I am pretty negative when it comes to Jerry Manuel and his managing of the New York Mets. On one side, I think he is a great guy. He treats the media well, and for the most part he has handled this disaster of a season very well.
I often find myself shaking my head at the moves he made at the end of last season, and earlier this year (you know, when we actually had a team.) Manuel is a very lucky guy in my opinion. He’s likely going to keep his job into the 2010 season because, how can you justify firing a manager that at the start of the season had a World Series contender and at the end of the season due to no fault of his own, had a team that probably would finish 2nd in the International League.
Manuel has 1 year left on his contract, plus a club option for the 2011 season. I absolutely have to believe that Manuel has until mid June of 2010 to earn that club option. Frankly, I think Manuel would be a great bench coach, but I don’t think he’s the guy for this team leading the charge.
If Manuel was let go either this year or even next year, the rumors about who the Mets would hire would be all over the place. You’d hear names like Valentine, Showalter, LaRussa, Pinella, Davey Johnson, and Larry Bowa to name just a few. However, let’s keep in mind the fact we all know in some ways the Wilpon’s want to cut spending. To me, unless they somehow spend a fortune on free agents, I don’t see any way the Mets bring in a high profile Manager.
To me, that leaves one guy. Kenneth Raymond Oberkfell. For the younger fans out there, Oberkfell played 3B/2B in the Major Leagues for 6 different teams from 1977-1992. Most notably the Atlanta Braves from 84-88 when he along with Glenn Hubbard (current 1st base coach for ATL), and Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter made up the Triple Threat known as the “Bearded Braves.”
Oberkfell won a World Series ring with the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals, a series in which Oberkfell had 7 hits in 7 games, and 4 runs scored. He was a consistent hitter. He was not an All-Star by any means, but if you take a look at his numbers you’ll see what I mean. During his prime, his batting average ranged from .269 – .303 in an 11 year span. Not too bad if you ask me.
Oberkfell is in his 13th year as a manager in the Minor Leagues. Currently, he manages the Buffalo Bisons (the real ones, not the ones that just played the Rockies.) Prior to this year, Oberkfell compiled a .503 winning percentage in the minors over the 12 years. He began managing within the Mets system in 2001 with the Capital City Bombers, and besides a brief stint with the big club last year when all hell broke loose, he’s been managing a Mets affiliate ever since.
Okay, so now you should be fully familiar with the guy (if you weren’t already.) Here’s why he makes perfect sense for this team other than the fact he won’t need a huge contract.
I think the hardest part about being a new manager has to be the period of time in which you are trying to get the message across that this is your clubhouse. Not only do I have no doubts about who would be in charge if Oberkfell was Manager, I also have no doubts that a lot of the stuff we hear about how some of these players act in the clubhouse will cease.
Here are the notables that Oberkfell has managed during his time within the Mets organization.
2001: Angel Pagan, Jose Reyes
2002: Angel Pagan, Jose Reyes
2003: David Wright, Angel Pagan
2004: David Wright, Angel Pagan
2005: Anderson Hernandez, Angel Pagan
2006: Anderson Hernandez, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez (brief)
2007: Anderson Hernandez, Fernando Tatis, Mike Pelfrey
2008: Anderson Hernandez, Fernando Tatis, Nelson Figueroa, Brian Stokes, Jonathan Niese
2009: Fernando Martinez
There would be no honeymoon period with a lot of the guys we expect to be on the 2010 roster. They have played for Oberkfell, and no doubt have a high regard for him because he’s always proven to be a class act. A guy like Jose Reyes is a great example. If a new Manager walked into the clubhouse, Reyes’ antics wouldn’t change, and there’d be a struggle. However, Oberkfell had Reyes when Reyes was just Jose to him.
Oberkfell has paid his dues, and has the experience necessary to lead a team both on the field and off the field. When Jerry Manuel leaves town, he may not be the sexy pick, but he’d be the right pick.