Davidoff: HoJo shouldn't be scapegoated for Mets' hitting woes
The Mets have the strangest knack for dominating Trade Deadline Week in the worst ways.
A year ago Tuesday, you may recall, the Mets fired Tony Bernazard, their beleaguered vice president of development.
In that vein, though, you regard yesterday's inaction as progress. Firing Howard Johnson now would've been no less misguided than shirtlessly challenging subordinates to a fistfight.
HoJo still will be the Mets' hitting coach Tuesday night when the team returns to its beloved Citi Field to take on the dangerous Cardinals, although life won't get much easier. First comes Adam Wainwright, arguably a candidate for the National League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. Tomorrow, it's Jaime Garcia, a contender for NL Rookie of the Year.
But hey, Johnson is an adult, and if the Mets hit as poorly in this six-game homestand as they did during their 11-game road trip - about 2.1 runs per game, with a .252 on-base percentage and .302 slugging percentage - then he'll probably be gone.
That likely won't happen, though. Because these 2010 Mets seem to be considerably more comfortable at home (.757 OPS to .663 on the road). And because the lineup the Mets will field Tuesday possesses much more talent than you would conclude from their play since the All-Star break.
No hitting coach can be so incompetent as to turn Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan into visitors from the Dead-Ball Era. Likewise, when the Mets rampaged through Cleveland and Baltimore in June, it's not as though they executed some brilliant HoJo strategy.
Hitting coaches exist largely to be scapegoated, but a HoJo dismissal Mondaywould have been particularly galling. It would've reflected a yearning for blood from the higher-ups. A need to placate the angry fans who aren't buying enough tickets.
Is Johnson the best hitting coach in the industry? No way. Should he be blamed for the western woes? No way. Look, if Beltran can't improve upon his .268 OBP and .250 SLG as he shakes off his rust, then it's just not meant to be. Likewise for Bay, if he spends the rest of the season in the fog that has enveloped him.
In his team meeting last week in Arizona, Jerry Manuel told his players they didn't need any trades to catapult the club toward the postseason. That they had everything they needed to make the playoffs in that room.
That might be a stretch on the pitching front, but in light of what transpired on the trip, Manuel clearly intended those words to be heard by the everyday guys. The guys who need to start playing up to their track records, projections and salaries.
This homestand - three against St. Louis, then a chance to avenge the Diamondbacks' three-game sweep - will be a telltale week for the 2010 Mets. It will determine the immediate fate of Johnson. It will guide the Mets in how seriously they should consider leveraging assets such as prospects and money in return for short-term trade upgrades.
Changing hitting coaches - particularly during the season, when all the best such sages already are employed elsewhere - won't make any magic. Guys hitting the way they should? Now that could turn back time.
Not to a year ago, but to a month ago, when the Mets appeared a bona fide playoff contender. HoJo's retention means the Mets aren't panicking, and they shouldn't be. Even if they can't shift gears, they'll have sent the right message with this non-move.