July 13, 2007
BASEBALL: Mr. Rickey-Shea
So the second half launches with a minor shakeup at Shea - Rickey Henderson replaces Rick Down as the batting coach, and Julio Franco is cut to make room on the roster for Lastings Milledge, who takes over for the injured Carlos Gomez replacing the injured Endy Chavez taking the place of the injured Moises Alou (remember him?). More stunningly, Scott Schoenweis is...still here. $10 million contracts will do that.
I have to assume that Down's departure is more of a backstage power struggle or personality clash than a simple scapegoating, but in any event unlike Rick Peterson I've never seen anybody credit him with any great success. Rickey seems like an odd choice for a batting coach - a great guy as a baserunning instructor, and certainly he can impart the value of plate patience, but as John Harper puts it
Hitting coaches put in countless hours these days, breaking down video of their own hitters as well as opposing pitchers, in addition to individual work with each player, and, well, Henderson still carries himself more like a superstar player than a blue-collar coach.
Of course, Rickey's hot dogging attitude as a player always belied his intense work ethic, so it's possible that he will be more of a workhorse than he lets on.
Franco says he's not done, though it's hard to see who will give him a job now. I like the guy and he was a great story, but it was time.
I didn't see last night's game (more on why next), but from the photos, it looks like Milledge has cut his dreadlocks, which is probably a wise choice for a guy trying to clean up his image long enough to get settled in a big league job (one he expects to have "for the next 20 years"). Hopefully, Milledge will give us better glovework than last season, which would make it a lot easier for people to wait out any batting slumps - the contrast with Chavez and Gomez will be a tough one.
Ruben Gotay's presence in the lineup subbing for the injured Jose Valentin suggests to me that the Mets aren't making any deals to upgrade at second - they are clearly going to hobble through with the two veterans while breaking in Gotay. Defense will be even more critical to the second base job - Valentin's unlikely to hit very much this season, so he'll need his glove to keep him in the lineup, while defense is likely to be key to whether Gotay is able to make himself the favorite for the job long term.
Your right, it was time for Franco to go, but it was a good ride.
It is hard for me to take Gotay seriously as an everyday player. His defense was shaky in KC and he did not hit for enough average to hold a job. I wish him well though. I always thought he played hard and he did have a few key hits.
Wasn't Down the guy Don Mattingly credited for his success? But your right, nobody else did.
I gather it might turn out to be HoJo rather than Rickey who becomes the hitting coach, which would make more sense. He was David Wright's hitting coach in the minors. I do think Rickey can be an asset as a coach - he knows an awful lot about baseball, although I think his ability to communicate all of that is probably a bit questionable. He's really not somebody I expected to see become a full-time coach.
Milledge shaved his head during spring training, I believe.
Rickey was a better hitter than HoJo. How that translates to coaching ability, I dunno. But I'd be satisfied if Rickey could get some of these guys to be more patient at the plate, even if their average doesn't improve.
Even in baseball I think a lot of the time the best coaches and managers come from the ranks of less talented former-ballplayers. Guys who had to work and work and work just to get by in the bigs are probably better able to communicate that work ethic and philosophy to the bulk of their players. I am not saying someone like Jim Rice did not work at his craft but he was a less effective hitting coach than guys who were clearly lesser hitters them because of the ability to communicate and to understand more clearly guys with lesser natural ability and strength. Ricky would seem to be an extreme example of this.
Another way to look at that idea is great players received less coaching during their careers so they had less past experiences to draw upon. A guy like Charlie Manuel who batted barely over the Mendoza line probably had dozens of coaches trying to work with him dozens of different ways. George Brett was taught by Charlie Lau and never needed any other coaching. So when their playing days were done Manuel had lots of lessons he learned over the years (whether they worked for him or not) whereas Brett had one way which worked for him but may not work for others.
If Henderson doesn't work out as hitting coach,he can always take Franco's spot as designated geriatric on the Mets roster.
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