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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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Dispatches from the Bubble

Top Mets brass has descended on Miami for the final series of the year. It’s a shame minority owner Bill Maher isn’t among the traveling party. One of Maher’s recurring features on his HBO program, Real Time, is “Dispatches From the Bubble,” wherein some politician is spotlighted asserting fact-like talking points that are pretty clearly at odds with reality. Maher’s aim is to show these people are living inside a bubble impenetrable to challenging thought or compelling evidence.

Which brings us to the Mets’ decision to retain their coaching staff whole for 2013, a nonmove that might be looked at, broadly speaking, two ways.

1) It could be seen as a vote of confidence not just in the abilities of Dan Warthen, Ricky Bones, Bob Geren, Dave Hudgens, Tom Goodwin and Tim Teufel, but as an indicator that they, under the direction of Terry Collins, are charged with implementing a very precise system of Mets baseball that will transcend the composition of the roster at any given instant. As the Mets continue to promote young players from within, their development will hinge on hearing a consistent organizational voice at the major league level, and these coaches have been determined to be the best delivery vehicle possible for the Met message.

2) It could be seen as easier than repainting the names on the parking spaces.

The trajectory of the 2012 Mets went from giddily good — 31-23; to slogging along — 15-16, albeit with the wins dramatic enough to keep you from noticing they were outnumbered by the losses; to miserable tailspin — 27-48 since July 8, including Monday night’s grim abandonment of pitching, hitting and baserunning fundamentals (the Marlins were no picnic to watch, either, but in the end, they had Giancarlo Stanton and we didn’t). In other words, the 2012 Mets were never that great, despite what Collins keeps telling us, and they’ve been far from decent for a very long time. So why, one is left to wonder, is it imperative to keep in place this set of men who instructed and inspired these Mets to no heights?

I suppose that’s a rhetorical question, because the essence of Collins’s answer — that they work hard and it’s not their fault — sheds no light. I imagine to him, hunkered down with these fellows as he is from day to day, they seem perfectly suited to their tasks. Maybe everybody in the Mets organization knows everybody else is giving it his best and everybody is swell and, besides, from the vantage point of the bubble, this is really a pretty good team that just hit a little rough patch three months ago.

After all, weren’t they eight games over .500 for one day?

Here’s Collins’s explanation for every coach coming back — or, more accurately, why no coach is being reassigned:

“You can get carried away by blaming coaches for a lot of stuff that happens. If you didn’t see a work ethic, I can understand coaching changes. If there were issues that some guys had, I could see that. I was around these guys every single day, and there hasn’t been a day go by where they haven’t tried to stay positive. They haven’t thrown their arms up in the air and said, ‘Well, we can’t help this guy.’ That’s never been an issue.”

One wishes to assume everybody who dons a Mets uniform gives it his all and that the organization isn’t so shocked by seeing full-out effort that it equates basic trying with brilliant succeeding. (Jason Bay always busts it down the line, too.) As for fault, no, I won’t necessarily blame Ramon Ramirez on Warthen or Bones; or Angel Torres on Goodwin; or the various parts of Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas and Kelly Shoppach that don’t function on Geren and Hudgens. No greater fount of wisdom than R.A. Dickey insisted, “Our poor season hasn’t been because of them. Believe me.”

But if the coaches are credited when things work out (Collins lauded their “development backgrounds”), is there any accountability when they don’t? Is there a net-net analysis done to determine if each coach is doing more good than harm? Or that perhaps there are other coaches who could do what the Met coaches do, but better? Is anybody deemed responsible if the bullpen implodes year after year or are the pitching coaches just around to take bows when a starter goes seven innings a few times? When a patient hitting approach yields runs in the first half of a season, is that more telling than when the same approach has perhaps too many oh-and-one holes being dug in the second half? When a coach takes a young player aside to explain how he just erred and what he needs to do to correct his mistake, is the coach to be rewarded for being diligent? Or is the coach to be deemed as ineffectual when the same player does the same stupid thing a week later?

This is still rhetorical because I really don’t know. Year after year when I was a kid, I could count on Rube Walker and Joe Pignatano remaining pitching and bullpen coach, respectively, even when the managers changed, regardless of what the starters and relievers were doing in a given season. It never occurred to me that Eddie Yost, third base coach for eight years, had anything to do with whether the Mets won or lost. I just knew Eddie Yost was always in the third base coach’s box when the game began because Lindsey Nelson would confirm it. I didn’t quite know exactly what difference coaches made then and I don’t know now. I’ve asked from time to time and I’ve watched each of them, true to Collins’s word, hustle all over the field during BP, but I still don’t know.

I do know I don’t like to see people lose their jobs if they don’t truly deserve to, and cosmetic changes don’t really cover up what’s wrong with a bigger picture. Yet in an endeavor where there they literally keep score, and where the score was run up big-time on the Mets for yet another season, it’s just weird that nobody on the management side of the field is judged accountable. Everybody works hard, nothing is anybody’s fault.

The Mets are doing great in the bubble. It’s in the standings where they have their problems.

10 comments to Dispatches from the Bubble

  • Just_Da_Damaja

    Yup….Jason Bay and Angel Torres work hard….Jordany Valdespin is lazy…

    this is why Jordany is riding the bench….despite being a better baseball player than either one of those 2 guys…

    If we were thinking of the future..our OF right now should look like this…

    LF – Duda
    CF – Kirk
    RF – Valdespin

    and we would have Den Dekker up here as well…

    but the super statistical sabermetricians are not thinking of the future…they are literally trying to make the 2012 look a lil better by having 77 wins instead of 74….

  • 9th string catcher

    I always go back to the old adage that every team will win a third of their games and lose a third of their games regardless, and that coaching makes the difference in the last third. So where does that leave us with this group of coaches? If Bay is relegated to the bench a week earlier, is that 5 wins? If Harvey comes up when Gee goes down, do we get 3 more wins? Did a lack of timely defensive substituting cost some wins? Was there an opportunity with more strategic hit and running or creative solutions to the bullpen that could have made a difference? You add a few wins and suddenly you’re a .500 team.

    I can’t really fault the coaching that much. You are talking about a team that had less overall talent and less depth than anyone in the NL East, and all the coaching in the world isn’t going to make Duda any fucking good. He is an anchor around the team’s neck. You have to give coaching some credit for making Murphy passable at 2nd defensively, and not giving up on Davis. If you want to take wins away from the coaches, you have to chalk some wins up for them there. As for pitching, Gee and Pelfrey were doing great before injury, Harvey was terrific, you have a Cy Young award nominee and a no hitter in the same season. The relievers are the relievers – they’re not very good and weren’t coached terribly well, but then, if every game is a nail biter since there’s no offense to speak of, you will have late inning problems. I mean, it ain’t Robertson, Soriano and Rivera coming out to slam the door, is it?

    Give this team some outfield offense, some speed and a catcher and then let’s talk about coaching. In the meantime, I think they’re fine, especially if they don’t bring back Razor Shines anytime soon. It’s the vaunted front office that needs to do something. Their season is about to begin.

  • Dave

    I love Maher’s “bubble” segment, and I’ve sometimes wondered if he got the idea for it watching his fellow owners operate. But this team was dragged down by the lack of talent among the players, not the coaches. My guess is that the best coaches might make a handful of minor suggestions to a player over the course of the year that are of any use, and the “good” ones are the ones who are coaching good personnel to begin with. The rest of it is up to the players to execute. I suspect a coaching staff is there so that the manager isn’t the only grownup around and to give him some people to delegate some tasks to.

    Just_Da…I’m with you on Valdespin. Collins obviously has no use for him, and it’s a shame, because the raw talent gives him a very high ceiling. I can see him in about 2-3 years being a 30/30 guy (albeit with 160 K’s and 20 walks), but when he does it, he won’t be wearing a Mets uniform. They’ll trade him this winter for the next Ramon Ramirez or something.

  • Lou

    It really comes down to the players. In Mets history, as you point out in referencing Yost and Pignatano, they resided over losing teams and winning teams. The difference wasn’t the coaches, it was the players. The Mets need better players, not new coaches. For me, I’m glad I am not hearing that coaches will be fired. That in some way makes fans think things will be better next season. Not buying it. The only way things will be different is if the Mets get an outfield that can hit, a catcher that can catch, and a bullpen that can get crucial outs. If Terry Collins and his coaches were in the Bronx, the Yankees would still be on the precipice of clinching a division title not languishing in fourth place. Gee, what’s the difference?

  • Guy Kipp

    Which Wilpon does Dan Warthen have incriminating pictures of?

    • stan

      I asked the same question about a month ago. Given this announcement, I’m assuming that Jeff and a farm animal may be portrayed in that photo album.

  • Guy Kipp

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    I could also see Valdespin being Lastings Milledge or Francisco Martinez in two or three years.

  • Just_Da_Damaja

    Speaking of the bubble…

    Sandy is artificially inflating the 2013 payroll to justify NOT SPENDING…

    Johan Santana’s contract =

    6 years/$137.5M (2008-13), plus 2014 club option

    08:$19M, 09:$20M, 10:$21M, 11:$22.5M, 12:$24M, 13:$25.5M, 14:$25M club option ($5.5M

    $5M deferred annually at 1.25% compound interest (payable June 30 seven years after season in which salary was earned), reducing present-day value of package to $123.1M

    ——————————————————————————————————————————–

    Jason Bay

    4 years/$66M (2010-13), plus 2014 option

    10:$6.5M, 11:$16M, 12:$16M, 13:$16M, 14:$17M club option ($3M buyout)

    ——————————————————————————————————————————

    This means in 2013, the mets will be paying Johan Santana 20 million dollars…and Jason Bay 16 million dollars…

    20 + 16 = 36 mil

    in 2014, Johan Santana will receive 5.5 mil on the buyout…and Jason Bay will receive 3 mil on his buyout….this = 8 million dollars…

    Now take a look at the mets payroll obligations from 2014 – 2018…

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Ah4PW47PiAi-dGwxeHRJTGxhMG1ZNTRXUkdzUlpoY1E&output=html

    Sandy Alderson has officially entered Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan territory…

    he has completely fudged these numbers to deceive the fans

    Have a good day yall…