He baffles the townspeople with his words, like Sheriff Bart from Blazing Saddles. This is what many have said about Jerry Manuel. That he's not a good manager, he's simply a good interview. The disastrous weekend in the Bronx has led to renewed talk that the New York Mets are not fundamentally sound, and that the best way to improve their play would be to replace Manuel with a manager who places a greater emphasis on fundamental play. I disagree with this assertion, I feel that a third different manager within one calendar year would contribute further to the sinking of the ship, not help bail out the water. But in the interest of discussion, the following is a list of some living former major league managers. Which of these men, if any, do you think will make the Mets run the bases, field their positions, and work the count better?
- Felipe Alou, age 74. 1033-1021 (.503). Named 1994 NL Manager of the Year after leading the Montreal Expos to a 74-40 (.649) record in the strike-shortened season. NY Times writer Jack Curry describes Alou as having a 'calm style and tactful strategies.' Perhaps a bit old for the job.
- Don Baylor, age 59. 627-689 (.476). Named 1995 NL Manager of the Year after leading the Colorado Rockies to a 77-67 (.535) record in the strike-shortened season and the Division Series Playoff which they lost 3 games to 1 to the Atlanta Braves. NY Times writer Lee Jenkins notes that the Mets started scoring a lot more runs after he was named batting coach in 2004, and Murray Chass notes that Baylor would like to manage again.
- Larry Bowa, age 63. 418-435 (.490). Named 2001 NL Manager of the Year after leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 86-76 (.531) record and a 2nd place finish one year after the team lost 97 games under Terry Francona. He's clearly a fiery take charge guy, and those in favor of the Mets acquiring Nick Johnson will be pleased to note that Bowa is Johnson's uncle.
- Phil Garner, age 60. 985-1054 (.483). Garner led the 2005 Houston Astros to the World Series via the wild card, but they lost 4 games to none to the Chicago White Sox. His nickname is 'Scrap Iron' due to his gritty style, and he won 92 games with the 1992 Milwaukee Brewers with a strong emphasis on baserunning.
- John Gibbons, age 47. 305-305 (.500). Gibbons' best season was 2006 when he lead the Toronto Blue Jays to an 87-75 (.537) record and a 2nd place finish in the AL East. He is a former Met and is known for his in-your-face style.
- Mike Hargrove, age 59. 1188-1173 (.503). Hargrove took the 1995 and the 1997 Cleveland Indians to the World Series, losing 4 games to 2 to the Atlanta Braves in '95 and 4 games to 3 to the Florida Marlins in '97. Two strikes against him: upon seeing Ichiro Suzuki play in Japan Hargrove stated he would be "no better than a fourth outfielder in MLB;" and he resigned as manager of the Seattle Mariners in 2007 saying his "passion has begun to fade." He is however currently managing at the semi-pro level with the Liberal BeeJays in Kansas.
- Clint Hurdle, age 51. 534-625 (.461). Hurdle led the 2007 Colorado Rockies to the World Series which they lost 4 games to none to the Boston Red Sox. After an 18-28 (.391) start Hurdle was fired by the Rockies on May 29th. He is under contract with the Rockies through the end of this season.
- Davey Johnson, age 66. 1148-888 (.564). Certainly a favorite among Met fans old enough to recall 1986 firsthand, having led the team through it's mid-'80s run of winning 90 games or more in 5 consecutive seasons. Has by far the best winning percentage of anyone on this list. My own editorial note: I was not at all impressed with his 'handling' of Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and I would prefer not to sully my memories of 1986 by bringing him back.
- Ray Knight, age 56. 125-137 (.477). 1986 World Series MVP as a player with the Mets, but perhaps best known as a manager for fining himself $250 for calling for a sacrifice bunt at an inopportune time.
- Lee Mazzilli, age 54. 129-140 (.480). The 'Italian Stallion' gave me one of my favorite memories growing up a Met fan when he singlehandedly (in my opinion) won the 1979 All-Star Game by hitting the game tying home run in 8th inning, then drawing a bases loaded walk in the 9th to give the NL the lead. Dave Parker won the MVP however for defense by throwing out two AL baserunners from right field. His managerial tenure with the Orioles was marred by a lack of quality depth of pitchers.
- Hal McRae, age 63. 399-473 (.458). His best season as a manager, 1993 84-78 (.519), is most noteworthy because of an early season tirade during which he yelled profanities and tossed objects, so he's fiery.
- Bob Melvin, age 47. 493-508 (.493). Melvin won the 2007 NL Manager of the Year award for leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to the NL Championship Series which they lost 4 games to none to the Colorado Rockies. He was fired by the Diamondbacks May 8th. Orlando Hudson likes him.
- Tony Pena, age 52. 198-285 (.410). There's nothing sexy about a .410 winning percentage, but the Kansas City Royals teams that Pena managed were hardly overburdened with talent. He won AL Manager of the Year in 2003 when the team won 83 games and finished in 3rd place with Carlos Beltran leading the offense and Darrell May leading the pitching. Yup, Darrell May.
- Frank Robinson, age 73. 1065-1176 (.475). Won the 1989 AL Manager of the Year leading the Baltimore Orioles to 83 wins and a 2nd place finish. Is in the Hall of Fame as a player. Like Alou, perhaps a bit old for the job.
- Buck Showalter, age 53. 882-833 (.514). Twice named AL Manager of the Year, first in 1994 when he led the New York Yankees to a 70-43 (.619) record in the strike-shortened season, then in 2004 when he led the Texas Rangers to an 89-73 (.549) record and 3rd place in the AL West. The Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks both won the World Series one year after Showalter left/was fired as manager, and in some circles he is credited for building those teams into championship caliber clubs.
These are some of the more recent former managers still living. There are others, ranging from Art Howe to Willie Randolph, that I just didn't feel merited consideration. What do you think?
- Bobby Valentine, age 59. 1117-1072 (.510). Won the National League Pennant with the 2000 New York Mets, losing the World Series 4 games to 1. Has come from Japan before to manage the Mets, so it can be done, and it's difficult to suggest that he can't 'win with less' as a quick look at the 2000 Mets outfield shows. Perhaps most famous for returning to the dugout in disguise after being ejected from a game.