Supposedly, non-interim Mets manager Jerry Manuel will have a say in his coaching staff — a luxury not granted his predecessor Willie Randolph. But will he REALLY be able to choose his own staff? And if indeed he does, will it be much different from the one that was in place in game 162?
Hitting Coach Howard Johnson certainly should be back — his work getting Carlos Delgado back on track is evidence enough of his value. I really hate to play down Jerry Manuel’s role in motivating Delgado, but the fact of the matter is, it was HoJo who identified the flaws in Delgado’s swing, and worked with him to get them corrected. Johnson has also been credited for David Wright’s success — and Wright has been the Mets’ most consistent hitter over the past two years. If Johnson is not brought back, I’d imagine he’d quickly get a similar job elsewhere.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen does not have the public cache of Rick Peterson, but is well respected throughout organized baseball as a man under whom young pitchers can reach their potential. In fact it was right here at MetsToday that we suggested Warthen’s signing last February was the second-best acquisition of 2008. As it turned out, Warthen was credited with the turnaround of Oliver Perez and the development of Mike Pelfrey. Is that enough to earn a return to the big-league stage, considering that untouchables Jonathan Niese and Bobby Parnell are expected to vie for spots in ’09? Hard to say, but if he’s not retained, one would hope he’d be offered a job somewhere in the organization, to continue working his magic with young hurlers.
Bullpen coach Guy Conti could be on the way out, since the main reason he was with the Mets was because Pedro Martinez specifically asked for him to join the organization. Which is too bad, because inside sources reveal that Conti — and not Peterson — was the driving force behind many of the successful Mets pitchers. In addition to his tie to Pedro, Conti is unfortunately tied to the bullpen, which is getting the bulk of the blame for the Mets’ disappointing finish. The “correct” public move would be to make Conti the fall guy.
First base coach Ken Oberkfell could also get the heave-ho, which is another unfortunate situation. Oberkfell has proved himself as a manager at nearly every level in the minors, biding his time for an MLB opportunity. But Manuel’s wizardry kept him from an opportunity with the Mets, and as a result he may be better off moving on to an organization with which he has a better chance of managing. How Manuel deals with Oberkfell, in particular, should be interesting. Will he keep Obie around, for his baseball knowledge and reputation for fundamentals, or is Obie’s status as “manager in waiting” be too threatening? Remember that Manuel filled that role under Randolph.
Sandy Alomar says he wants to come back. Does anyone care? Hey I like Sandy as much as the next guy, but he — like Manuel and HoJo and Conti — has been around for two consecutive collapses. Is he so vital that he can escape a housecleaning — especially considering his strong ties to Willie Randolph, and the Randolph regime? One thing is fairly certain — he’ not a threat to Manuel. Plus he’s a worldly baseball man, and people like him (including me).
Sandy Alomar, Jr., is a nice guy, too — and we assume he had something to do with the great job done by Mets catchers in 2008. If he doesn’t come back at the MLB level, I’d think the team has a position for him elsewhere in the organization (i.e., Francisco Pena’s personal tutor).
I think it’s safe to say Luis Aguayo will be gone. I didn’t quite understand his hiring to begin with (favor to someone?) and Jerry has been lukewarm and non-committal when asked about the third base coach.
By the way, Jerry Manuel has made a public statement regarding his goal to stress fundamentals with the ’09 club. That’s very nice … where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, Willie Randolph made similar proclamations in the past. Hopefully this won’t be another idea passed on from Willie that goes by the wayside (or have we forgotten “resting the regulars”, “establishing bullpen roles”, etc.?).
As for coaches to bring in, it’s too early to guess, as the current coaches need to be decided first, and who knows who might be available? But, if HoJo is not retained, I’d think it would be because Rudy Jaramillo was coming in — or if Jerry’s really getting his way, we may see Gary Ward. Gary Pettis is also a possibility to be, say, a first base coach; Pettis was a coach with the Mets during the Art Howe years and also worked under Manuel in Chicago.
The main issue to address, in my mind, is what to do regarding the pitching coach. If the Mets don’t bring Warthen back, who is out there to bring in? There doesn’t appear to be anyone currently in the organization who would be considered (unless I’m missing someone?). Will Manuel have the opportunity to hire one of “his” guys, and if so, who might that be? Otherwise, is there someone special that the Mets might go after? For example, Leo Mazzone or Chuck Hernandez?