OK, those weren’t Gangsta Jerry’s exact words yesterday at a press conference to announce his signing of a two year extention with the New York Mets. But he came awfully close, at least in the portions quoted by the New York Times’ Ben Shpigel :
Come spring training, Manuel said, he planned to do some œserious teaching with his players, changing their offensive strategy and inculcating the importance of unselfish baseball. He wants them, as well as the organization, to diminish the emphasis on statistics and establish a culture of selflessness that values sharp situational hitting, flawless fundamentals and impervious defense ” things that the Angels, perennial contenders, do better than perhaps any team in baseball.
œWhat has been done in the past is that you get so many statistical people together ” they put so many stats on paper ” and they say, ˜Well, if you do this and you score this many runs, you do this that many times, you™ll be in the playoffs,™ Manuel said Saturday in a conference call after the Mets announced that he had agreed to a two-year contract. œThat™s not really how it works. And that™s what we have to get away from.
The Mets missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season in large part because of their consistent inability to perform what Manuel viewed as essential tasks for a team with championship aspirations. He said the Mets had many necessary players in place, advocating that they retain the team™s core (JosÃ© Reyes, David Wright and Carlos BeltrÃ¡n). But Manuel also agreed with General Manager Omar Minaya and the chief operating officer, Jeff Wilpon, who seemed to allude last week that the team was lacking some intangible element.
œYou don™t see a lot of guys that have statistical numbers play well in these championship series, Manuel said. œWhat you see is usually the little second baseman or somebody like that carries off the M.V.P. trophy that nobody expected him to do. That™s because he™s comfortable in playing that form of baseball, so therefore when the stage comes, it™s not a struggle for him.
If the Mets are hellbent on emulating the Angels, they could do worse than to have a dependable closer, some semblance of middle relief and more than three healthy starting pitchers. There’s nothing wrong in and of itself with harping on “fundamentals” and “situational hitting” (though Carlos Delgado hitting home runs to tie games or give the Mets a late lead would have to be considered situational, too), but I wonder how many games in the standings Manuel expects to pick up from such an emphasis.
On the other hand, Manuel is too savvy to antagonize the same persons who’ve just agreed to sign his paycheck for another two years. After all, it wouldn’t be very diplomatic for the skipper to answer a question like “how do you intend to avoid another collapse?” by pointing to Omar Minaya and saying “by making sure this guy swings a late season deal for Chad Bradford instead of Al Reyes.”