In 2004, the Mets front office believed Willie Randolph, the former Yankee bench coach, was the right man for the job. Who would have thought almost four years later that Jerry Manuel, not Randolph, would be calling the shots for the 2008 New York Mets.
Manuel has been involved in baseball for 32 years and was brought on to the Mets coaching staff in 2005. He then became Randolph's bench coach before the start of the 2006 season.
When Randolph was fired on June 17th, Manuel was named interim manager. The controversial firing of Randolph could have rattled the 2000 Manager of the Year, but he knew it was his time to show New York what he was made of.
Manuel started with the team 6.5 games back in the NL East. Since June 17th, the Mets have posted a record of 21-12, including a nine game winning streak, and have climbed to the top spot in the NL East with a 2-1 series win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Carlos Delgado has turned his season around under Manuel, batting .302 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs in the past 33 games. Jose Reyes has also improved, batting .313 with 29 runs scored during that span.
Is it the different style that Manuel brings to the table?
David Wright seems to think so. "We’re getting that attitude back, that swagger, that confidence back that we haven’t had all year."
You can't argue with the success that Manuel has had. Manuel's success has not only come from his coaching style, but his demand for respect.
Much to the disliking of Reyes, Manuel pulled him out of the June 17th matchup against the L.A. Angels after Reyes singled to lead off the game, but looked to have suffered a left leg injury. After Reyes was walked off the field, he proceeded to throw his helmet in the dugout.
Later that month Reyes looked as if he was showing up 1st baseman Delgado, throwing his glove to the ground, after Delgado missed a throw from Reyes resulting in an error on the shortstop.
"I will be constantly reminding Jose about behavior, about keeping it short," Manuel said. "You can't let it affect you, because if it affects you, it affects the team because you're that good. I'm going to allow you to do what you do. But as we go, we've got to shorten it up - or he's got to recognize when it's coming on and know I can't behave this way."
Manuel has also dealt with the controversy surrounding Johan Santana's latest outing when he didn't come out to start the 9th inning after his pitch count reached 105.
"When a pitcher accumulates a certain number of pitches and gets the last out, when you watch him come off the field and you get a sense from his reaction that he's finished and has done his job, all that comes into account making the decision," Manuel said.
The Mets held a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the 9th without the option of Billy Wagner closing out the game. Manuel decided to go with Duaner Sanchez, who eventually gave up three runs to tie the game in a 8-6 loss.
All Manuel did was protect his ace and trust his bullpen with a three run lead. If the game was 3-2, that's a different situation. In a one run game Manuel might talk to Santana about starting the 9th because of Wagner's inability to pitch.
Everyone must realize that Santana is not a 9 inning pitcher. Santana has only thrown 110 pitches or more in seven of his 21 starts. Also, he's only reached the 8th inning four times, finishing the inning only twice.
Jerry Manuel has been around the game long enough to trust his decision making. He might not be the big name New York is always looking for, but for the time being he has done an excellent job managing this ball club.
From Randolph to Manuel, from 3rd to 1st. The Yankee way must not be the Met way after all.