endy Chavez for defense in the late innings. Sacrifice bunt with no outs, man on second, pitcher up. Big deal. Yet if you listen to Keith Hernandez, Manuel invented the hit-and-run. Keith’s notion that Manuel is an overly aggressive manager is particularly alarming, as if anything, he was LESS aggressive than Randolph. The Mets ran the hit-and-run less, and stole significantly less bases, after Jerry Manuel took over — check the stats, and pore over the games again. I’m not making this up.

He cannot manage a bullpen

Bullpen management is grossly misunderstood by most fans and all of the media (not surprising, since few in the media have actually played baseball at a level above little league). Bullpen management does not refer to what a manager does in one particular game. Rather, it refers to how a skipper manages his resources over the course of a 162-game season (and hopefully, beyond).

It was no surprise to me that the bullpen failed in September — yet everyone else was astonished. Manuel was managing every game for his job — pushing every arm he had available to its upper limits and beyond. You can’t use the same five or six guys every single day and expect them to perform at a high level over a full season. They’re human. They break down. They get tired. They get injured. We’ve been through this several times at this blog, so I won’t go into the details.

You can’t have it both ways
I mentioned before on this blog that I’d love to have Jerry Manuel’s job — he gets credit when they win, is devoid of fault when they lose. Manuel has been lauded for the team’s remarkable climb out of mediocrity — suggested by many as the NL Manager of the Year — yet, the players are blamed for blowing a four-game lead over the Phillies as of September 10th. You can’t have it both ways … either it was the players, or it wasn’t the players. Which is it?

And that leads us to the final point …

Something has to change

If Omar Minaya sticks to his proclamation that the “core” team would return, then you CANNOT bring back Jerry Manuel. For the second season in a row, the core team failed mightily at the end of the season, at the most critical period of the year. Is it the horse, or the jockey?

If you claim it’s not the horse, then it must be the jockey. This Mets team grossly underachieved at the beginning of the season, and Willie Randolph was blamed for it. This same team played to its potential from July through September 10th, then underachieved again for the last three weeks of the season. If the manager can be blamed for the early season collapse, why can’t the manager also be blamed for the late season collapse?

After the trade deadline, Brand Manager Omar Minaya explained his ineptness inertia by telling the media that there wasn’t a match — there wasn’t a deal that could make the team better. He said that the Mets were better off sticking with what they had, and filling holes from within. In other words, he was saying that the organization had the right personnel in place to reach their preseason goal of “going deep into October”. This proclamation came AFTER Manuel was supposedly managing circles around the rest of the NL.

If the Mets had the right mix of athletes to make it into the postseason as of August 1, then they MUST have been mismanaged from that point forward. I don’t want to hear any nonsense about injuries — according to Minaya, the Mets would be able to fill any holes from within. He specifically cited people such as Jonathan Niese, Eddie Kunz, and Bobby Parnell. If Manuel couldn’t get those youngsters to perform, and couldn’t get any of the veterans to step up, then he can’t be commended for a “successful season”. Manuel’s job was take this team into the postseason. He failed.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. debmc September 29, 2008 at 2:52 pm
    And frankly, Joe, Jerry’s as much a part of the collapse as is anyone else, and his job should be just as much at risk, if not moreso.

    I’m thinking more and more that this team needs to cleanse itself of the remnants of 2006/2007 as much as it can, and move forward. Santana and Pelfrey either weren’t involved or overly involved in those years, and as I said on my blog, it’s time for Wright and Reyes to step the eff up, or get the eff out. Nobody’s untouchable but for Santana and Pelfrey, in my mind, and frankly, I’d rather see fewer brought back than more.

  2. Schmidtxc September 29, 2008 at 8:05 pm
    I don’t think the problem with the mets the last two seasons has been with either of the managers the team has used…I really believe the issue was the basic train of thought that the team was built with. When Omar took over, we had a pretty lousy team with two exciting young guys on the left side of the infield. The approach in free agency was to add high upside guys who if healthy would be a big plus to the team. Looking at the signings of guys like alou, pedro, el duque (I realize he was a re-signing), castillo (again a re-sign), and even castro (who I love having) you can see a common trend. If all of these guys stayed healthy for the duration of their contract, you get amazing value out of the deal. All 5 of these guys would be good value even performing slightly below their carrer average. The problem is that all 5 are constantly injured. Between the 5 of them they were payed 32.85 million dollars this year (which is more than the total payroll of the marlins). A team can live with one or two of these types of deals, but I don’t know of any other franchise that allocates that percentage of the payroll in such high risk players. It just isn’t a good formula for success. If these guys were to defy the odds and stay healthy for 75% of the season, I think its safe to say the mets wouldn’t be watching the postseason, but instead a solid favorite in the NL along with the cubs.
    The good news for the mets is that the 3 largest of those contracts come off of the books for this season. The commitment the team has to injury prone players drops to 8.5 million, freeing up over 24 million. I think the basic philosophy the mets employ in the free agent market must change this year. As good as it would sound to add guys like sheets, penny, burnett, garcia, orlando hudson, furcal, or bedard, I really think the front office has to avoid these kinds of signings. While they look good on paper, the money can be used so much more wisely. Just imagine replacing pedro, el duque, and alou with derek lowe, brian fuentes, and juan cruz. I’m pretty sure those three guys would have been enough to put the mets over the top and into the playoffs both this season and last.

    The mets have the players in wright, reyes, beltran, delgado, santana, pelfrey, and maine to be contenders every season, but those guys alone will not get them over the top (as we’ve seen twice now). I think it’s time to surround these guys with steady performers who will be out there every day, instead of gambling on high risk-high reward type players.

  3. isuzudude September 30, 2008 at 5:54 am
    I think Schmidt has hit the nail on the head. I wouldn’t absolve all blame from the managers, however, but injuries – and moreso the ineptness of not safeguarding the team in case of injury – has been the downfall of this team for the last 3 years. And that blame gets dumped solely in the lap of Omar.

    As I’ve done some preliminary research into this season’s free agent crop, I think Lowe, Fuentes, and Cruz are 3 of the top 5 players that would be best fits for the Mets. Not the most expensive or star-studded names available, but consistent performers and hard-nosed players. It’s asking a lot for ownership to sign all 3, but if I had my way they’d be the first 3 given contract offers this winter.

  4. ChickenParm September 30, 2008 at 9:38 am
    I absolutely agree with Schmidt and Isuzu. On the most basic level the core of the Mets has been pressured to “step up” all season which puts all the focus on the individual rather than team and leads to guys trying to hit two run homers with the bases empty as they did on Sunday. You need a cohesive team to win champtionships. Adding younger, hard-nosed, consistent players to the lineup I think will add stability which will filter through to the pitchers. That is Minaya’s primary responsibility this offseason. Give that team to Manuel and i’ll be buying grossly overpriced tickets to Citi Field next year.
  5. isuzudude September 30, 2008 at 9:49 am
    Look at the last paragraph:

    If I were Omar, I’d be on the horn ASAP. Byrnes comes with an injury history (tore his hamstring this past season), put he’s only under contract thru 2010, whereas Castillo is thru 2011. I also feel much more confident in Byrnes’ ability to bounce back well from injury than Castillo. Byrnes is one of those hard-nosed, hard-working players the Mets sorely need, he has a great glove and had solid wheels before getting hurt. He’s also right-handed, which is a quality this lefty-heavy team should covet. Allow Murphy to slide into 2B for 2009, but sign a capable backup (Easley, Mark Loretta, Nick Punto) in case he has a sophomore slump or can’t handle the defensive responisbilities of the position. If Arizona is open to negotiations, this is a no brainer in my eyes. Any method of ridding the team from Castillo should be strongly considered and embraced. Give F-Mart a full season at triple-A, and if need be call him up to ply LF if Byrnes needs to platoon-mate or if he gets re-injured.

    Anyone else have thoughts?

  6. joe September 30, 2008 at 10:13 am
    Castillo for Byrnes and then sign Orlando Hudson would be a beautiful set of moves …

    As for using the injuries as an excuse, I think that’s only part of the issue. Yes I agree that the Mets needed to do a better job of security blankets for Castro / Duque / Alou / etc. However, Tony Bernazard keeps telling us how fantastic the farm system is, and the blue chips and untouchables should have filled in for those issues. Further, Delgado, Reyes, Beltran, and Wright all played in 159+ games (so much for keeping everyone rested) — so the injuries were suffered by role players, not key players — except Alou (Church, in my mind, was a surprising bonus in April/May). Few teams in MLB are lucky enough to get 2500+ ABs from their top four offensive players in a season.

    This team blew something like 30 saves — you can say it was the personnel, or you can say it was mismanagement, or a combination of both. We’ve been criticizing the mismanagement of the bullpen since April, so I’m not about to absolve either of the skippers from responsibility.

    In this day and age of starters who go 5-6 innings, bullpen management is more important than any other aspect of in-game strategy.