Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stupid Hot

A question, if I may be so bold.

I seem to remember a bunch of people, including myself, taking shots at hitting coach Rick Down for his performance last year.

So how come now, with the Mets tearing the cover off the ball, Down isn't getting the credit that he may rightly deserve and be entitled to?

Probably because with his ten o'clock shadow he's reminiscent of Shooter from the movie "Hoosiers", coming to the ballpark straight from a drinking binge at Jake's Saloon.

But it could also be that perhaps we've all realized that there's not much Shooter could have done with Miguel Cairo as his two hole hitter. What could a hitting coach really do when he has the 2005 Mets lineup, otherwise known as Misdemeanors Row?

Now if this season's lineup was equally inept to last season's lineup, then yes, Down would have deserved to be ridden out on the proverbial rail. But with Delgado and Lo Duca on board, the lineup is better, and Rick Down doesn't look so bad. But is coaching overrated? Do we, as a many times scorned fan base, put too much blame on a coaching staff yet not enough credit? And what impact do coaches on the major league level really have when major leaguers, for the most part, already know how to play baseball (we hope)?

Take the case of one Jose Reyes, otherwise dubbed by David Wright as "Stupid Hot". On June 11, after the only game in June where he was hitless, Reyes was hitting .246...and now he's batting .302 with an on base percentage in the .360's. Reyes has had an unfathomable month, and in truth has been a different hitter all season long...not just for June. Sure Reyes has walked more, but not that much more than last season. Truth is, there is a fundamental difference in Reyes' approach...most notably, he has resisted the urge to be a farmer.

In other words, he's stopped swinging at fertilizer in the dirt.

So what, if anything, has Shooter done to transform Reyes into what he has been this season? Because Reyes is still Reyes. He is an aggressive hitter who doesn't look for the free pass first like Rickey Henderson, Reyes' stolen base mentor in the spring, did. But he is significantly more selective, which not only plays into the type of hitter he is which is "see it, hit it", but it plays into the philosophy of Down which is...well, "see it, hit it".

Sometimes, it's just a reminder, a back to basics approach that works. Sometimes, it's nothing more than soothing, calming words of encouragement. Sometimes it takes reading your subject to sleep with a classic children's story. Who knows what Shooter is doing to help Reyes in particular, and the Mets lineup in general. Even if as some suspect he's doing absolutely nothing, he at least deserves some credit for staying out of the way.


So I'm watching Fluff Castro score on a wild pitch during today's 7-4 Mets victory over Toronto. And as he's lumbering home with the dexterity of a water buffalo, I'm this the Molina brother that was put up for adoption?

The 4th Molina?

The Lost Molina?


So I guess nothing truly significant happened during this Toronto series...which is good because Filthy Sanchez missing the rest of the season would have been the closest thing. And I'm glad that did not happen.

But the Mets taking two of three from Toronto is significant enough. It's a good measuring stick for how the Mets can stack up against the best the A.L. has to offer, Casey Janssen and Josh Towers aside. In the Red Sox, it only gets better in terms of seeing where you are truly at. And Jon Lester, the familiar Josh Beckett, and the resurgent Curt Schilling are as good as they get in their respective roles. Two wins out of three against those guys? In Fenway? I will no doubt cease to fear anyone in October.


Oh, and a quick Metstradamus Famous Prediction: With all the talk of Ozzie Guillen eventually being fired, I figure that I will weigh in on it...Ozzie Guillen will not be fired by Ken Williams.

He'll quit before that happens...end of the year. You heard it here first.


Anonymous said...

Funky cold Molina

ajsmith said...

In Reyes, we are watching the emergence of a truly special player. His hands are SO fast, that when the light went on for him, and he began to recognize bad pitches (and lay off) he began forcing pitchers to come in to him. You can't, of course, risk walking the guy, cuz he's immediately on second.

When that happened, he began to hit, and hit, and hit. Keep in mind, the kid just turned 23. Most of his contemporaries aren't even in the bigs yet, and he's already led the league in triples and stolen bases, and is on track to do both again.

This kid - who from all reports has a terrific work ethic - is potentially on the way to becoming the premier leadoff hitter in the game for the next ten years. Oh, and he's pretty damn close to gold glove status ast shortstop.

Enjoy, Mets fans. Given their ages and trajectories, you have the best left side of an infield in the game.

Unser said...

Prediction - the Mets will trade Ramon Castro for a mid-level starting pitcher (a 3 starter) before the deadline.

You heard it here first.

pj said...

not much gets past you, but just in case you missed it: