Mets Coaching Staff Questions
Earlier this week, Omar Minaya made the announcement that Willie Randolph would return as manager of the New York Mets in 2008. How long his leash will be, remains to be seen.
With Willie in place, the next state of affairs is the coaching staff. Who stays, who goes?
The Mets finished the season with this staff:
- Rick Peterson – Pitching Coach
- Howard Johnson – Hitting Coach
- Guy Conti – Bullpen Coach
- Sandy Alomar – Third-base Coach
- Rickey Henderson – First-base Coach
- Jerry Manuel – Bench Coach
- Tom Nieto – Catching Instructor
Rick Peterson’s job is safe, despite the pitching staff’s sudden implosion in September. Guy Conti is around because Pedro Martinez wants him around — and from what we understand, happens to be a fine guy in the bullpen as well (Billy Wagner didn’t complain about him, so that must mean something). I’m not sure what Tom Nieto does, other than hang out on that scoreboard girder. There were rumors that he worked with Paul LoDuca on his footwork for a week, but last I checked Paulie had a better chance rolling the ball down to second base.
After all the card-playing reports, the fall from grace of Jose Reyes, and other criticisms, I’d venture to guess that the Rickey Henderson Experiment is over. He’ll likely return as a spring training instructor, but doubtful he’ll be on the full-time staff.
Rather than bring back Sandy Alomar, Sr., it will probably make more economical sense to install a solar-powered windmill in the third-base coaching box. Cheaper yet: drive a stick into the ground and attach an arrow at eye-level with the words “go” and “vas”.
Jerry Manuel is an interesting case. I get the feeling he was more an “Omar guy” than handpicked by Willie, but he and Willie appear to hit it off. I could be wrong on both counts.
Which brings us to HoJo, the man who replaced “Willie’s guy” Rick Down. Johnson seemed to have an effect on the team hitting approach — of course, all he had to do was actually suggest an approach. All I ever hear from those associated with the Yankees was that Rick Down was the hardest-working man in baseball and the “genius” behind the Yankees’ “strategy” of being patient at the plate. He may well have had those ideas with the Mets but did an awful job of getting it into the minds of the players — and isn’t that the point of management? You can have the best theories in the world, but if you can’t figure out a way to communicate them, and/or get your underlings to apply them, then what’s your value?
The main reason Howard Johnson’s status is up in the air is because Ranger batting coach and the hitting “guru” of the 21st century, Rudy Jaramillo, may be available. After 13 years in Texas, Jaramillo’s contract ends as of October 31st and he’s hired an agent to see what the market holds. For those unawares of Mr. Jaramillo, he is regarded within the industry as the best hitting coach in MLB. He is to hitters as Dave Duncan and Leo Mazzone are to pitchers.
When asked if he’d like to see Jaramillo return to the Rangers, All-Star shortstop Michael Young responded,
“Absolutely,” Young said. “It’s a no-brainer. He’s meant everything to us — you look at the success his guys have had, it’s incredible.
“He’s meant the world to me. It’s really difficult to find a coach you really believe in, someone you can consider your friend and trust. I know it’s good to have him here.”
If the Mets do indeed bowl over Jaramillo with an offer, what happens to Howard Johnson? One would think that they’d keep him around as a base coach, since he seemed to have the respect of the players. And as some of you have suggested in your emails, it would be nice to see more former Mets on the staff — particularly the ones from World Championship teams (as opposed to the ones caught playing cards in the clubhouse while the team was blowing an NLDS).
Not sure about Lee Mazzilli’s relationship with Willie Randolph, but they were together under Joe Torre. I’d miss his orange-tinged skin and Soprano-like presence on SNY postgame, but maybe Dave Gallagher can borrow Maz’s suits and be a little less boring. The various pundits are making a big deal out of Willie’s lack of control in the clubhouse, and Omar assigning him coaches rather than allowing him to choose. Maybe Maz could be a “Willie guy” and take over at third base or as bench coach. Again, I have no inside info on the Willie – Maz relationship, so it could be a moot point.
Who else from that ’86 team could join the coaching staff? You’d think Gary Carter would be a no-brainer, but his ego is a bit too big for Omar’s britches. He’ll need to wallow in the Florida State League if he wants to continue wearing orange and blue. Wally Backman was manager for the D’backs — for a day — but has had so many off-the-field issues that the Wilpons wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. His on-camera antics in the “Playing for Peanuts” documentary / reality series couldn’t have helped his cause.
Tim Teufel had been a minor league manager in the Mets’ organization for a few years, but spent this past year heading the Savannah Sand Gnats in the Giants’ system. Also don’t know that he’d have the immediate respect — based on his resume — that a guy like HoJo commands.
It was neat to have Mookie Wilson around for a few years as first-base coach — maybe he’d be interested in returning. Bobby Ojeda was a minor league instructor for several years, but left the organization after the Mets named Rick Peterson pitching coach; he left on sour terms with the Wilpons. One guy I’d LOVE to see back in the Mets dugout is Ray Knight — talk about someone to fire up this squad of the walking dead — but he’s held a long grudge against the organization. For those too young to remember, Knight scored the winning run when the ball went through Buckner’s legs in Game Six, hit the tiebreaking homerun in Game Seven, won the Series MVP, and was then not offered a contract for 1987 — the first WS MVP ever to not return to his team the following season. If you think time heals all wounds, consider that he was one of the few who declined the invitation to be honored at the Mets’ 20th anniversary celebration of the ’86 Champs.
According to Willie Randolph, he and Omar Minaya will be discussing the coaching staff between this week and next, so we may hear more news soon.