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The New Hitting Coach

Mike SteffanosThursday, July 12, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Wow. The struggling Mets offense will be under new leadership tomorrow.

According to Newsday:

The Mets will begin the season's second half with a dramatic change in their coaching staff, Newsday has learned. Rick Down is out as hitting coach, and Rickey Henderson is in.

Down said that Willie Randolph informed him Wednesday night of the decision, and that he would be replaced by Henderson. A person familiar with the situation confirmed that Henderson, the future Hall of Famer who has never served as a coach, would take over as hitting coach.

When asked whether Randolph offered an explanation, Down replied: "Not really. Approach, I guess."

The Mets have a 48-39 record and two-game lead over Atlanta in the National League East, own a .332 on-base percentage, fifth in the NL, and a .419 slugging percentage, ranking them seventh in the league.

Henderson knew how to work a walk, and if he could get the Mets to start taking a few more free passes that would be a step in the right direction. What I'm looking forward to most, however, is all the interviews where players refer to themselves in the third person.

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Comments (10)

I think this is a good move. Obviously something was/is wrong on the offensive side. Before the season began most experts and even the majority of the non-professional writers all predicted that the offense would need to carry the day until the game got turned over to the bullpen.

How things have changed. At the midpoint it looks as if the predictions were 180 degrees wrong.

The question now though is, will firing Rick Down and hiring Ricky Henderson be the answer. My gut says yes to a degree, my hopes say hell yeah. Love or hate Henderson's style or personality, you have to admire his skills at the plate. Patience is one key ingredient thats been sorely lacking from the Mets for several years now. If this years Mets can learn even a fraction of the patience Henderson displayed his whole career then perhaps we'll finally stop seeing journeyman pitchers shut us down for 7,8 or 9 innings and under 100 pitches.

There is one area that has concerned me for a while now that few if any journalists have mentioned that this signing will not help. Has anyone but myself noticed that over the last 5 years or more every time the Mets face a pitcher they have not seen before (usually a last minute call-up or injury replacement) we seem to do nothing at the plate all night? To me this points to a glaring whole in advanced scouting. We never seem to know whats coming at us from someone new, even when its a scrub on the mound the Mets flail around like its a vintage Pedro they are facing.

Overall I like bringing in Henderson full time, his resume speaks for itself, plus the work he has done and can continue to do with Reyes, should get the offense clicking on a higher level then it has all season.

According to Rickey Henderson, Rickey Henderson says this is a great move

Shuffling the deck sometimes does good, for the simple reason that the players hear slightly different things, and that they possibly had quit listening to the coach.

That said, wow. Rickey Henderson asked to take on a regular job that isn't entirely about himself? It COULD work, of course; sometimes the lightweight television personality you cast into a high budget movie turns out to be Greg Kinnear. More likely, however, he will turn out to be Tony Danza.

I hope there are some short term benefits from this move, because I seriously doubt there will be any in the long term.

mike - i just heard that rickey henderson may be the first base coach and hojo the hitting coach...tbd i suppose...i always thought keith hernandez would make a great hitting coach although i suspect he has absolutely no interest in doing it...but when i listen to him in the booth he seems to know exactly what is wrong with everyone's swing and what they need to do to correct it...very mechanical in his approach...just a thought

According to Mets Blog, the Mets are deciding between going with Rickey and going with Howard Johnson. I'd expect them to go with HoJo, just because he has more experience coaching than Rickey does.

Gene - Apparently Hojo will be doing a lot of the duties of batting coach. Normally I hate the idea of firing a coach, but Henderson is an interesting addition to the mix, and conceivably could shake things up.
Syd - Rickey agrees.
dd - If he could change the overall offensive approach of this team, I would be in favor of them hiring Tony Danza. After all, he did play a former ballplayer on TV. Agree with you on the long term.
joyce - Keith has often stated his lack of interest in being a coach. I guess it's because he'd actually have to come to work every day...
Peter - That seems to be the consensus this morning. Thanks.

You know what, I want to amend my earlier comment.

If Henderson takes the job of everybody's hitting coach, then I am less than sanguine about the results. Pleasing, or connecting with fourteen players simply seems beyond his abilities. I can say that while holding the greatest respect for the way Rickey kept himself in game shape for all those years, along with the little detail of his greatness as a player. It's just that I saw Henderson's frequent lapses in concentration while playing for the Mets. Concentration is sort of important in a coach.

BUT: if the Mets in their wisdom elect to assign two or three players to Rickey's tuteledge -- let's say Carlos Gomez when he makes it back, and Ruben Gotay,and maybe Paul LoDuca -- then I am very happy with the arrangement. I could see all three of those guys really benefitting from what Rickey Henderson knows. And more wins could follow.

Keep the job description small, please Omar.

Whenever Rickey comes to Shea the results are positives. when was it, (last month)Rickey was brought in and Reyes went to another level. Is it coincidence that Reyes' explosion out of Spring training was directly due to Rickey's influence?

Dd: Is it cincidence Rickey's arrival coincides with Lastings lasting promotion, not just Gomez.

Rick Down: Rickey crowded the plate and intimidated the opposition. Could THAT be the message going out today?

Ed - I really don't think the message had much to do with Rick Down, I think it was a wake-up call to the players. Last night Gary Cohen called it a "shot across the bow", and that is as good a description as any I have heard.

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