Baseball is a long season and when a team under-performs the way the Mets are you always hear the usual fire the manger and/or general manager. I support that 100%. Jerry and Omar absolutely need to go. Omar has done a horrible job of building the franchise and Jerry Manuel is just not a manager who can lead a team to a championship. However very rarely do you hear complaints about the coaches on the team. I’m not talking about the 1st or 3rd base coaches or the bench coach. Chip Hale has done a great job defensively with this team and does a great job with the base runners. I’m just happy that Razor Shines is not longer there, he does a great job at 1st base. The coaches I’m talking about are hitting coach Howard Johnson (HoJo) and pitching coach Dan Warthen.
George Steinbrenner in his day would sometimes get tired of firing managers and criticizing the team and the manager so on certain days he would attack the hitting coach. Some would laugh or roll their eyes but if you look at the Mets lineup from top to bottom this team offensively is just not producing. They have been horrible in the clutch since the middle of 2007 which is when HoJo took over as the hitting coach. Look at Jason Bay as the latest victim of Howard Johnson. Bay was not on this team in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Bay is and always will be a streaky hitter but he has produced for his team over the years. Bay joins the Mets and as of this writing he has not hit more than 1 home run. Now sure Citi Field has robbed him of a few but what about on the road in smaller parks like Citizens Bank Park? The frustrating thing about the Mets offense is that they are getting on base, in fact a couple of season’s ago they had as many hits as the Phillies but they cannot drive in runs. This team in 2006 was very clutch, at least up to the NLCS. In the beginning of 2007 they weren’t getting on base much but were scoring and driving in runs but for some reason the team freaked out, fired Rick Down and promoted HoJo as the hitting coach.
HoJo also for some reason last year decided to screw around with Wright’s swing. Wright was a .300+ hitter who before last year hit 30 or more home runs and drove in well over 100 RBI’s. 2009 saw a very big decline for Wright. Part of that decline was aided by the lack of good hitters hitting in front of and behind him. Can anyone really defend making Wright change his swing? I guess HoJo never heard of the old saying “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I also cannot understand why HoJo doesn’t work more with Wright on going back to his old swing. Do your job, get out the game footage and sit David down and watch the old footage. I never really understood why the Mets went with HoJo as the hitting coach. I’m not saying that HoJo was not a horrible hitter but he was not the greatest. His career average is just .249.
Don’t forget that HoJo before coming up to the big leagues as a coach was a manager in the farm system. He was for the most part a very unsuccessful manager. It is worth noting that HoJo was David’s manager when Wright was in Triple A. One of the reasons why I think HoJo has kept his job is that he’s latched onto David Wright. It’s no secret that Wright and HoJo are friends off the field.
Dan Warthen as the pitching coach was not a move I liked. I thought Peterson was a good pitching coach. Granted he was out there sometimes. I’m still trying to understand his interview that he did the day he was fired. In all seriousness Peterson was able to work with these pitchers not just on mechanics and physical stuff but on an emotional level. In 2007 Ollie won 15 games as did Maine. Somehow he was able to get through to Oliver Perez, something that neither Warthen nor Ollie’s other coaches have been successful at. Under Warthen these guys have regressed. Also under Warthen the entire staff has lost their velocity and that is really what concerns me. How can an entire pitching staff’s velocity go down in 1 season? It has to be something that is unprecedented in baseball, just has to be. The lack of velocity has hurt these pitchers, especially Oliver Perez. Perez was always a sloppy pitcher, in fact the phrase “better to be lucky than good” sometimes could have been applied to Ollie in the past. The one thing Ollie had going for him was his velocity. The many mistakes he would make would not always hurt him as batters couldn’t catch up to his fastball and when he mixed in his changeup he was effective. Ollie used to average 94-95, now he’s lucky to get to 90. Maine comes to mind as well as a pitcher whose velocity has gone away and that came back to hurt him in the earlier games this season.
Warthen has also done his fair share of tinkering with his players. John Maine’s delivery was changed and it hurt him his first few starts. Since going back to his original delivery he has improved in every appearance up until this past Saturday. I don’t know what Warthen was attempting with making Maine be a different pitcher as it obviously did not work. Maine decided on his own that his new delivery was not working and that he would go back to his original one. Why didn’t the pitching coach think about that?
After the 2009 season Dan Warthen was quick to blame the catchers for all the trouble the pitchers had last year. I thought it was unprofessional then and I still do. He was also wrong! Yes Santos was a young catcher who was still learning his craft but now the Mets have 2 excellent catchers in Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco. Both catchers call a great game and have been effective so far for the Mets. Unfortunately the Mets pitching staff still leads the majors in walks! For the last 2 seasons Mets pitching has allowed 24 walks to the opposing pitcher! This falls squarely on the shoulders of the pitching coach. This guy was a walk machine as a player and now he’s teaching our pitchers on how to walk the park.
Now firing these guys is not the complete answer to turning this franchise around but it’s a start. I don’t relish seeing these guys go, it’s tough to lose your job, they have families to support but this is the business they have chosen. Probably harder to fire Howard Johnson considering his history with the franchise but if the Mets want to win they’re going to have to make the tough choices and say goodbye to Warthen and HoJo.