The New York Mets are having a disappointing season, to say the least.
After losing 6-5 to the Phillies on Sunday, the Mets fell to 55-56, nine games out of first place in the NL East and seven and a half behind the Giants in the wild-card race. Pitifully enough, New York has yet to win a road series against an NL team in 2010.
Mets fans aren’t happy. On New York’s WFAN sports talk radio station following Sunday’s loss, they took shots at every player who has disappointed them throughout this brutal season.
But more than any player, Mets manager Jerry Manuel received the most heat. Criticized for his "stick-to-the-book" style and apathetic demeanor, Manuel has become the scapegoat among fans for the Mets’ failures over the past two years.
A discussion started brewing on WFAN about what kind of manager the Mets need to turn the team around.
Most said that they need a fiery leader, one who will kick the team in the rear end when things are bad and keep the charge going throughout the season.
Others said that Manuel isn’t necessarily the problem, that he’s just not a good fit for the types of players that the Mets have. The solution would be to find the right personality to fit with the Jose Reyeses and David Wrights of the world.
Neither of those rationales is necessarily wrong.
However, both are strong generalizations that don’t always apply to a professional baseball team. A loud, feisty skipper won’t inevitably turn around a timid ballclub, and a quiet leader won’t necessarily tame a wild group of highly paid superstars.
In baseball, with a grueling six-month, 162-game season, a manager simply needs to be respected by his players in order to be successful.
It doesn’t matter how the manager garners that respect. Jack McKeon, Billy Martin, Sparky Anderson, Ozzie Guillen and Lou Piniella all were/are guys that will say what they want with no reservations, spitting and cursing all the way from April to October. All five have won a World Series title.
Then there’s skippers like Joe Torre, Charlie Manuel and Terry Francona, who lead more with their wisdom than their mouths. All three also have won a World Series.
What do all eight of these skippers, along with every other successful manager in baseball history, have in common? They command respect by demanding a winning atmosphere in their clubhouses.
Larry Bowa was widely known for being a hothead when he was the manager of the Phillies from 2001 to 2004. He was canned because the team didn’t make the playoffs, and many fans criticized his style, much like Mets fans get on Jerry Manuel’s back.
But it’s not the style of managing that creates a good skipper. Bowa falls into the same class as Martin, Guillen and Piniella, while Manuel is a follower of Torre and Francona. But what Manuel appears to lack, as Bowa did when he was skipper, is the ability to enforce a winning standard and earn players’ respect.
So when the Mets go shopping for a new manager, which is likely in the near future, they should look for someone who refuses to lose, and shows that to his players. How he does it simply does not matter.