Goodbye Conti Equals Goodbye Pedro?
The Mets announced that Howard Johnson would remain their batting coach for 2009, Dan Warthen will continue as the pitching coach, both Sandy Alomars would return to the staff, Razor Shines will take over as the third base coach, and Randy Niemann will replace Guy Conti as bullpen coach. The lucrative and vital position of first base coach is still open — and it’s no wonder, as the organization should take their time to make sure the absolute correct candidate is chosen for such a key role.
It was also announced that Conti and Luis Aguayo would be reassigned within the organization.
What could be interpreted by the demotion of Guy Conti — and it IS a demotion, no matter which way you slice it — is that Pedro Martinez also will not be returning. Conti had been originally promoted from the Mets’ farm system at the request of Pedro, who had worked with the coach as a member of the Dodgers.
Of course, it could just be a signal that if Pedro returns, he won’t wield the same influence in the organization as before. Based on Pedro’s performance the last few years, it’s understandable. At the same time, Conti’s presence was nothing but positive during his tenure, with several pitchers going to him for advice and guidance. He, like Warthen, was the “anti-Jacket”, a coach who had a somewhat opposite philosophy from Rick Peterson. Pitchers who didn’t buy in to Peterson’s approach could go to Conti (and Pedro) for support.
That said, it’s probably redundant to have Warthen and Conti at the big-league level — and I’m hoping he’ll accept a reassignment and work with the Mets’ young prospects.
As for Luis Aguayo, no one’s sure how or why he was handed the third base coaching job in the first place — he won’t be missed. Tony Bernazard will likely make sure his countryman is placed in a position in the lower ranks where he can succeed.
Randy Niemann‘s return to the big club is not a shocker, but intriguing. One of his main jobs was rehabilitating pitchers after injuries — and has been given high marks for his work in that role. I’m curious to know if Niemann will be working with John Maine over the winter. Maybe part of Niemann being promoted has to do with keeping an eye on Maine — who I maintain MUST correct his mechanics to avoid another injury.
Razor Shines should be a fun addition to the coaching squad. Besides having a great baseball name, he was a legend in the minors — a real-life Crash Davis in AAA during the 1980s. From all reports, he’s a great guy who has earned this promotion to the bigs. Though he’s won over 500 games as a minor league manager, he has never been seriously considered for a big-league job.
The return of the Alomars is fine with me — they seem to be good guys and they know baseball. Sandy Jr. in particular appeared to have a positive effect on the catching corps. In addition, they’re both harmless, and non-threatening.
There’s an interesting detail regarding the staff thus far — not one of the coaches would be seriously considered as a replacement to Manuel anytime soon. The one guy who might be considered would be Ken Oberkfell, who, if he remains in the Mets organization, will be back in AAA. Don’t be surprised if Obie takes a big league job with someone such as St. Louis, where he could be groomed as an eventual replacement to Tony LaRussa.
I’m not sure what to think about the 2009 coaching staff. On the one hand, I love Hojo, like the Alomars, Warthen, and Niemann, and believe I’ll like Shines (how can you NOT like a guy named Razor Shines?). On the other hand, most of this staff has witnessed one or two collapses, and only Hojo has a World Series ring. The playing roster is devoid of Champions — except for Luis Castillo, the one guy everyone wants to jettison — and the coaching staff (including the manager) also has not tasted the Champagne. Maybe that means nothing, or maybe it means everything. Willie Randolph had a few rings, and he had four coaches on his staff with World Series rings. That staff did lead the Mets to their last postseason appearance, but perhaps it was just a coincidence.
Bottom line is this: key leaders of the last two collapses have been retained, which suggests that the blame is put squarely on the shoulders of the players. If that suggestion holds true, we should expect to see a significant roster turnover, as hinted at by COO Jeff Wilpon earlier in the week.