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Met Coach Grill

Meat Loaf’s baserunner protagonist in the middle of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light [1],” this kid who really makes things happen out there, was probably helped along by his third base coach. Maybe not as he was rounding first and trying for second, because it’s on the runner to pick up the center fielder bobbling the ball, but you’d have to think he was given a steal sign — or at least not given the stop sign — when he got that jump (“what a jump”) and took third. And the batter who followed him had to have read a sign for the suicide squeeze for it to have been executed as seamlessly as it was. Not that we know for sure if the runner beat the play at the plate. “Holy cow,” broadcaster Phil Rizzuto [2] breathlessly opined, “I think he’s gonna make it,” but instant replay wasn’t available as the song moved along to other action.

Aside from invoking the 1978 epic hit single in tribute to Mr. Loaf, who died Thursday [3] at the age of 74, we bring up “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” here because the coaches in the song not only go unnamed but unremarked upon. It’s hard to imagine this boy who could really fly wasn’t paying attention in the heat of the moment to the signals he was getting, nor could we fathom that he’d ever have gotten up to bat in such a pressure cooker of a situation had he not been coached thoroughly as he was coming up the chain to be ready for his moment.

Even in baseball as metaphor (because the play-by-play Meat Loaf drafted the Scooter to do didn’t show up in any box score, wink-wink), the coaching is implicit. Most of the time, when viewed from a distance, it’s barely that.

Today, the Mets announced the composition of their coaching staff [4] for 2022. Some of these names had made the rounds weeks ago, but now they’re official. Welcome aboard some highly qualified professionals you probably won’t hear about let alone think about again until something goes wrong or everybody’s dissatisfied.

• Bench coach Glenn Sherlock (a coach in these parts a few years ago)
• First base coach Wayne Kirby (a 1998 Met)
• Third base coach Joey Cora (brother of a 2009-2010 Met)
• Bullpen coach Craig Bjornson (who seems to enjoy the camera [5])
• Hitting coach Eric Chavez (we’ll forgive him previous place of employ)
• Assistant hitting coach Jeremy Barnes (formerly the Mets’ Director of Player Initiatives, a key component of the Department of Euphemisms)

Buck Showalter will remind reporters now and then that when a good play is made or a player gets on a hot streak that somebody who otherwise goes about his business quietly has been working hard with so-and-so and it’s really paying off. Sherlock gave Showalter a great suggestion. Kirby positioned the fielders just right. Cora took a chance that paid off. Chavez or perhaps Barnes has spent hours in the cage with somebody who’s no longer in a slump. Bjornson meshes well with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, the lone holdover from the Rojas regimelet (it wasn’t much of a regime [6]) and maybe he keeps the guys in the pen loose. If we pay attention, we’ll take note of these brief notices and feel good about these coaches between pitches.

Then we’ll forget about them almost completely until a runner is thrown out or a slump doesn’t end or an error is committed by a fielder who was standing there rather than there. Why didn’t Sherlock warn Showalter? How come Cora sent or didn’t send that leadfoot/speedster? What does Bjornson do around here anyway? What we don’t see we don’t see. What we think tends to be influenced by what do see or hear, and usually we won’t see or hear much from Buck’s brain trust.

Then, likely when we’re fuming about Met things in general, they’ll be gone from the Citi Field scene, damaged collaterally by a little too much losing, hopefully after an ample amount of winning. Like Jeremy Accardo, who is no longer assistant pitching coach; or Ricky Bones, who is no longer bullpen coach; or ex-first base coach Tony Tarasco; or ex-bench coach Dave Jauss; or ex-third base coach Gary DiSarcina; or Brian Schneider, who you might remember as a catcher for the Mets for a couple of years a while back but you probably have already forgotten coached catchers and coordinated otherwise just last year. The only reason we knew Hugh Quattlebaum — still in the organization but no longer the hitting coach — was because Chili Davis was let go. Davis received more than a modicum of attention for the reason coaches do: by serving as sacrificial lamb. The rest of the 2021 coaches, not all of whom were mentioned in this paragraph, were swept out with the Rojas tide, as if they all suddenly misplaced their savvy simultaneously.

All these new guys who are replacing them no doubt know their baseball. In the end, it won’t save them when somebody has to go.