Oct 18

Hudgens Lands Job With Astros

Word the Houston Astros hired former Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens raised the simple question: What’s going on in the Mets’ search to fill that position?

The Mets are interested in Dave Magadan and former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. The Yankees are also pursuing Magadan.

Hudgens’ philosophy is to work deep into the count, but when the Mets’ sputtered to start the season he was fired, May 26. The Mets’ rationalization was the hitters lost their aggressiveness. A lot of that was traced to Lucas Duda’s inability in 2013 to hit with runners in scoring position.

That’s rather weak because most hitting coaches preach patience until the batter gets his pitch. It’s up to the hitter to be able to recognize what that pitch is and to be ready to crush it. Despite the steroids, you must give credit to Barry Bonds’ selectivity. There were times when Bonds would get one hittable pitch to hit – and he did.

This week the Mets also lost Triple-A Las Vegas hitting coach George Greer by St. Louis to oversee their organizational philosophy.

 

Lamar Johnson replaced Hudgens and was reassigned to the minor leagues after the season.

Oct 17

Ventura’s Grand Slam Single Endures

One of the players I most enjoyed covering was Robin Ventura for those two years he played for the Yankees. In a clubhouse full of stars and egos, Ventura was a voice of calm, reason and humorous relief.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to shoot the breeze for a minute or two, talking about things other than baseball. Very smart, clever and possessing an insight on numerous issues. When there was the inevitable blow up or moment of absurdity, Ventura was always there to put it into perspective with a quip as short and hard-hitting as his swing.

VENTURA: A Mets' Magic Moment.

VENTURA: A Mets’ Magic Moment.

Once I asked him about his fight with Nolan Ryan, and his response was he knew he had made a mistake halfway out to the mound, but couldn’t turn around. You’ll even notice in the video he slowed down.

Was it an embarrassing moment? Yes, but years later he handled it with humor. He even joined with Ryan to autograph photos of the brawl.

When I covered the Orioles and he was with the White Sox, I’d make time to go over to his clubhouse for a few moments. He was accessible to anybody who would take the time to ask a question.

Ventura loved his time with Mets which included the 2000 NL Championship and of course the World Series loss to the Yankees.

“It was a great time,” said Ventura, who played for the Mets from 1999-2001. “We enjoyed it as a family just being there. The Mets were very good to me. There’s part of it going back, seeing a lot of faces that you’re friends with and happy to see.”

His signature moment as a Met will always be the Grand Slam Single that happened 15 years ago today. It’s a great memory and one that still gives many Mets fans goosebumps.

That night is one of the greatest team displays of enthusiasm outside of winning a championship I have ever seen. That, and the Piazza post 9-11 homer. Both were amazing to watch.

Ventura wasn’t a five-tool player, but was consistent and clutch. With a runner in scoring position you wanted him at the plate because he’d usually make contact.

Ventura was a .267 lifetime hitter and only once hit over .300, that being .301 in 1999, his first season with the Mets. Considering his 66-game hitting streak in college, I always wondered if he thought he should have hit for a higher average. He also hit 32 homers with a career-high 120 RBI in his first year with the Mets.

What the Mets wouldn’t give for a player with that production now.

Ventura had three solid years with the Mets, who, during that span had arguably one of the best defensive infields in history. Few balls got by Ventura, Rey OrdonezEdgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud.

Both Olerud and Ventura would later play for the Yankees. When they left the Yankees, I always believed I’d see both of them again managing in a major league dugout. I’m still waiting on Olerud.

Oct 16

Mets’ Triple-A Hitting Coach Hired By Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals, a regular in the NLCS, has hired Mets’ Triple-A hitting coach George Greer to oversee their hitting program throughout their system, reports ESPN.

Didn’t I hear the Mets needed a new hitting coach?

If he’s qualified to be hired by the Cardinals, shouldn’t he at least gotten a serious look from the Mets?

Oct 15

Will Another $10 Million In Payroll Make Much Difference?

As it usually is this time of year, the issue is money, specifically how much are the Mets willing to spend.

The days of $140 million payrolls for them are long since gone. It was around $83 last season and ESPN’s Adam Rubin said they might go as high as $93 million. I trust Rubin’s reporting. As far as I am concerned, he’s the best reporter on the Mets’ beat.

searchIt’s not how much you spend, but how it is supposed to be spent. Therein lies the problem, in that none of us know what GM Sandy Alderson is capable of doing with a lot of money.

He was hired to cut payroll, not add to it and dip into the free-agent market. Assuming a $10 bump in payroll, most will go to raises and arbitration cases. Another $10 million won’t substantially improve the Mets, who have questions at shortstop, left field and maintenance of their bullpen.

This also doesn’t account for on-the-fly patching, which could not only be at catcher – where Travis d’Arnaud is no sure thing – but any position.

The Mets’ problems have been identified, but another $10 million won’t make much difference. Not if they want to be competitive.

Oct 14

Hitting Coach Update; Hope It Includes Approach

The New York Mets’ search for a hitting coach is apparently down to Dave Magadan and Kevin Long, both of whom preach patience and using the entire field. Both also are experienced on the major league level; Magadan with Texas and Long with the Yankees.

Regardless of theirs, or anybody else’s hitting philosophy, it comes down to the hitters buying into what they are saying and how well they execute.

For the most part, the Mets don’t have a lot of hitters with the discipline to take a pitch and go to the opposite field – exactly what Kansas City and San Francisco are doing in the playoffs.

As the Mets build toward 2015, this is the approach they must take. They still don’t have a leadoff hitter, but that could be Juan Lagares if he walks more and strikes out less.

We saw what happened this season when Lucas Duda became more selective. It was what the deposed Dave Hudgens wanted them to take. His message was good, but perhaps it was how it was delivered that was at fault.

Patience and plate presence is a more direct path to team success than power. History is loaded with power laden teams that fizzled in October because they couldn’t do a simple thing as advance a runner and hit a fly ball with a runner at third. When you look at this year’s playoff field, consider Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles.

This is the message the Mets should be teaching all their players on all levels. It should be an organizational approach and it is not.