Terry Collins‘ tenure as the Met’s Manager is likely winding down as his contract expires after this season. Even if the Mets wanted to keep him, the 68 year-old Collins would probably not relish the idea of running a team in rebuilding mode next year. Is there someone in the Met’s organization who could be a viable candidate to replace Collins when he does retire?
Alex Rodriguez threw out an interesting name when he was broadcasting one of the recent subway series games on ESPN, namely current Mets batting coach Kevin Long. Rodriguez was able to observe Long in action as he was the Yankee batting coach for part of Rodriguez’s stint with the Bronx Bombers.
What particularly impressed Rodriguez was Long’s ability to communicate with players. It is an important part of managing, it’s hard to get players to buy into the approach you are using if you can’t communicate it successfully. If the players tune you out, you’re not going to succeed.
As to his resume, Long was a second team All-American at the University of Arizona who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals. Long toiled in the Royal’s system for eight years without making it to the Majors. He then managed in the Minors for three years, notably becoming co-manager of the year for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League in 1999. He was a Minor League hitting instructor for the next seven years, then was promoted to be Yankee batting coach from 2007-2014. From 2015 to the present he has been the Mets batting coach.
A comparable career path to Long’s is one that eventual Major League manager Jim Frey followed. He spent 13 years in the Minors, never making the big club. He then managed the Class A Bluefield Orioles for two years. He was promoted to batting coach under Earl Weaver, and after a ten year stretch there he was hired as manager of the Kansas City Royals in 1980, leading them to the World Series that year. He went over to the Cubs in 1984 and improbably managed them to a postseason appearance, their first since 1945.
Many players have credited Long for playing a role in improving their batting performance, including Daniel Murphy, who notably went from being a high average contact hitter to becoming a higher average power hitter, using a modified swing and stance developed under Long’s guidance. There have been plenty of other successes as well, including Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda, who saw improvements batting against left-handers, and Jay Bruce, who rebounded from an awful end to the 2016 season with a fine 2017 season so far.
Long’s batting philosophy does put a premium on power. The Mets, despite their poor record this year, are actually leading the NL in homeruns with 193 as of this writing. That lead is not likely to last with power hitters such as Bruce, Granderson and Duda now slugging for other teams.
No one knows who will replace Terry Collins. It could be a recycled manager who was let go by another team, it could be a bench coach in the Majors or perhaps a successful Minor League skipper. But right here, in house, we have Long, who has shown he can communicate with and motivate players into better performances. If Long is hired to manage the Mets, it would not be considered a “long”shot.