The Mets lost their series opener in St. Louis last night. It was a sad game in which New York jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the third thanks to Pete Alonso hitting doubles in his first two at-bats and Kevin Pillar homering for the second straight game only for Joey Lucchesi to give up four runs — three of which came on a Nolan Arenado home run — in the bottom of the inning. With the score 6-5, it looked like we were headed toward a back-and-forth slugfest, but instead no one scored for the final six innings and the Cardinals prevailed.
Following that exciting third inning, the Mets put just one runner in scoring position for the rest of the game. The Mets got surprisingly good work from the JAGs of their bullpen with Robert Gsellman, Sean Reid-Foley, and Jacob Barnes holding St. Louis scoreless for the final 5.1 innings, but it didn’t factor into the result. The worst part was how it looked like Arenado had struck out right before he hit the game-changing home run, but the umpire ruled a foul ball into the dirt. Talk about a game of inches, right?
Anyway, the “real” news happened after the game when the Mets fired their hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater. We know the offense has been pretty terrible so far, but it still doesn’t make sense to make coaching decisions based on a month of play, and besides it looked like the bats were starting to come around with New York scoring 18 runs over their last three games. Based on what acting general manager Zack Scott said in his press conference, the move was more about philosophical differences than offensive production.
I have my own theory, though. I think Steve Cohen made the move because he’s upset that his $341 million dollar shortstop investment isn’t paying dividends and he reads Twitter too much. Far-fetched? Maybe. Impossible? Certainly not. Davis had been with the Mets since the 2019 season, which means he oversaw breakout campaigns by Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, and Dominic Smith. When you factor in that Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto have also performed well under Davis, we’re saying that almost the entire offense has played well with Davis as the coach.
If the new management team under Cohen wasn’t happy with Davis’s style, they could have just let him go in the offseason and brought in their own coaches. That wouldn’t be surprising at all since regime changes sometimes come with staff overhauls. So either something changed in the relationship between Davis and the club between Opening Day and today, or Scott is lying and the move was just an overreaction to a month of slumps.
According to what Davis told the New York Post, it doesn’t sound like the Mets were meddling with his approach at all.
“I did it the way I know how and each year the game changes, you get a lot more analytical people involved,” Davis said. “You try to use the information they give you to help the players, to inform the players, but I don’t think anybody tried to change me. I’ve had success with good players and not-so-good players in the approach I have taken with them. It’s more of a personal approach.”
Based on all the players we’ve seen flourish under Davis that I listed above, I think this is a stupid move, but I can’t tell your how important or not important a hitting coach really is. The talent and skill of the actual players is infinitely more important. Anyway, the new hitting coach will be someone named Hugh Quattlebaum and his assistant will be Kevin Howard.
Quattlebaum was supposed to be the organization’s minor league director of hitting development after filling a similar role with Seattle in 2018 and 2019. Howard was the Mets’ director of player development and spent the last two seasons as Cleveland’s minor league hitting coordinator. That begs the question of how much experience the new guys have working hands on with major league hitters.
There’s no point worrying about it now, though. Maybe I’ll start when Francisco Lindor is still hitting below the Mendoza Line in July.