Oberkfell Deserves a Chance

An article by posted on July 26, 2010

We’ve reached the point in the season where I think we’re beginning to realize the 2010 Mets team as presently constructed are not a better team than Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco, Colorado, San Diego and probably Los Angeles and Cincinnati. There isn’t 1 move that will make them better than more than 2 of those teams.

Firing Jerry Manuel, Howard Johnson and whoever, is not making this team a realistic playoff contender. Could it happen? Sure, I mean who expected the Rockies to turn it on last year or in 2007? Anything can happen, but to expect it to happen is really just setting yourself up for a big disappointment.

I think we’ve come to the point where it’s time to start cleaning house in terms of management. I think we as fans need to forget about the idea that Bobby Valentine is the right fit to be the next Manager of the Mets. He isn’t the right fit, and for a franchise that is apparently under financial difficulties, they aren’t paying a manager with a big contract when they won’t go get a pitcher.

I think when talks of getting rid of Manuel & company first happened this year, it was a little unfair. It was very early in the year, and there was a lot left to see. I think now as we get ready to start August in a week, we’ve seen enough.

I’m not saying go ahead and fire him, it’s his job and his livelihood. Same goes for guys like Johnson, Warthen, etc. I will say this though, I cannot see any way Jerry Manuel is the manager of this franchise in April of 2011. For that reason, I think he will be let go at some point, maybe even today.

If this were to happen, everybody’s going to have ideas. The most popular from the fans will be Wally Backman, and Bobby Valentine. I respectfully veto both calls. I already explained Valentine from a financial point of view, and Valentine isn’t or wasn’t as great of a Manager as some of us try and make him out to be. Is he better than Manuel? I’d say yes, but is he so good that he’s worth ignoring other realistic options? Absolutely not.

Wally Backman is my favorite Mets player of all-time. He was wronged by the Arizona franchise and I think it is awesome that the Mets organization came to his aid and gave him a 2nd chance. I don’t think you can justify giving him the keys to the castle with just a half season of short-season minor league baseball under his belt within this organization. Also, I’m a little tired of this idea that everybody associated with either the 1986 or 2000 Mets can do anything.

I believe if Manuel is let go before this season ends, the only logical move is to hire an interim manager from within the organization. There are several options, guys like Tim Teufel, and Bob Melvin would be considered I’m sure, and rightfully so.

With all of that said, I think the name we all continue to ignore unfairly is that of Ken Oberkfell.

Oberkfell was a 16 year veteran in the Major Leagues playing for 6 different franchises. Most notably the Cardinals and Braves. He was a part of the 1982 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, a team managed by recently enshrined Hall of Fame Manager Whitey Herzog. That team also features a 28 year old Keith Hernandez at 1B.

After retiring in 1992, Oberkfell embarked on a Managerial career which after just two years in independent baseball, he got his chance to manage the Piedmont Boll Weevils, single A affiliate for the Philadelphia Phillies, and quite frankly an awesome minor league team name.

In three years Oberkfell managed to a 215-208 record before managing the FSL affiliate in Clearwater to a 64-71 campaign in 2000. That would be his final year with the Phillies as he would join the Mets minor league system in 2001.

In 2001, he was the manager of the Capital City Bombers where he managed an 18 year old SS by the name of Jose Reyes. Also on that team for a brief stint was Angel Pagan. The team finished with a 62-73 record.

Oberkfell would follow Jose Reyes to St. Lucie for the 2002 season, and call it a coincidence or not but Reyes never had a better stint in the Minor Leagues than when he played for Ken Oberkfell in 2001 and 2002. That includes his time spent in AA in 2002 and AAA in 2003.

During that 2002 season, Oberkfell managed Jose Reyes and some 23 year old outfielder by the name of Jason Bay. The team finished 71-69 for the year. He remained with St. Lucie for the 2003 season, and managed the team to the Florida State League championship. That team included David Wright and Angel Pagan.

Okay so we’re through just 3 years of Oberkfell’s Mets Managerial career and he’s been connected to Reyes, Pagan, Wright and Bay.

After winning the FSL title, Oberkfell was promoted to manage the AA Binghamton Mets. They finished with a 76-66 record, and yes Wright & Pagan were on those teams as well.

He was then once again promoted, this time to AAA where he would manage the 2005 Norfolk Tides. The team finished with a 79-65 record and lost in the Semi-Finals, but the season did earn Oberkfell the honor of being named Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year.

Oberkfell struggled in 2006 with a very depleted Norfolk roster. In 2007, the Mets moved their affiliate to New Orleans and Oberkfell managed a 75-69 record, the team would lose in the Finals. This team included Mike Pelfrey.

2008 was the year Oberkfell was promoted to the big leagues after the Willie Randolph debacle in June.

After that season, Oberkfell returned to AAA where he took over the Buffalo Bisons, a team that included Jon Niese. He currently is managing the 51-50 Buffalo Bisons, a team that has included Ike Davis, Chris Carter, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, Bobby Parnell among others.

So if we’re throwing names out there, I’d like to see a guy who has not only paid his dues, but has had success and has a familiarity with some of the players will be continue to be the foundation of this franchise for years to come.

Oberkfell isn’t a household name within a Mets family like Tim Teufel, Wally Backman or even Gary Carter. He isn’t a flashy Manager like a Bobby Valentine, he’s just a guy who had a long Major League career and has paid his dues within our beloved organization waiting for his 1 chance at making it to the show. I submit to you, Ken Oberkfell’s resume.

Ken Oberkfell

ObjectiveTo obtain a managerial position at the Major League level.
Experience2005-Present                 New York Mets     Norfolk, New Orleans, Buffalo

Triple A Manager

  • Brief stint at 1B coach for big league club in 2008 following dismissal of Willie Randolph
  • 2005, lost in semi-finals; 2007 lost in finals.
  • Combined 384-430 record
  • Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year in 2005
  • Notable Players: Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, Ike Davis, Chris Carter, Ruben Tejada, R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole.

2004                             New York Mets                              Binghamton

Double A Manager

  • 76-66 record
  • Lost in semi-finals
  • Notable Players: David Wright & Angel Pagan
2001-2003                     New York Mets                 Columbia & St. Lucie

Single A Manager

  • Combined 210-204 record.
  • 2003 FSL Champions
  • Notable Players: Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan, David Wright, and Jason Bay
1997-2000                     Philadelphia Phillies        Piedmont & Clearwater

Minor League Manager

  • 279-279 record in four seasons
  • Best season: 1998, 76-65
  • Notable players: Jimmy Rollins, Derrick Turnbow, Carlos Silva
1977-1992                     MLB Player        St. Louis, Atlanta most notably.

Infielder

  • Career .278 hitter
  • 17 post-season games, including 1982 World Series victory.
  • Tops in Fielding % in 1979 (2B), 1982, 1983 (3B)
Education1980-1987                                                                  St. Louis, Atlanta

  • Played for Hall of Fame Manager Whitey Herzog
  • Also played for 1979 World Series Manager, Chuck Tanner

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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