There are so many qualities I admire about Jerry Manuel, but the one I admire most is his ability to be forthright and tell it like it is. Unlike past Mets managers, I never get the feeling that Manuel is simply paying us lip service.
Yesterday, he weighed in on Pedro Martinez and regardless of whether you agree with him or not, you are left with no other choice than to respect the way he balances the media with managing the team. It is poetry in motion.
“Pedro is a Hall of Fame pitcher and one of the greatest pitchers of our time, but I feel very confident in the people we have in camp that can get the job done,” Manuel said. “Do you like Pedro? Of course, you love Pedro. But you have to be fair to the people that we have here.”
He has an amazing knack for addressing issues on his terms and is not easily swayed by the heat of the moment or the urgency of the media. He avoids the traps that Willie Randolph easily kept falling into.
He is not afraid to publicly praise a worthy effort by one of his players, and will not cower when he is displeased with a poor effort or performance. In other words, a player always knows where he stands with Jerry Manuel.
I heard an interesting discussion on Sunday Night Mets last week, where our own Tanya Mercado of Citi Field of Dreams was a guest. She mentioned “structure” as another of Manuel’s standout qualities and of course she is absolutely right.
“I just felt that it was Manuel who was able to manage that bullpen the best,” Tanya said. “He gave everyone a role. Everybody knew when they would come in, there were no surprises and nobody was overworked. It was not until Billy Wagner went down that things began to get chaotic again. Willie just threw relievers in there.”
Many of the players began to thrive within the new framework or structure that Jerry Manuel brought to the team. Reyes became more optimal in the leadoff role and Delgado flourished as the cleanup hitter. Assigned roles were the norm again in the bullpen. The mental lapses in the field and on the bases became fewer and fewer. Order had been restored.
The end result may have been the same, but the Mets were clearly a better team and Jerry Manuel managed them to a 55-38 record and a .591 winning percentage. The Phillies won the division with a .568 winning percentage.
We spent a great deal of the off season, talking about the huge upgrade that the Mets have made in the bullpen for the upcoming season. The biggest upgrade however, may in fact be a full season with Jerry Manuel at the helm.
The very respected writer Howard Megdal of the New York Observer, sponsors Jerry Manuel’s page on Baseball Reference. He quips that Jerry Manuel will one day be talked about with Gil Hodges and Davey Johnson. Not only do I share those same sentiments, but I anticipate that those discussions will happen sooner rather than later.