When the 2008 season started, Jerry Manuel was the Mets' bench coach supporting Willie Randolph. The events of last summer could not have been foreseen by most fans, never mind players or coaches.
The firing of Willie Randolph and the two coaches involved took place in a manner that no one was expecting. Omar Minaya surprised everyone by his visit to Anaheim in late June, although it was not the first visit that was pretty much kept in secret.
He turned things around in the second half and the players did respond him and his methods. It was not enough to put the Mets into the postseason, but he did his best with the hand he was given at the time. Carlos Delgado caught fire in late June and did not cool off, mainly due to recovering from injury, although I do feel that some of it may have been in part due to Willie Randolph's managerial decisions.
Two of his first acts were putting David Wright in the lineup as the DH as they were playing an American League team (Anaheim) and pulling Jose Reyes out of a game in the first inning. Neither of those events most likely would have occurred under Willie Randolph's managerial methods.
The night that Wright was the DH was the first game of the season that he did not start at third base, and that was news throughout baseball, as Wright had not had a single inning off in over three months. Reyes came up lame after running the bases and Manuel immediately came out of the dugout to pull him from the game, under much protest from Reyes, but he persevered and showed Reyes who was in control.
Manuel does understand his players and their strengths and weaknesses and will bring out the best in all of them. He is not afraid to tell them "no" when it needs to be done, whereas Randolph was a "yes" man, and that is not what MLB players necessarily need from their manager. They are adults and should be treated as such, but they do need to hear from their manager that decisions are made for the benefit of the whole team, popular or unpopular, right or wrong, it is the manager's call on how to handle situations.
With the offseason acquisitions of Putz and K-Rod, along with an overall firmer bullpen combination, and his knowledge of his players, Manuel should feel more at ease now than he did last season when he took the reins.
Jerry Manuel is now the Mets' full-fledged manager, as the interim label has been removed. He knows that Omar Minaya will be watching closely and that his job could be in peril easily, but he seems up to the challenge. We'll see how the season goes, though.
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