Monday, March 1, 2010
Mets pull back from opposite-field hitting
Hey, the 2010 season has almost arrived but we're not quite finished attributing blame for that embarrassing performance in 2009. John Harper:
Tony Bernazard is long gone as a Mets' executive, rather famously fired last summer for bad behavior, but the legend of his notorious influence on all phases of the organization continues to grow.
It turns out that Bernazard even dictated the extreme opposite-field hitting philosophy the Mets adopted last season, which may have contributed to their stunningly low home run total.
Going into spring training last year, after the Mets had a poor 2008 season as situational hitters, especially with runners in scoring position, Bernazard convinced others in the organization to adopt the opposite-field approach at the major-league level as well.
[Hitting coach Howard Johnson], the one-time power-hitting third baseman for the Mets, became convinced the opposite-field emphasis was being overdone to the point of adversely affecting hitters, in particular David Wright.
"We did improve in some areas as we hoped," said HoJo, "but we didn't anticipate how it would affect some guys. I realized we had to make a change in our philosophy.
"It would be like in football, and all you do is try to complete five-yard passes. You have to stretch the field at some point."
In baseball too you have to go deep. The Mets' total of 95 home runs was by far the lowest in the majors, and while spacious Citi Field, plus widespread injuries, obviously contributed to the low total, Johnson began to talk to Manuel late in the season, after Bernazard was gone, about the need to teach a more aggressive hitting style.
You think? In the 21st century, if you don't pull the ball you're not going to win. It's (mostly) as simple as that.
Of course, we're missing a key piece of information here. We know the Mets were last in the majors in home runs, but were they last in the majors in pulling the ball, too? And did individual players pull the ball significantly less in 2009 than they had in 2008?
Even without that information, it's hard to imagine the Mets doing worse this year than last year, and it's hard to imagine that getting rid of Bernazard wasn't a good thing. Still, isn't it fair to question the judgment of the general manager who hired Bernazard? And put him in a position to do so many (supposedly) terrible things to the organization?
I'm moderately bullish about the Mets, because they have some excellent players and can afford to outspend some of their mistakes. In the long term, though, I think they'll need different leadership at the top to realize their obvious potential.