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Rating the Season: The Pitching Coach

Mike SteffanosWednesday, October 5, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

In our next three posts, we'll take a look at Rick Peterson, Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya. After a lot of thought on this point, I have decided to forgo giving out letter grades to these three. Simply stated, lacking the inside information to judge all the variables that affected their decisions this season, assigning a grade to these men would be just vanity on my part. Like most serious Mets fans I do have an opinion after watching these guys in action, the following is one fan's opinion.

Rick Peterson

It's rare that a coach can inspire almost as much controversy as a team's manager. In fact, in 37 years of following this team I would have to think really hard to even remember a handful of the pitching coaches this organization has had. For better or worse, I don't think I'll ever forget Rick Peterson.

Looking at the numbers, it's hard to argue that he hasn't done a decent job with the pitching staff. The Mets have improved greatly in two years under Peterson. In fairness, they have improved the quality of the pitchers available to him rather dramatically. Also, it's difficult to say looking on from the outside, even in the case where a pitcher shows marked improvement, just how much credit the pitching coach deserves. For instance, how much of Jae Seo's improvement is due to Peterson's input as opposed to Jae gaining maturity and the work of the Triple A coach? There is no real answer to that.

What I do respect about Peterson is his ability to work with both veterans and young pitchers. He doesn't seem to try to force anything down the throat of a Tom Glavine for instance, but it does seem that he was able to convince Glavine to alter a pitching style that has him headed to the Hall of Fame but wasn't working any longer. At the same time, he really seemed to make a lot of progress with Victor Zambrano this year, despite the bad ending. And he gets major points for Roberto Hernandez' comeback, too.

I think Peterson's biggest problems are twofold. First, the Mets picked him up in an off-season where they knew they weren't going to be good. They tried to make a big story out of a genius coach coming in and single-handedly resurrecting our staff. Just like Kaz Matsui was burdened with unreasonable expectations coming in, so was Peterson.

Secondly, he was painted as one of the bad guys in the Kazmir trade, with the infamous line about "fixing" Zambrano now legendary. I can't speak to how much of the responsibility that Peterson should bear in this matter, and frankly I don't care. The front office shoulders the responsibility of any trade, if it goes wrong blame the person that made it. (I still throw something at the TV every time I see Steve Phillips.) If a GM makes a bad talent evaluation it's on him -- it's up to him to evaluate the advice he gets and make a final call on a deal. If it makes you feel a little better about that awful deal to kick Peterson over it, no problem. I'll always hate that deal, but I've moved on.

My feelings on Rick Peterson are simple -- if Willie, for as long as he is manager, is comfortable with Peterson as pitching coach, I'm fine with it too. I will avoid both giving him too much credit when things go well and too much blame when they don't. But after watching him for two years I think the Mets have a much better-than-average pitching coach who is an asset to the organization.


Willie Randolph

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