On June 17, 2008, Jerry Manuel was promoted from bench coach to manager of the New York Mets. That day ushered in a new day for the New York Mets: The Era of the Gangsta! Jerry is as different as you could get from Willie Randolph. Willie was very reserved with the media, would not answer their questions where as Jerry Manuel is open and loose with the media. He has a way of giving the media an answer without showing all his cards and he’s always good for a soundbite.
Willie was someone who was very conservative, unwilling to make adjustments in the way he ran the team. Everybody knows in baseball that sometimes adjustments must be made in order to succeed and that is something that Jerry Manuel does well. Willie Randolph was not a manager to think outside the box, Jerry in his first spring training is thinking outside the box, some would say very outside that box. .
This spring Jerry has been thinking outside the box as far as baseball is concern. He is stressing team work over individual success. It’s quite refreshing to hear about his team only approach in this day and age when it seems to be about individual numbers. Jerry has stressed he cares more about wins and losses and their is no room for “I” on the team this season. The idea of having Jose Reyes bat 3rd in the lineup and Castillo bat lead off is one example of this way of thinking. By placing Jose 3rd in the lineup that is going to limit Reyes’ stolen base numbers for the season as he will have David Wright and Carlos Delgado batting behind him. While Reyes will have to be more careful stealing, this could lead for more overall runs scored for the Mets. Luis Castillo will not be able to strikeout with men in scoring position or end a rally by hitting into double plays which would lead to more runs scored for the Mets.
This spring Jerry has instituted a new hitting drill. We’ve all read about the drill and it sounds tiring. I find this 80 hit drill very encouraging. Jerry saw how the Mets lineup was unproductive down the stretch so he introduces a new drill to get these guys to hit the other way. Once again thinking outside the box. The conventional approach does not always work and instead of trying to get the offense to respond to the same old tired drills Jerry comes up with a new and interesting way of getting our guys to hit.
Jerry rewards the players who hustle and work hard for the team. There were several instances last season where guys were given a day off and their replacements for the game had a good game, Jerry would not sit that guy back down on the bench the next day for the regular player, he would let the sub have another day to play. I think this contributes to the team psyche in so many ways. You know that if you play hard you’re going to be rewarded. These guys are good players who want to play and contribute. They know that if they contribute their contributions are not going be forgotten. That way of managing also shows the regular guys in the lineup that you must play your hardest and contribute to the team in a positive way. The everyday guys will not take their spots on this team for granted and will play harder resulting in more victories for the Mets. Another example of Jerry rewarding good talent is Daniel Murphy being made the everyday left fielder for the 2009 season. Daniel impressed a lot of people last season with his ability to wait for his pitch and run up the count in his favor. He was not an outfielder but when the Mets needed him to play the outfield he went out and did his job. Murphy showed up this spring earlier than most guys did. He is one of the first guys to arrive for workouts and more often than not it seems the last guy to leave. He is constantly in the cage working on his bat and trying to improve himself. Jerry sees this guy working his butt off for this team and rewards him by giving him the everyday spot. To the young guys like Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Nick Evans, etc.. this shows that if you work hard you will be rewarded for that work ethic.
Jerry’s attitude is very good for this type of team. He is loose and encourages the guys to enjoy the game of baseball. He likes to have fun but still treats the game seriously. Watching the interviews on the news you can see guys like David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado are a lot more loose than they were last spring. I believe that is a direct result of the manager and the kind of leadership he provides to his guys. This is the kind of leadership that will lead the Mets to victory this season.