It’s a foregone conclusion that Jerry Manuel is on the “Flushing short term managerial plan”. It’s hard to not like Jerry. He came off as personable, insightful, and easygoing when he first stepped into his predecessor Willie Randolph’s shoes. His dubious exodus from New York sent a message to me that things were about to change and that nothing is what it appears.
Last year, many of the blogs were filled with “Fire Jerry” chants and mantras on practically every networking site out there, so expect this season to have the vultures perched on the mountaintops waiting for those last bodies to fall before picking the bones. I have to admit that I thought Jerry would bring that “championship” attitude to our Amazins but…
My, how things have changed. When Manuel stepped up from bench coach to interim manager, Carlos Delgado was quoted as saying, “I think it’s great.” Delgado said on Monday, “He’s a great communicator. There’s no gray area with him. He’s very upbeat, and he’s able to keep it simple in a very effective way.”
Mets management absolutely raved about Manuel. They believe him to be a man of high character who presents the team to the public in a way of which they can feel proud. “He’s done an excellent job, in all ways, on and off the field,” team owner Fred Wilpon said before Sunday’s Super Bowl. “He’s a great gentleman.” A great gentleman? Okay. Not sure what to make of that. Learning from some of the best like Jim Leyland, Felipe Alou, and having gained the trust and respect of ChiSox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf was obviously a plus. It could be argued that Manuel built the White Sox team that won the World Series after his release from the team. In six seasons, he won over 500 games, a division title, and a Manager of the Year award so he has what it takes to coach. He is a teacher, a mentor, and keeps his training simple and basic.
Manuel is everything you’d want in a coach but he’s the wrong guy. I love his demeanor, wit, and ability to handle the tough questions the NY media throws at him after a tough Mets loss, but he is not going to survive in this setting through no fault of his own. The deck is heavily stacked against him due to his ties to Minaya and his tenuous position in the organization. Let’s face it. Minaya is a figurehead at this point so if anything goes south in 2010, Minaya goes and his “hires” do as well. Jerry is a quality guy, but I don’t see how he can survive this. That being said, who is capable of coming into this mess (preferably once it’s been cleaned up or cleaned out with only Fred and Jeff still standing)?
This team has long lacked the kind of gutsy, heads-up presence in the clubhouse and in the organization. This is a New York team and that speaks to me: guts, fighting spirit, never-say-die attitude, and an unwillingness to quit and a willingness to work hard, play hard, and do it together! When I look at the current squad, that attitude seems deficient to say the least. The days of “Nails” and bulldogs like the Kid and Doc K, for example, seem to be past.
So who steps in and restores this team to where it needs to be? One name that I’ve tossed around was Bobby Valentine. There’s something irreverent and nutty about someone that after getting tossed out of a game returns in a mustache and dark glasses. Not his best moment, but that kind of unpredictability can translate into the kind of team that won a World Series in 1986. Nobody thought they had the pedigree or the “stuff” to win it all and they looked like guys just thrown together, but even with all the drugs, infighting, and other daily dramas, they came together and took it all. Valentine knows talent and he understands the importance of the intangibles. He can build a team that can not only contend but win consistently as long as his head is in the game. He knows how to light a fire under his players too. Something sorely missed in our team as of late. Just him being there brings the kind of players to the table that the Mets need to restore their reputation as players in the championship picture.
How about Bob Melvin? He was just recently given the title of “professional scout” with the team. In his last seven years with Seattle and Arizona, he has coached his team to five winning seasons so he knows what he’s doing. Do you really believe that he is not a potential replacement for Jerry when the inevitable happens?
Eric Wedge‘s name has been mentioned in some smaller circles but maybe not on the radar for the Mets. Larry Bowa? He’s the current Dodgers third base coach, but was a former Mets player and knows what it takes to win. When the fans cried out for heads to roll, Tony’s LaRussa‘s name was mentioned on more than one occasion, but may not be the likely choice even if he could be pried away from St. Louis. Manny Acta has his name in the managerial pool practically every year since and before he left NY for the Nationals.
It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it. Now the question is who? Unfortunately, I don’t believe it will be Jerry for much longer.