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Diesel Donnie chatter apparently clears out Mets hitting coaches 

Mets hitting coach Chill Davis during a spring

Mets hitting coach Chill Davis during a spring training workout on Feb. 24 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Mets general manager Zack Scott used a lot of global language late Monday night and into Tuesday morning to explain the sudden firings of hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant Tom Slater after only 23 games.

Organizational vision. Support infrastructure. Philosophical process.

Nonsense.

It would have been more honest to mention the true culprit here: Donnie Stevenson. And if you’re looking for a real person, maybe even the badly slumping Francisco Lindor, the $341 million shortstop who rightly has the ear of owner Steve Cohen, the new mayor of Panic City.

Because once prominent Mets such as Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo started crediting some shadowy, presumably fictitious hitting guru for the club’s offensive turnaround over the weekend in Philly, that pretty much signaled the end for Davis and Slater, the previously respected hitting coaches.

To say otherwise just isn’t being entirely truthful. If that had been an inside joke, fine. But to trumpet "Diesel Donnie" — as Alonso referred to him after Sunday’s ESPN broadcast — so publicly was at the very least disrespectful to Davis and Slater, greasing the skids for the late-night axing after Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Cardinals.

I asked Scott if something profound had happened over the weekend, maybe a reason why the players abruptly decided Mr. Stevenson now was more integral to a two-game winning streak in which the Mets banged out 17 hits Sunday night and batted .325 (25-for-77), along with a remarkable .429 (9-for-21) with runners in scoring position. But the GM didn’t see the timing of the decision as significant.

"I’m not sure I’m completely understanding your question," Scott said. "I mean, I think you’d have to ask the players about ‘Donnie.’ But I guess the one thing I’ll comment on is, obviously we had a lot of hits. The last couple of nights scored some runs. I think that should highlight that this isn’t about recent results. This is about the process behind the scenes.

"And whether we were not hitting with runners in scoring position or knocking 17 hits, it’s not about that. It’s too early to be overreacting to small samples of results."

Tell that to Cohen, who pledged before the season that these Mets (11-12) are going to make the playoffs. And to Lindor, who again looked lost at the plate Monday night, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts that sunk him into an 0-for-21 hole that has appeared 10 times worse.

Lindor whiffed badly in his first two at-bats, swinging wildly at Adam Wainwright’s curveballs, and stranded six more runners, a rapidly escalating body count that should require his removal from the No. 2 hole.

It may be only 23 games into the season, but Lindor isn’t even hitting his weight (.163) and has only two extra-base hits in 86 at-bats. We expect him to pull himself out of this nosedive, of course. But "early" is of little consolation to him, and Cohen surely doesn’t want to see Mr. Smile, the face of his franchise, miserable each night.

With that in mind, I also asked Scott if Lindor’s struggles had a direct effect on the removal of Davis and Slater.

The GM didn’t say no.

"I mean, not specific to Francisco, I guess the way I look at it is we know players are going to struggle," Scott said. "What someone in my position needs to think about is our infrastructure and our support system in place when they do struggle. Is it the best that it can possibly be? Because when the players struggle, that’s when they need the support more than ever.

"The assessment was it needed to be better. We need to be providing these guys more support, a higher level of support. It’s not that they weren’t getting any support. They obviously were. But it’s just an effort to improve how we go about things to take it to the next level."

As much as Scott tried to downplay the results as a factor, do you think Davis and Slater would have been canned if the Mets were 18-5? Or if Lindor was producing like the MVP candidate Cohen thought he paid for? No way. You don’t mess with success for the sake of organizational vision.

Scott now has his better fits in new hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum and assistant Kevin Howard, two actual names you can find in the media guide. But if the Mets don’t straighten themselves out before long, don’t be surprised if you hear more about Diesel Donnie again, only next time, he’ll be driving the bus over manager Luis Rojas.

New York Sports