Jerry Manuel completed his first and possibly last full season as Mets manager, and how he handles things this coming season will determine how many more years he will be a manager in this turbulent Mets organization.
There were some procedures that he implemented in 2009, some successful, some not, but the question is:
What was learned from these procedures and will they be part of the 2010 season?
The first thing he did is implement an 80 pitch drill in spring training to make the hitters stand in the batters box and hit curveballs to the opposite field.
This drill was challenging and exhausting to the batters and this may have given the team some bad habits and possibly have affected the power numbers because the power hitters did not pull the ball the way they have in the past.
While it is good to use all fields and hit the ball in a way that can advance a runner or confuse a defense, batters seemed preoccupied with hitting curveballs. This made them extremely vulnerable to the sinkerball pitchers that seemed to dominate the Mets lineup in 2009.
Another procedure he put in place was old fashioned infield practice before games. Again, i'm not sure of the results because the errors on the infield players were very hurtful to the team.
Granted, many players who are normally part of the infield were injured, and this may have contributed to several errors, but the defense was still flawed.
Sandy Alomar Sr. had been handling the defensive aspect of the roster and as a result of the poor defense, Alomar will be given alternate tasks in 2010.
Manuel also wanted to make sure that the entire team was made to be accountable to the media after games, instead of leaving the entire job to David Wright. Wright still ended up doing the majority of the work, but the additions of Alex Cora and Jeff Francouer did alleviate some of the burden.
This is a responsibility that should not even have to be officially delegated, you play the game, you answer for the results.
While it is easy to stand there and take credit for a job well done, taking the tough questions and criticisms for failures should be as much a part of the job description.
Much has been written about post-game comments and teammates bad mouthing each other to the media instead of discussing it face to face, and this gives the "let me throw him under the bus" message, regardless of intent. These practices create negative vibes in a clubhouse.
Most notably, Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez have been criticized at great length for criticisms of teammates instead of acknowledging that they did play a part in the loss themselves. It is a team sport and there should be no room for "I did my job, but they didn't make the play."
It may be true that the defense made a mistake or two, but that in no way excuses walking the bases loaded and giving up a grand slam home run, which happened frequently in 2009.
Manuel and Wright must take the lead and keep a control on how the players handle the media in regards to their teammates successes and failures during the post-game interviews.
The 2009 season was a bitter disappointment, but there are many lessons that were hopefully learned, and the 2010 season should be one of growth by Manuel and from the players themselves. They are all in this together.