The Team Concept

Over the past two weeks, I’ve read, heard, and watched a multitude of journalists, radio jocks, bloggers, and TV personalities tell me that THIS YEAR, the Mets are really, really focused on establishing the “team concept” — thanks to the remarkable leadership of manager Jerry Manuel.

Manuel presented the “team-first” mentality on the first day in spring training, and has been relentless in making sure that everyone understands that the 2009 Mets will abide by this philosophy. Further, Manuel has put into effect a number of drills emphasizing fundamentals — such as hitting to the opposite field, placing bunts, taking the extra base, and fielding the ball with two hands — and is encouraging his players to be more aggressive on the bases.

This is great news, and a stark contrast to previous years, when previous manager Willie Randolph was always pushing his players to be individuals, poo-pooed fundamentals as “inconsequential details”, rewarded batters for pulling the ball, and insisted that baserunners anchor to the bag and only advance one base at a time.

Wait …. that’s not true … not true at all …

Amazingly, the honeymoon continues for Jerry Manuel, the manager who led the New York Mets to their second consecutive collapse yet is being given the benefit of the doubt in his first spring training as skipper of the team.

Yeah, yeah, I’m Mr. Negative. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been jaded by the rose-colored optimism of springs past. Though, I really believe I would have an easier time being upbeat and positive about this team if I wasn’t constantly reminded that everything good about it is the direct result of Jerry Manuel’s Ghandi-like wisdom, and everything bad is the fault of players who don’t embrace zen-Buddhism.

Truth is, I’m not that negative, just annoyed — I’d like to watch, judge, and enjoy the team on my own, without every idiotic talking head telling me what I should think. I’m actually quite happy about baseball returning to my TV screen, and looking forward to a fun season.

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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. Walnutz15 February 27, 2009 at 8:42 am
    Joe, you don’t have to look at it through the eyes, ears, and presumably…..brains (??)…..of these moronic, flip-flopping talking heads in the media.

    Just look at it from a pure baseball standpoint. Even if Jerry’s trying to make himself look better — by showing an outward willingness to try new things, or even what drills the Mets are partaking in, early on in Spring Training?

    I welcome it, 200% — especially in looking back on the tenure of Willie Randolph; who not only was stubborn as a mule, but questioned the integrity of his bosses and basically stated that a fanbase “didn’t exist” before he became manager.

    Good riddance to a man who’d continue to slam a brand new Ferrari into a brick-wall at 110mph over and over and over again — without once thinking outside the box. I shudder to think what we’d be talking about right now, provided he had a kid like Murphy in his camp at this point.

    Chances are, a large majority of Met fans wouldn’t even know who Dan Murphy is, simply because Randolph never would’ve put him in the lineup…..let alone speak of him becoming his everyday LF, as we’ve heard fans complain about so far in the first couple of weeks.

    “Oh, you’ll mess with Ryan Churches’ head!! — stop!!” — Somebody call the WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH-mbulance. I’m beginning to hate Met fans, really.

    Always complaining about something.

    Not you; as I know you actually have a playing background and are very familiar with what goes on in a baseball capacity. Now, we both know that one drill isn’t going to win them a World Series ring — and I doubt anybody’s really saying that…….

    However:

    Isn’t it refreshing to at least hear that Manuel’s putting an obvious plan into place — especially at the plate — where we’ve seen so many hitter through the years go up and wing-it?

    Good plate discipline
    Sound situational hitting
    Taking a professional AB
    Going OPPO…..

    Staples of good fundamental hitting — and too many Mets are prone to going up and wanting to hit a 6-run homer; when that’s simply not ever going to happen for any hitter.

    I’ll be the first guy to tell you that a “sunshine story” is a sunshine story in ST — but when you see guys taking the ball the other way with consistency to start off Exhibition games, it’s nothing but a good sign — since it’s something they’re working on.

    We’ll see what happens; but I like Manuel a world more than I ever did Randolph…..and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing — simply because I think the Mets could’ve hired Phillip Drummond, Arnold Jackson, and Willis to coach the team, post Randolph…….and I would’ve been elated, by the end.

    I’m giving Jerry a clean slate to work with……so far, he’s definitely thinking outside the box, in anticipation of things not working later on.

    We never saw that from Willie. Good riddance.

  2. joe February 27, 2009 at 9:22 am
    My rant is not a Willie vs. Jerry, sorry if it came off that way. The pebble in my shoe — and has been from the beginning — is that Jerry Manuel is every bit the bumbling, stumbling, and mumbling manager that every other skipper has been for the Mets since Bobby Valentine, and yet he has been portrayed as some kind of magical genius who can do no wrong. Yet, this is the same guy who was run out of Chicago because his players hated him, he created a poisonous atmosphere in the clubhouse, he had no idea how to manage a pitching staff, and his teams routinely finished just short of the playoffs.

    Now, in New York, he presents the same exact philosophies that have been presented by every MLB team in every spring training going back 50 years, and it’s hyped up as a miraculous discovery that no one ever thought of before.

    And Dan Murphy would have definitely played under Randolph, because that decision — like many involving the personnel on the field — came from upper management. It doesn’t matter who the manager is, this team is ultimately run by Jeff Wilpon, Tony Bernazard, and Omar Minaya — in that order. Manuel and Randolph and every manager afterward are puppets. The only difference is that Manuel is a thousand percent better than Willie when it comes to public relations, self promotion, and ass-kissing.

    We’ll see how beloved Jerry Manuel is, and how “smart” his new age quotes go over, when the Mets are mired in third place and Jerry’s throwing all his players under the bus.

  3. Walnutz15 February 27, 2009 at 9:37 am
    I hear what you’re saying — but at this point, I think it’s blatantly obvious that Manuel’s not being looked at as a “mainstay” manager. From a standpoint of: “If things go wrong”…..I think we’ll see a very quick hook on Manuel — even more so, if the clubhouse starts to get out of whack.

    This is what everyone seems to be safeguarding against — using a blow-up with Frank Thomas as a focal-reference point. I don’t think that many would disagree: these Mets NEED to be challenged, and moreover — be held-accountable.

    That’s been the tagline for years, from fans who follow the Mets almost as much as people within the organization do. And so far, he’s doing and saying the right things in the media.

    If that’s an act, based on Willie’s past failures — then so be it. Sign me up, even still.

    I’ll worry about Manuel’s short-comings as a tactician as the season goes forward. But as was the case with Willie — until he decided not to bunt in Game 7 of the NLCS — I’m giving him the benefit of a doubt.

    It was only when I was presented with “that moment” to reflect upon, that it all went down-hill for Willie. And hearing all of the boring, passive, “I’ll handle things in-house” — whistling past the graveyard quotes he’d give…..told me, he didn’t have much of a plan for his team, past what he was showing you from the dugout.

    Which wasn’t much……..

    Time will tell with Manuel, long-term. I’m fine with what we’ve been hearing, though.

  4. joe February 27, 2009 at 10:58 am
    Well, it’s garbage like this that makes me so anti-Jerry:

    < < In the end, Manuel says he is trying to find ways to make Reyes a ‘dominant player,’ which will only happen when he learns to pace himself and be a more balanced baseball player. >>

    Because it will not be Manuel “making Reyes a dominant player”. Reyes already IS a dominant player. He HAS BEEN one of the most dominant and exciting all-around players in MLB since 2006! Yet now it sounds like Reyes has somehow been underachieving, and when he goes out and puts together another year of batting .300, hitting 15-20 HR, 20 triples, and stealing 60 bases, the media is going to tell us it’s because Jerry Manuel was his manager. Or worse, if/when Reyes improves a bit on those numbers — maybe hits .320 and 25 HRs — we won’t be able to hear the end of how it was all Jerry Manuel, rather than Reyes simply continuing on his expected path of maturity and improvement.

    So if Reyes does continue improving as a ballplayer, Manuel gets the credit. If Reyes fails, it will be because Jose wasn’t able to learn how to pace himself and play to a jazz beat the way Jerry wanted him to. If this isn’t a setup I don’t know what is.

    Jerry Manuel is the king of spin. If that makes you happy, great, because then I’m happy for you. Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. I have my own issues, and don’t mean to bring you down with me. Rather, I need to get my misery out in this blog or it eats at me. It’s all about me!

  5. Walnutz15 February 27, 2009 at 11:06 am
    I totally agree with ya, Joe — and am not looking to “get on” you at all, believe me.

    Commentaries like that, which media outlets put out there — and that certain radio hosts and talking heads on SNY, ESPN, and the like continue to harp-on, ad nauseum — are the exact situations of which I speak, though. Those are the ones to get annoyed at…..it’s almost like they undergo lobotomies when they write their pieces.

    Forgetting that they ever followed a team, player, or sport before in their lives…….make Reyes a dominant player? Yes, he’s already one.

    So, really, overhyping Manuel’s importance on that kind of angle is silly. Keeping everything in mind, and knowing that Reyes has potential as a hitter, past what we’ve already seen in the leadoff spot — is what I tuck away in my back-pocket, like a tin of Copenhagen.

    Obviously, Manuel’s looking at other ways of keeping Reyes fresh….and possibly developing him as a hitter — not having to tax his body as a hit, steal a base, run around like a chicken-without-a-head, type player for upwards of 155 games a year.

    At that pace, it’s inevitable that he’s going to get hurt at some point — and have to modify his game anyway. I think it’s smart to keep options open, and test new things in ST……….but overhyping their importance?

    That’s not only on the media, but the fans that take things as concrete “gospel”…….

    The Mets seem to be productive early at camp — and that’s all I care about so far.