SAN FRANCISCO - With all due respect to Kevin Long, whom even the Yankees considered an excellent hitting coach right up to the minute they fired him, being a good offensive team is not about the guy running the tee-and-toss drills.
It's about the players with the bats in their hands.
Sounds obvious. But with all the breathless discussion lately about who's going where on the hitting-coach carousel, maybe it's time to take a step back and put this in perspective.
Long is not going to drive in any runs for the Mets. That's the job of David Wright, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and whoever else Sandy Alderson can drum up this offseason with limited funds -- or the team's surplus of young pitching.
Maybe Alderson will have better luck with Michael Cuddyer than he did with Chris Young, who looked like a much more confident hitter once he switched boroughs.
But if Wright's health continues to be an issue, or the streaky Granderson can't get his groove back with Long, or Alderson can't secure some upgrades, this hiring won't make a significant difference. And the failure won't be Long's fault.
While it's true the Yankees were an offensive juggernaut during three different seasons of Long's tenure in the Bronx -- piling up more than 900 runs -- they weren't demolishing other teams with Martin Prado and Chase Headley in the middle of the order.
In 2006, when they scored 930, the Yankees had Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui. In 2007, the Yankees -- helped by A-Rod's 54 homers -- increased that to 968.
The '09 World Series champs? They scored 915 in Mark Teixeira's first season with them.
Seeing a pattern here? Stack a lineup with some of the game's top run-producers and -- bingo! -- the result is more runs.
Again, this is not at all meant to disparage Long. It's just that switching coaches, in most cases, does not mean better results if the roster remains the same. We will say, however, that a respected hitting guru such as Long has the best chance of squeezing the most from his pupils, both for his upbeat attitude and technical knowledge.
"Nobody works harder," former Yankee Raul Ibañez said Thursday. "He gives you everything he has. He does his homework. He's diligent."
That wasn't all that different from what Dave Hudgens tried to do before he was canned in Flushing. The two coaches also have nearly identical hitting philosophies, even though one is replacing the other after Hudgens -- hired by the Astros this month -- was fired in May.
Hudgens stressed a patient approach -- the mind-set of waiting to attack your specific pitch, then not missing it. Compare that with what Ibañez said Thursday in describing his experience with Long. "He wanted you to work counts, to be disciplined at the plate and see the ball a long time," Ibañez said. "Allow the ball to come to you and then put a good swing on it. He believed in putting your 'A' swing on every pitch."
Sounds like solid advice. But the Mets evidently got tired of hearing it from Hudgens, then must have tuned out his replacement, Lamar Johnson.
Sometimes a new voice helps. That's what the Mets are banking on with Long.
"Kevin's experience, success and wealth of knowledge make him the perfect fit as our hitting instructor," Alderson said Thursday in a statement.
We agree. Long added to his resume in a Yankees uniform, making him more attractive. And he's a good talker, which helps in this market. The Mets also would prefer that the talk is of a positive nature, which Long mostly did in the Bronx before the Yankees' September spiral.
Hiring Long is a good start for the Mets. They got their hitting coach. But now it's time to shelve all this discussion about hitting and find some players who can actually do it.