Archive: September 29th, 2009

Setting Up the Excuse File

manuel-ghandi-smThe 2009 season hasn’t yet ended, but already Mets manager Jerry Manuel is setting up excuses for the 2010 season. In our latest installment of “Manuel Being Manuel”, we have this gem from The Star-Ledger, in response to whether he was feeling the pressure of possibly being fired:

“I know how this particular situation works,” Manuel said Monday. “It’ll be important for us to hit the ground running playing good baseball and giving a feeling that there is a chance of a championship. That has to be established early. I understand that. I’ll be fighting that battle, but at the same time I know I have to have a team in position to get off and play well.”

Translation: if the Mets don’t get off to a hot start in April and May of 2010, it’ll be Omar Minaya’s fault for not assembling enough talent. Nice.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Manuel has invoked the blame game to protect himself.

Now if YOU were the boss of a department at a company, and one of your employees publicly stated the above, how would YOU react? My guess is you wouldn’t be naming that person “employee of the month”.

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Mets Can Learn from the Jets

During the NFL offseason, the Jets made the somewhat surprising move of hiring Rex Ryan as their head coach. The hiring was met with mixed opinions from the pundits, and there were much eye rolling going on when Ryan addressed the media on several occasions with big talk about the Jets — and that he EXPECTED to win immediately:

Similarly, Wally Backman said in this interview that he believes a team’s goal should ALWAYS be to win, and has a major issue with managers who talk about “reaching .500”. He says the only number that should matter “is winning the fourth game of the World Series” :

I may be in the minority here, but I fully believe that there are some leaders — in every sport — who can have a significant, positive impact on a team’s success as a direct result of their attitude and the development of a “winning culture”. Bill Parcells is one of those guys, so is Bill Belichick, and so was Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. In baseball, you can point to Bobby Cox, Tom Lasorda, Casey Stengel, Billy Martin, Earl Weaver, Whitey Herzog, Tony LaRussa. Yes, those managers often had talent, and they didn’t win a championship every single year, but they also fostered a winning culture and taught winning habits that can’t be measured on a stat sheet (though it can be seen through championship trophies and career won-lost records). There aren’t many “impact” leaders in MLB these days — but Wally might be one of those rare figures.

It can’t hurt to send him to Binghamton to find out, can it?

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Mets Continue to Clean House

Somehow this news got buried at the bottom of Adam Rubin’s postgame report on Sunday night, as if it were inconsequential: Binghamton B-Mets manager Mako Oliveras and Gulf Coast League manager Julio Franco have been fired.

Oliveras and Franco join Minor League Special Assistant Ramon Pena and “Field Coordinator” Luis Aguayo on the unemployment line — both were fired last week.

As Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog notes, “…Omar Minaya is planning to replace all of Tony Bernazard’s guys with ‘his own guys’…”.

So to review, the following positions are now open:

– Vice President of Player Development
– Minor League Special Assistant
– Field Coordinator (whatever that is)
– AA manager for the Binghamton Mets
– Rookie League manager for the GCL Mets

The first three positions, I’m guessing, were created for the people who held them. Still, I’m sure at least two of those spots will be filled with a new person, filling some type of scouting and development roles. And of course the Mets will need to hire managers for the two minor league clubs.

You know who MetsToday is supporting …

(Wally Backman on developing MLB players courtesy of Playing for Peanuts)

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David Wright was NOT Disciplined

Despite at least one newspaper article to the contrary, David Wright was NOT BENCHED for disciplinary reasons on Sunday afternoon.

I’ll state it again, so that it is perfectly clear: the fact that David Wright stopped running about 15-20 feet before reaching home plate on Jeff Francoeur’s two-out single on Saturday had absolutely nothing to do with Wright being out of the lineup on Sunday.

In fact, it was a scheduled day off for Wright, planned at least 24 hours in advance of Sunday’s contest. That was confirmed by Howie Rose on WFAN during last night’s radio broadcast, and has also been confirmed by Manuel himself.

Furthermore, Manuel absolved Wright of some of the blame, and pointed the finger at Razor Shines. From that same article linked to above:

Manuel put some of the blame on third-base coach Razor Shines for telling Wright he could slow down going into home, but Manuel refused to totally excuse Wright’s lapse.

Scary, isn’t it, that the 3B coach would tell a runner to slow down in such a situation? With less than two outs and no play at the plate, I can understand it — you want to make sure the player doesn’t pull a hammy or something. But with two outs? Mysterious guidance from one of the men paid to lead the team.

So Wright wasn’t benched for slowing down, and some of the blame was passed over to the coach.

Now, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that Wright was NOT disciplined is up for you to decide. There’s another manager named Manuel who once benched his All-Star for disciplinary reasons, but there’s no proof that the move helped HIS team understand the importance of such things, nor did it help establish his status as the man in charge — right?

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David Wright is Unorthodox?

At first I thought this was the reason Wright played on the high holy day of Yom Kippur. Then I realized I had read the quote too quickly, and also realized Wright isn’t Jewish (though he and many Mets had plenty to atone for).

Jerry Manuel had this to say about David Wright’s problems at the plate, per The Daily News:

“There are some mechanical issues we are trying to address with him,” Manuel said. “David is a gifted, unorthodox type of hitter. Sometimes what you find is that type of hitter has stretches of being really, really hot and stretches of not being very good. Because you’re unorthodox, when you’re not good, everybody can point out flaws. That’s kind of the trick or the difficulty you have in trying to make those corrections.”

I’m not sure what it is about Wright’s hitting that is “unorthodox”. To me his swing looks pretty solid, with mechanics that are similar to that of many other good hitters. At times he has a bit of a loop, but it’s no more pronounced than any other big league hitter. In fact at one point while discussing Wright’s style, my good friend (and former MLB scout) Lar Gilligan of Akadema / ProPlayer Academy commented that D-Wright “looks almost TOO mechanical, TOO ‘textbook’ — it’s like his swing is a direct product of constant training at a hitting school”.

David Lennon posted this additional quote from Manuel:

“It’s a little loop that will make him susceptible to balls up and in,” Manuel said. “There seems to be a lot of pitches recently that have been right where he’s looking and he’s fouling them off.”

I’m still not getting what is “unorthodox”. A loopy swing may be considered by some hitting instructors as a flaw, but there are just as many who think a “little loop” is perfectly fine, and necessary to lift the ball (as in, over the fence) and generate bat speed. Heck, Ted Williams felt a slight uppercut (the product of a loop) was necessary in order to defend against the baseball coming at the batter on a downward plane from the mound. In any case it’s not unusual.

This is not to say I disagree with Jerry Manuel. Rather, I’d like him to further elaborate on what he means by “unorthodox”. Saying he has a “loop” isn’t enough to differentiate him from anyone else — and it’s certainly not a Dave Kingman-like loop, when it occurs (I see a mix of “loops” and short strokes directly to the ball — both during his hot streaks and his cold streaks). Perhaps there is something unusual about his mental approach? Or the way he zones for pitches? Inquiring minds want to know.

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