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Monday, December 13, 2010

Mookie Wilson is Back: New York Mets Finalize 2011 Coaching Staff

It took a few weeks for ownership to finally hire a GM, and even longer for the GM to hire a manager, so it only makes sense that there is an aura of suspense around who Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins will choose to close out their coaching staff.

In a conference call with bloggers last Friday, Alderson made it clear that new coaches had already been identified; he was just waiting for the right time to make the announcement.
And it appears that the time has come.

The Mets will hire Dave Hudgens to replace Howard Johnson as the hitting coach. Hudgens has previous ties with the Mets – drafted by the team in 1975 as there fifth overall pick, but did not sign – and he also has a prior relationship with manager Terry Collins.

It may seem odd that the Mets decided to go with a hitting coach who only has one hit in seven at bats during his major league career, but Hudgens was hired more for his baseball knowledge and discipline than his actual experience.

He has previously served as the Cleveland Indians minor league field coordinator, the same job Collins held last year with the Mets, and is currently managing Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League where he has Mets starting catcher Josh Thole on the roster.

Ken Oberkfell has won the position to be Collins’ bench coach, and it was a good decision on behalf of the Mets.

We all have heard how “fiery, intense, and passionate” Terry Collins is for the game of baseball, so the Mets made a great move by bringing in a bench coach who is a little more even-keeled and calm to balance out the rest of the coaching staff.

Oberkfell has been serving as the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, Buffalo Bisons, manager for the past two seasons and has also been managing in the Mets organization since 2002, so he should know the Mets system and players from bottom to top.

He is keeping his managerial skills fresh this winter by managing Los Leones de Escogido in the Dominican Winter League and was also a candidate for the Mets managerial vacancy, so he is a great choice overall.
To replace Jerry Manuel’s best friend Razor Shines as first base coach, the Mets chose Mookie Wilson who will be serving his second term at the position.

He was manning the first base box for the Mets from 1997-2002 under then-manager Bobby Valentine, and as Bobby V. exited stage right, so did Wilson.

Mookie, now 54 years old, played 10 seasons for the Mets and is the lone major league level representation of the ‘86 Mets World Series run.

Last season was his first year back with the Mets after spending four years in a private business, and he excelled at his position of minor league outfield and base running coordinator.

In a role that largely goes unnoticed to Mets fans and at the major league level until Francisco Rodriguez had an altercation with previous coach Randy Niemann last season, the Mets chose Jon Debus as their bullpen coach.

Debus has the experience to qualify him: 10 seasons in the Dodgers minors as a catcher, managerial experience at the minor league level, 2005 Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach, and not to mention he followed Collins to Japan during the skipper’s short tenure with the Orix Buffaloes.

Collins has nothing but nice and complimentary words to say about Debus, but most notably, Collins credits Debus with the helping develop and mature Dodgers’ catcher Russell Martin into the all-star he is today.
These new additions round out the coaching staff that already includes pitching coach Dan Warthen and third base coach Chip Hale who remains on staff from the Jerry Manuel era.

Now, we just wait for this announcement to become public so Alderson and company can finally stop worrying about the behind-the-scenes make-up of the New York Mets, and start to worry about the state of the team on the playing field.

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