Jerry Manuel Making Them Sweat

Mets manager Jerry Manuel
Perhaps Jerry Manuel is smarter than we think … or could he be making a grand mistake?

Reports from Flushing say that Manuel has yet to accept a two-year, $2M contract offer from the New York Mets. Maybe he simply hasn’t checked his mail in a while … or perhaps the mailman put the offer in his neighbor’s box by mistake.

Or maybe Jerry knows he has the Mets in a difficult negotiating position.

After all, it was the Wilpon-owned SNY broadcast booth that gushed over every one of Manuel’s moves, aligning millions of fans with the idea that Jerry was some kind of tactical genius. If you listened enough to Keith Hernandez, you might have thought Manuel invented the hit and run. I think Gary Cohen once applauded Manuel’s grace in handing over the lineup card prior to the first pitch of a game.

Manuel’s “magic” pervaded in the media as well, as writers hung on every sound bite from him, and crafted stories about this managerial messiah. Despite the Mets’ second late-season collapse in as many years, the media absolved Manuel of any responsibility. Remarkable, to be in such a position of getting all the credit when things are going well, but none of the blame when things go bad. Yet Jerry Manuel pulled it off.

In fact, one journalist was so impressed with Manuel’s ability she wrote this:

Having Manuel in charge for a full season is one area in which the Mets could expect to improve their won-lost record without making the enormous financial outlay it could cost to fill their other pressing needs.

And to top it off, the article is titled “Mets Can’t Afford Not to Bring Back Manuel

Now if you’re Jerry Manuel reading articles like this in the tabloids, and seeing the results of fan polls supporting you on MetsBlog, and hearing Mets stars such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and David Wright sing your praises, would you be quick to accept the Mets’ first offer? Heck no … make ’em sweat a bit. Tell them you want DOUBLE that.

Funny how the tables turn.

The Mets’ front office have created quite a situation for themselves. They patted Jerry on the back all season, encouraged the idea that he saved the franchise, and now have to put their money where their mouth is. (Or where Jerry’s mouth is, you be the judge.) The Mets — who are extremely conscious of their public image and often make decisions based more on popularity than logic — would be facing a mutiny if they did anything other than cave in to Jerry’s demands, and make sure he’s locked up for the opening of Citi Field.

And what if Jerry makes the Mets wait until after the results of the voting for Manager of the Year are published? And what if he wins, as so many NY writers have suggested? What kind of leverage do the Mets have then? They’d look really foolish if they didn’t have the “smarts” to bring back the Manager of the Year … and the Mets don’t like to look foolish.

On the other hand, does Manuel have any place else to go? Does anyone outside of New York truly believe that Jerry Manuel can manage his way out of a paper bag? Or does it even matter? The Mets are in a situation where it doesn’t matter whether there’s someone else bidding for Jerry’s services — if they’re concerned about public opinion, they’ll have to bid against themselves.

This situation will be fun to watch play out.

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 October 3, 2008 at 12:49 pm
    I blogged my own personal take on the situation today, Joe. Check it out if you get a chance… :)!

    I think Jerry had better be careful, here; very careful. It isn’t as if the team actually MADE the postseason, and it isn’t as if Manuel has a huge history with either New York or the team. He’d better gangsta up, and watch his back… before somebody stabs him in it! 🙂

  2. isuzudude October 3, 2008 at 1:08 pm
    Rumors are swirling that if Jerry balks at the job, Bobby V could be his replacement,. I know a “Bobby V to manage the Mets?” rumor is obligatory every offseason and has yet to come to fruition, but who better to guide this bunch of misfits and choke artists than the master of squeezing every last bit of talent out of a regularly mediocre team?
  3. Taylor October 3, 2008 at 1:32 pm
    I generally agree with your take on Manuel’s tactical managing and bullpen management BUT there is something more important, much more important that a manager can do. That is make his players feel good about themselves so they can perform better. A number of players were far more productive after Manuel took over. I’m not entirely convinced that he was the difference but I’m leaning toward that as an explanation. A team will always have certain players play better in the 2nd half of the season but in the case of the ’08 Mets there were so many players that had better 2nd halves that I strongly suspect that Manuel had something to do with it.
  4. joe October 3, 2008 at 1:46 pm
    Deb, nice take on the subject … for those who didn’t see it, click on Deb’s name to read it.

    Isuzu, there is one other guy who can do what Bobby V can do, and he’s available — Wally Backman.

    Taylor, I’m an old-school guy and don’t buy into this crap about making the players feel good about themselves. Especially since they choked for the second year in a row. But they felt good doing it this time, I guess.

    I don’t think it was Manuel specifically that helped certain players play better, but rather the change of the guard that relieved the stress off the team. The Mets couldn’t play their best while Tony Bernazard and Willie Randolph were fighting for control, so once Willie went, it didn’t much matter who came on board, as long as it was someone different, and someone who Bernazard approved of.

    And as for second half playing, I saw Reyes crap the bed in September, Church come back a shell of his April self, Maine blow out his arm, the bullpen fall apart, and Luis Castillo amount to nothing. Tatis had one great month in July and two nice weeks in September. I’ll give you Schneider. Wright was just as good as the second half of 2007. I’ll give you Pelfrey, even though he started turning it around under Willie and the Jacket’s watch. I suppose I can give you Ollie. We got nothing from Pedro. Beltran hit .293 second half of ’07, .307 second half of ’08, so if you want to use him to support your argument, OK. Delgado obviously hit better in the second half of this year, but he also hit 40 points higher in the second half of last year. So I’d take a closer look at those suspicions and see if the evidence supports your case.

  5. ghost of doug sisk October 3, 2008 at 2:07 pm
    So Wilpon gives his buddy Booby V a call requesting him to pick up the phone and give silly quotes to an ESPN reporter about returning to the Mets. Why? Because management wants to create a bargaining position for their negotiations with Manuel. I guess Matt Franco and Benny Agbayani will be hitting 2nd and 3rd next year. Can I get a Timo Perez update?
  6. playingforpeanuts October 3, 2008 at 2:53 pm
    Wally Backman will not be Mets manager. That’s all I can say definitively, on the record.

    Bobby Valentine is well aware of Backman’s skills as a third base coach.

    Take from it what you will. Can’t say anything else right now.

  7. Taylor October 3, 2008 at 3:44 pm
    I’m not really making the case. I’m similarly suspicious of arguments about the coach/manager of a sports team motivating players.

    You’re probably right that all that was needed was some change.

  8. Walnutz15 October 3, 2008 at 4:12 pm
    Why can’t I post on here anymore??
  9. Walnutz15 October 3, 2008 at 4:13 pm
    There it is……Manuel’s been extended.

    Anytime I try to include a link — it doesn’t post.

    2 years — 3rd year option. Logical, and makes the most sense……guess we can put the Bobby V. crap drummed up by ESPN to bed.

  10. joe October 3, 2008 at 7:13 pm
    Walnutz, not sure why you can’t post. Sometimes the spam filter won’t let through posts with URLs.

    Two years and an option is really two years, isn’t it?

    Oh well …. I was hoping for a change in the leadership. Guess we have at least two more collapses to look forward to. Yee ha.

  11. isuzudude October 3, 2008 at 8:11 pm
    Haha…and I thought I was the doubtful one.

    By the way, I routinely have the same problem as Walnutz described. I found the best way around it is instead of copying the link of a website directly from the URL window (or whatever the name is of the bar where the web address is displayed), just retype the web address inside the comment box. So far it’s fixed all problems I’ve ever encountered.

  12. mikes_mets October 4, 2008 at 3:41 pm
    Joe, do you really think it’s fair to call Cohen, Darling and Keith the “Wilpon-owned SNY broadcast booth that gushed over every one of Manuel’s moves.” That implies that the reason they’re doing it is because they work for Wilpon. Whatever else you can say about them, I don’t believe that was motivation for the way they gushed over Jerry Manuel. Considering you and I were both unfairly tarred by CSTB for taking part in Cerrone’s little blogger outing at Shea, maybe you want to avoid that kind of unfair assertion.

    I do agree with you that Manuel did get too much credit for aggressiveness at times and actually managed like an AL manager for the most part. But Willie did the same thing, and back in 2005 when he was the breath of fresh air replacing Art Howe everyone gushed about “Willie Ball.”

    The bottom line is that Manuel got what he reasonably earned — a 2-year deal and a chance to prove he can take the next step with this team. Any more than 2 years would have been silly, and any less would have undermined him.

    As for the booth, they may fall victim at times to overpraising someone who they genuinely like, but they do a good job of remaining objective. Did you ever see a Braves telecast, for God’s sake?

  13. joe October 4, 2008 at 4:10 pm
    Mike, I probably am being unfair …. but then, how often am I fair? 🙂

    Point well taken …. you’re right, back when Willie came on board, he was probably gushed over since anything was better than Art Howe. But, back then there was no SNY, and I honestly don’t remember.

    It could be coincidental that the SNY announcers were overtly, and overly, enthusiastic about their praise for Jerry Manuel.

    I agree that the Mets announcers are very objective, and in fact I thoroughly enjoy listening to them call games. In my opinion, it is one of the best announcing teams in Mets history, and one of the best in all of MLB right now.

    Forget the Braves — listen to a Cardinals or Cubs broadcast. Ron Santo and Mike Shannon are easily the worst color commentators in MLB.

    By the way, thanks for pointing out the CSTB post — I had no idea it existed until just now! Good thing …. I would have ripped GC a new arsehole …. perhaps I still will.

  14. mikes_mets October 6, 2008 at 3:42 pm
    It’s not worth it with CSTB. Joe. If anything came out of that for me, however, it’s that I’m even more careful than ever to say exactly what I mean when I talk about someone. I think the gushing over Manuel has everything to do with the fact that people who cover the team just genuinely like him rather than kowtowing to Fred and Jeff.

    I was tough on Mike Francesa on my blog one day last week, but I’d be very comfortable saying the same things to his face and defending them if the situation arose. I think that’s a good rule of thumb. You’d be comfortable telling Gary, Keith and/or Ron to their faces that you thought they were overstating what Manuel brings to the table, but I doubt you feel comfortable telling them that they were sucking up to their bosses when they were doing it.

    I do agree with you that Jerry is the quintessential AL manager and doesn’t choose to play a very aggressive game on the basepaths. I’d love to see that change a little.

    I wish they looked around a little for a manager, but I undertand that would have been a slap in the face for Manuel. Still, I’m glad they only gave him 2 years. To my mind he still has something to prove.

  15. isuzudude October 7, 2008 at 8:08 am
    1. What is CSTB?
    2. I think the worst play-by-play crew works for the White Sox. They sound suicidal whenever the White Sox lose, and openly root for the team during the telecast.
  16. joe October 7, 2008 at 11:27 am
    Mike, I like your rule of thumb … considering I actually run into personalities once in a while, I should probably be more careful about what I write.

    I met Ron in March and once I explained I was a blogger, he made a face like he just drank sour milk and quickly walked away. But if I meet him again — or Gary or Keith — and the circumstances are right, I would definitely ask them — off the record — if they really believe Manuel invented the hit and run. (The circumstances would likely require several pints of Guinness on everyone’s part.)

    isuzudude – CSTB is “Can’t Stop the Bleeding”. A blogger there thought that I, and my fellow bloggers, somehow “sold out” by attending a game hosted by Matt Cerrone in the SNY suite — he termed us “stooges”. Which is kind of funny — the guy clearly NEVER reads MetsToday. It’s really not worth my time to argue with an ignoramus, so I’m glad I missed it. Mike did a great job of standing up for us in my absence.

    The ChiSox crew is pretty bad, but Ron Santo with the Cubs is ridiculous. There are points in games where he just stops providing commentary because the Cubs are losing. I guess Cubs fans don’t mind it.