Not long after his season was over, losing in the American League Championship Series, Brett Gardner was talking about the future. The Yankee outfielder was not thinking about his own, but that of his former hitting coach Kevin Long.
“He’s a great communicator, he’s a guy who is very, very positive and he helps you find what you need to help yourself,” said Gardner, whom Long considers one of his best students when he was the hitting coach with the Yankees. “I never had him as a manager, but his ability to communicate and understand the game, that is something that would make him a good manager.
“I really hope he gets a chance.”
Now we know that Long will not get that chance with the Mets. He was one of the six finalists for the job that Mickey Callaway walked away with last week. Long will reportedly now talk to the Nationals about their managerial opening after Dusty Baker was allowed to walk away.
It seems unlikely that Long will return to the Mets, where he has generated as much loyalty from their hitters as he did with Gardner and the Yankees.
So Callaway and the Mets now have some very important work to do replacing Long and the other coaches on staff.
Hiring Callaway as the manager to replace Terry Collins was the first step to rebuilding this team, perhaps the biggest one longterm for the Mets. But the rest of the staff is going to play a huge part in the first-time manager’s plan to build chemistry in the clubhouse and throughout the organization.
“We’re looking for someone who’s going to be collaborative, someone who’s going to use all the resources, a guy that’s going to communicate with everyone in the room as much as they possibly can,” Callaway said about the coaches he is looking to add to his staff. “And that’s going to help facilitate the culture that we’re trying to accomplish.”
It was also pretty clear that Callaway will not have the final say on who is on his staff. Sandy Alderson called it a collaboration, but Callaway deferred to Alderson on questions about coaches Monday and it’s pretty clear the front office will be making the final call.
The GM surprisingly said that getting the bench coach and hitting coach in place were the priorities over replacing pitching coach Dan Warthen right now.
“We think a hitting coach and bench coach both are very important,” Alderson said.
But he would not tip his hand on if there is a front-runner for bench coach. Callaway has no managerial experience, so there is some common thought that he would benefit from the experience of a veteran bench coach.
Alderson seemed to dismiss that.
“The obvious answer is yes (have experience) the less obvious answer is no. The reason I say that is because what we have done is we have hired a what I think is sort of a contemporary thinker in terms of strategy and a variety of different things that go into preparing for the game as well as managing the game,” Alderson said of Callaway. “You could argue that having a seasoned manager would be a good idea but does that just dilute the sort of qualities that we just looked for in a manager. I don’t know the answer to that. We’re not going to simply find a bench coach that has managed before.”
On replacing Warthen, which seems important considering this team is built around pitching, Alderson said that Callaway’s experience as a pitching coach did not necessarily mean he would have an influence in this area either.
“We already had a partial list and will make sure it’s inclusive as possible,” Alderson said of a pitching coach. “I think Mickey and the front office will work collaboratively to find someone he’s comfortable with. I think it’s important to recognize that yes Mickey is a former pitching coach and it’s important for us, because that’s our strength. But at the same time, Mickey will be focused entirely on the 25-man roster and so a pitching coach will be very important.
“Again, in looking for a pitching coach, we’re looking for someone who’s professionally expert and at the same time fits in with the sort of collaborative approach that we’re expecting to build here.”
The Mets got their manager, now they have to make the right moves to rebuild around him.