By Joyce Mandelkern
I love a man with a plan. I also love a man with a sense of humor. We seem to have gotten both in Jerry Manuel. I know it is way too early to shower the newly minted Mets manager with accolades, but I'm feeling giddy. I feel like a black cloud has been lifted. I'm not listening to the same old tired clichés that rang hollow. If I never hear the words "nice little rhythm" again, it will be a day too soon. Sometimes, you just have to inject a little humor into a difficult situation. Laughter is good medicine and Dr. Jerry is in the house.
Am I hoping for too much? Probably. But that is really all I am asking for - hope. The possibility of winning. The possibility of making a playoff run. I needed to lose the depressive feeling I had watching the 2008 New York Mets play. That hopelessness that just wouldn't go away. Perhaps I just associated Willie with the 2007 collapse combined with the constant lack of focus and energy. I just thought a change was needed and I must admit I didn't think Jerry Manuel was the answer. However, when I watched his press conference, I was blown away. I was impressed with his confidence, his sense of humor, his game plan, and his communication skills. Honestly, I was impressed with the fact that he wasn't Willie.
It must be difficult to turn around the culture of a ball club on a dime, so I won't be quick to judge him. I have no idea how long it will take the pitchers to adjust to their new pitching coach, or if it will even matter at all. It seems to me he has a lot of work to do and undo. And he has already begun to do that (i.e., Jose Reyes). I like that he has concrete and specific ideas that he speaks to with regard to resting players, pitch counts, bullpen roles, lineups changes, and accountability. I like that he wants input from all his coaches and staff, something I'm not sure Willie wanted or accepted openly. I always felt that he was stubborn to a fault and resistant to change, even when change was obviously needed.
And here is what I like the most, which I know you are all going to think is the most corny or cheesy thing of all. I love when he said that he always tells the guys "gangstas on the field, ladies on the bus." I love a good slogan. No, really, what I love is a team identity, an "us against them" mentality. Something, anything, to unite and focus this clubhouse, that we have heard might be divided along cultural lines. If he wants them to be "gangstas," fine, let them be "gangstas." As long as they are "gangstas" together. I'm not actually sure what a "gangsta" is, but if it means you have a lot of fight in you - count me in.
Look, I can't sit here and say that Jerry Manuel is our savior. I think Johan Santana took that job when he signed. Just kidding. All I'm saying, is that I am very pleasantly surprised by what I think he is bringing to the table and that we still have a shot here. And in baseball, that is all you can really ask for - a chance to win. The second season starts now for the 2008 New York Mets.