ST. LOUIS — Twenty-three mostly disappointing games into the season, the Mets fired hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater late Monday night after a 6-5 loss to the Cardinals.
Hugh Quattlebaum was named the new lead hitting coach, with Kevin Howard the assistant. Both were hired for player-development roles during the offseason, the first under owner Steve Cohen and president Sandy Alderson, whereas Davis and Slater were holdovers from the Wilpon era.
Acting general manager Zack Scott framed the decision not as a reaction to the Mets’ early struggles but as part of an ongoing, overarching reshaping of the organization by the new bosses.
Scott said it was his call, as the day-to-day leader of the baseball operations department, to make the change. He conferred with Alderson, who agreed.
"It’s not about 23 games of results," Scott said in a video news conference after midnight on the East Coast. "It’s based more on a vision for what we want our major-league hitting program to be."
He added that he wasn’t going to "dive too deep" into the specifics of that vision for the Mets (11-12).
"It may seem early in the calendar, but part of the reason is we know there’s some risk in making change," Scott said. "We know that there are some risks in making a change and disrupting what’s been going on since spring training and beyond that, past seasons, with our players and these coaches. But we felt like it was worth taking that risk in order to get to where we want to be with our major-league hitting program."
Scott emphasized that since he joined the Mets in December — and especially since he took over as acting GM in January — a big part of his job has been to evaluate the club’s existing staff and infrastructure.
With Davis specifically, Scott was uniquely qualified to make a quick decision. He was part of the Red Sox front office that let Davis go after the 2017 season. And he is close with members of the Cubs’ front office who opted not to bring Davis back after 2018. That is when then-GM Brodie Van Wagenen brought Davis to Queens.
This was Davis’ third season with the Mets, including 2020, when he worked remotely because of the pandemic. It was the fourth for Slater, initially hired by Alderson when he was GM.
"I like and respect the man a lot," Scott said of Davis.
The major shake-up came right as the Mets’ hitters seemed to be coming around, having scored at least five runs and averaged double-digit hits in three consecutive games for the first time this season.
Overall, though, the Mets have been disappointing offensively. They are averaging 3.3 runs, last in the National League and second-to-last in the majors. Their .240 average is tied for ninth, their .324 OBP is tied for fourth and their .364 slugging percentage is 26th.
Their rankings with runners in scoring position are far uglier: second-to-last (.209 average), 21st (.319 OBP) and last (.286 slugging percentage).
Marquee offseason addition Francisco Lindor, hitless in his past 21 at-bats, especially has struggled. To varying extents, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto have, too.
"We just felt like the players needed a different level of support and maybe some different skills brought into the mix," Scott said.
Quattlebaum joined the Mets as minor-league director of hitting development. He spent the three previous seasons with the Mariners, working in hitting-related roles in the majors and minors.
His brother, Gus Quattlebaum, is a Red Sox executive and former longtime colleague of Scott.
Howard came to the Mets as director of player development after six seasons with Cleveland, including the past two as the hitting coordinator. Before that, he was a minor-league hitting coach.
Both will be in St. Louis on Tuesday as the Mets continue their four-game series against the Cardinals. They will be replacing two coaches — especially Davis — who frequently were praised by players.
"We felt like it was right," Scott said. "I’m confident that the people that we’re bringing in here to take on these roles will also be building strong relationships."
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