In 1964, the Mets were terrible. In only their third year of existence, they lost 109 games – actually an improvement over the celebrated 120 losses of 1962 and 111 of 1963 – and finished 40 games out of first place. With such luminaries as Wayne Graham, Larry Burright and John Stephenson dotting the roster, the Mets opened shiny, new Shea Stadium that year, hosted the All-Star Game and ended up on the receiving end of a famous perfect game by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Jim Bunning. The St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Pennant that year, in a four-way dogfight with the Phillies, the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. They beat the Yankees in the World Series, sending New York off to a postseason drought from which they wouldn’t emerge for another 12 years. However, things weren’t a rosy as they appeared for St. Louis. Simmering front office turmoil cost them their manager – Johnny Keane, who ended up managing the Yankees in 1965 – General Manager Bing Devine and Player Development Director Eddie Stanky. These latter two were scooped up for similar titles by the Mets, who were, as writer Roger Angell put it, “not used to such good fortune.” Stanky only stayed for a year, but was helpful to Devine in building what would become an almost annual contender from 1969 to 1976.
This year’s Mets, coming off a 92 loss season and having jettisoned their manager and pitching coach, now have an opportunity similar to to their swingin’ sixties forebears. There are a couple of guys for those positions who would seem a perfect fit. One is a former Mets player who had a lot of success in the American League as a manager. The other was also a manager, but had been a respected pitching coach before that; he was let go two days ago. Your intrepid columnist, then, hereby nominates Ron Gardenhire as the next Mets manager and John Farrell as the new pitching coach.
Gardenhire was let go by the Minnesota Twins in the winter of 2015 after an incredibly successful 13-year run as their manager. In that time, his teams had losing records only five times – including his last four in a row, which is, of course, what got him fired. His teams reached the playoffs six of his first nine seasons. An injury-prone Mets shortstop of the early-‘80s, Gardenhire developed a reputation as a fiery umpire baiter and bench jockey. Sounds similar to another Mets infielder of the same era, for whom many have clamored to be manager doesn’t it? His guys played hard for him year after year and he has earned the respect of people throughout the game. He’s currently in the employ of the Arizona Diamondbacks as a bench coach under young manager Torey Lovullo, and between the two of them, they were able to guide Arizona to the playoffs this year. More importantly, this would be a sign to the fan base that ownership is serious about contending next year and that they won’t “cheap out” and bring in a Bob Geren or a Chip Hale or stay in-house and name batting coach Kevin Long, or something.
As for Farrell, he was the pitching coach under Terry Francona with the Red Sox when they made their World Series runs in the mid-2000s. He had what would be deemed a successful tenure as manager of the Red Sox – three division championships and one World Series title in five years — but in the wake of their playoff ouster this past Monday, Sox management has seen fit to let him go. The Mets would do well bring in an innovative coach who may have a different idea as to how to preserve those all-important pitching arms.
That’s one guy’s two cents.
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