There’s a lot of talk regarding change these days in Mets circles. There’s talk of change at both the general manager and the team manager position too.
One name that continues to popup is former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who is suddenly very available.
I know that there are still many Bobby Valentine fans out there, and that many of you would love to see him become manager of the Mets again if Jerry Manuel gets fired. However, I fail to see the wisdom in such a move.
First of all, I hope Jerry keeps his job because it would be so unfair to judge him based on this injury marred season. But secondly, as much as too love Bobby Valentine, I don’t think he would solve what currently ails this team. Sure, Bobby had a nice run when he was the helm, but that train left the station a long time ago.
One name that doesn’t get mentioned as much as it should is Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg. After two years of managing for Class-A Peoria, Sandberg was promoted to manager of the Class-AA Tennessee Smokies. He took over a flailing team that is now in a heated battle for first place.
I read a great piece by Beth Rucker of the Associated Press on Sandberg last week. Here is an excerpt from it:
Ryne Sandberg’s goal is the same now as it was in 1978: Get to the majors. He was 18 then and trying to prove himself as a player. Now the Hall of Fame second baseman is back where he started, trying to prove himself as a manager.
“It all started with just watching the game from a different perspective than what I did since 1978 as a player playing the middle infield,” he said. “It’s completely different. It’s watching the whole field. It’s positioning the outfielders, working with the catcher to shut down the opposing running game. It’s working the lineup. All the things to run the game.”
Sandberg is 49 and reserved by nature. But as he grew more comfortable in the dugout, he became more vocal. He was thrown out of only one game as a player but was tossed from 13 in two seasons with Peoria. He’s been booted from six games with the Smokies and suspended once for “accidentally bumping an umpire.”
He demands his players be on time and give full effort. He’s led the Smokies from the middle of their division during the first half of the season to the top of the standings. Hendry calls that the sign of a good manager.
The players like Sandberg because he knows the game and keeps things relaxed on the field.
“When you have a coach that’s played as long as he has, he doesn’t forget what it’s like to be a player,” said Doug Deeds, a 28-year-old outfielder. “It’s pretty easy to play for a guy like that, and I think sometimes you can get the best out of your players when you’re like that.”
I always loved Ryne Sandberg as a player. He played the game right and wasn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty. He was a true student of the game and always a leader in the clubhouse. We could use some of those qualities on this team right now.
As I stated previously, I think it would be very unfair to fire Jerry Manuel given the way this season has unfolded. I don’t think Manuel is the perfect manager, but who is?
All I’m saying is that if we’re going to make a change and try to finally fix this team, then let’s stop looking backward and start looking forward. Let’s stop drawing on the past every time we make a change to effect the future. Let’s broaden our view and tap into some of those great potential managers that are waiting in the wings out there. Let’s stop limiting ourselves to people who have ties to the organization. We hired Omar because he worked under Steve Phillips, we hired Willie because he played for us, we hired Manuel because he was already our bench coach, you get the picture.
Hiring Sandberg would be very similar to another time that the Mets hired a former second baseman from outside the organization; Davey Johnson, he of the 1986 World Champion Mets fame. Considering how well that worked out for us, why not give that route another go?