OK, so the John Olerud story is bogus. And Rickey Henderson deserves credit for showing considerable restraint in not suggesting he could outplay Marlon Anderson in his latest Yard Work column (particularly in light of the latter’s heroics last night against the CrÃ¼e). Accordingly, The New York Observer’s Howard Megdal has nothing but praise for the sure-thing Hall Of Famer’s new full-time coaching gig with the New York Mets.
“What™s different is that you™re not physically out there playing, Henderson said, sitting at his locker at Shea Stadium following a recent 8-4 loss to the Pirates. œSo it™s strange, getting ready for a game and then having no place to put that physical energy. But it™s a definite plus, getting the chance to put that effort into these players, trying to help them get better.
œI always thought I™d be around the game, Henderson said. œI knew I loved the game so much, I™d want to be able to help guys reach their goals.
His first chance to do that came when he was hired by the Mets as special instructor during spring training of 2006. He spent the lion™s share of time with Jose Reyes, the Mets™ star shortstop, whose effectiveness during the 2005 season had been compromised by his inability to resist swinging at bad pitches. Reyes walked just 27 times in 2005, earning him a .300 on-base percentage”well below the league average.
Enter Rickey, a man who walked more than 100 times on seven occasions, and at least 95 times in another five seasons.
œHe told me how to read a pitcher, at bat and on the bases, Reyes said. He declined to get into specifics”œI don™t want pitchers reading this”but added, œHe™s taught me a lot. And that was in just a week. Now I get to see him every day.
Reyes nearly doubled his walk total, to 53, in 2006, and is set to shatter that in 2007, with 52 through the Mets™ first 100 games. His on-base percentage rose to a respectable .354 in 2006, and stands at .376 this year as of July 31”within hailing distance of Henderson™s career mark.
The two of them can often be found standing on the base paths, Reyes in his about-to-steal posture, as the two of them compare notes on the hundreds of small details that can give a base stealer that critical extra few tenths of a second.
œHe™s becoming a complete player, Henderson said of Reyes. œHe™s learning every year how to become better, and he keeps applying himself to it.
Teaching a player of Reyes™ prodigious athletic gifts also allows Henderson to avoid the frustration many great players feel when they turn to coaching. Notably, Ted Williams, who managed the Washington Senators from 1969 to 1971, reportedly often complained that he was a better hitter in his 50™s than the players he oversaw.
œIt is a privilege to have a hand in developing a player with his caliber of ability, Henderson said. œIt is a pleasure just being around him.
Sure, it’s all going well when Rickey can measure himself against Jose. But if David Newhan gets a September call-up, there’s still ample time for Henderson to echo Ted Williams.
Amongst those who question Rickey’s intellect, by the way, is alleged comedian Jay Mohr, who following questionable tenures hosting at ESPN and penning a column for SI.com, can now be found writing “sports articles” for Fox Sports.com. Amongst Mohr’s trenchant observations, we learn the former cable TV fixture believes “soccer sucks”, “hockey sucks”, “the WNBA is a waste of television time” and “Jerry Seinfeld is overrated.”
I’ll end this entry on a hopeful note : If you’ve long struggled with stringing an original sentence or two together and can’t even be approved for Deadspin commenting privileges, keep your chin up. There’s still a chance you might get hired by Fox.