Certainly, when discussing the leaders for the 2009 NL Coach of the Year there are a few names that might seem more obvious than Jerry Manuel of the second place (28-22) New York Mets.
Ken Macha is leading the Brewers (30-21) at the top of the most competitive division in the National League. He is doing this after losing top pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets in the off-season.
However, if you judge a manager by how he deals with team turmoil and unforeseen circumstances, Jerry Manuel has to be at the top of the list. For instance, here is the opening day starting lineup for the Mets (excluding the pitcher).
1. Jose Reyes, SS
2. Daniel Murphy, LF
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Carlos Delgado, 1B
5. Carlos Beltran, CF
6. Ryan Church, RF
7. Brian Schneider, C
8. Luis Castillo, 2B
Now, here is the lineup for the Mets this past Sunday against the division rival Marlins.
1. Angel Pagan, CF
2. Luis Castillo, 2B
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Gary Sheffield, LF
5. Daniel Murphy, 1B
6. Fernando Martinez, RF
7. Omir Santos, C
8. Wilson Valdez, SS
Only three players appear in both. Only four of the players in the second lineup were on the team on opening day. Jerry Manuel has gone significant time without Carlos Delgado, Brian Schneider, Jose Reyes, Jose's backup Alex Cora, and Ryan Church.
Carlos Beltran has been dealing with a sore knee and stomach virus for the past two weeks, leading him to miss a few games at the same time the others were hurt. J.J. Putz has been pitching through a bone spur in his elbow leading to a lack of control and a mediocre splitter.
Through all of this, the Mets remain at the top of the NL East along side the Philadelphia Phillies, flip flopping between first and second place. In the past few weeks, while the Mets are putting a Triple-A squad on the field, with injuries at their peak, the Mets have won 7 of 10 and 18 of 27.
Certainly they have been helped recently with series against the lowly Marlins, Nats, and Pirates. However, they did just finish a West Coast swing against the Dodgers and Giants and returned east only to play the Red Sox.
It also helps to have an ace like Johan Santana to fall back on. However, discounting Tim Redding, the entire pitching staff has been pitching well. Moreover, perhaps the area of the team where the coach is most involved is the bullpen. The Mets bullpen leads the league (second in baseball to only the Red Sox) with a 3.14 ERA.
Indeed, the rest of the season has yet to be seen. We are only about a third of the way into the season. Certainly a lot can happen in the next four months that will render this conversation pointless.
However, it is worth pointing out at this point the job Jerry Manuel is doing leading the Buffalo...uh I mean New York Mets. He has made the most of what is likely the least.