Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rickey, A Coach?

Apparently, first place in the NL East is not sufficient. With the Mets lineup failing to meet lofty preseason expectations, thanks to a boat load of injuries, and underperforming superstars, notably Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, hitting coach Rick Down paid the price. Down is out, the first coach fired under Randolph, replaced by none other than Rickey Henderson. Stolen base king, former MVP, World Series champion, aloof purveyor of unforgettable quotes, the previous generation’s Manny Ramirez, a coach.

Other than simply shaking things up, I do not see many tangible benefits from bringing Rickey into this clubhouse. During his playing career, Henderson occasionally exhibited an attitude problem, lack of work ethic, and famously disappeared for a card game during a Mets-Braves playoff series. Not to mention, Rickey does not come off as the most astute individual. Name the last time a professional coach, spokesperson for the organization, setting examples for young players, spoke of himself in the third person.

Subsequent reports have Henderson taking over at first base, with Howard Johnson assuming the duties of hitting instructor, a better scenario for the Mets. Getting on base and base stealing are Henderson’s sweet spot. As first base coach, he can focus on teaching base stealing, similar to his role as spring training instructor a few years back, and help hitters approach at the plate, lending credence to patience and working pitchers. I do not envision Rickey succeeding breaking down the technical components of a swing, nor do I want during a playoff run, if I am the Omar Minaya.

The move can go one of two ways, Rickey can prove a quality clubhouse person and provide important leadership to the young core of talent, or he can disrupt team chemistry. Despite public perception, almost everyone he played with, to a man, says Rickey is a great teammate. The only difference, teammates found his antics amusing and laughable at times. As a coach, he needs to take a more serious approach, saving the clown act for select times. Can he make that adjustment?

I have never spoken to Rickey, though I would love to, nor have I recently heard him interviewed, so it is hard to say if “retirement”, which he still refuses to admit to, has led to maturity. If so, Henderson can provide some desperately needed mentorship, especially following the Jose Reyes hustle problem, and Paul LoDuca vs. the Hispanic player’s controversy. If he is still the old Rickey, putting himself before the team, the Mets only gain another sideshow, the last thing they need.

Adding Henderson is as high a risk-reward proposition as changing a coach can be. Given his lack of any coaching experience, and the situation the Mets are in, middle of a pennant race with pressure to make the World Series, I do not like the timing, and prefer a more experienced coach. As with all decisions, time will tell. But I cannot wait for that first interview, and the return of the quote machine. Hey, its just Rickey being Rickey.


Post a Comment

<< Home