Mets hitting coach Kevin Long and Mariners third base coach Manny Acta are the current frontrunners to be manage of the Mets, according to a report Friday afternoon by the NY Post's Joel Sherman.
If this is accurate, I hope Long gets the job.
According to Sherman, the Mets hope to make a final decision before the start of the World Series, which begins Tuesday, Oct. 24.
I was initially confused by seeing Long's name as a possible candidate, let alone the frontrunner. But, I now realize that was only because I didn't know much about him.
In the last week, I have talked to local reporters and contacts, people that know him and have hired him to speak and give hitting lessons, and I've talked to several hitters, coaches, and front office executives that have worked with Long during the last 10 years. And across the board each person believes he's ready to manage the Mets.
In contrast to other candidates being interviewed, I'm convinced he has the right temperament and approach, he can better handle the New York market, and will make the best possible teammate and ally for Sandy Alderson.
Here's what else I learned about Long, based on background conversations with 15 people...
What do people say about Long?
Long was consistently described to me as being a more of a listener and observer than a talker.
They say he's assertive and confident. He's organized, informed, and prepared. He has a big smile and laughs a lot, but he's also serious about his job and expects baseball players and coaches at all levels to treat hitting and pitching as a business.
He treats every player on the roster in the same way. He tries to understand their individual points of view. He has no problem letting success fly, yet is consistently finding unique ways to challenge people and keep them striving to learn and be better at what they do for a living...
Aug 7, 2015; Kevin Long (57) prior to the game at Tropicana Field. Credit: Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In terms of his baseball principles, he clearly believes in appropriate and constant communication; earning people's trust; creating a professional environment; operating with a plan; building routines; and working hard, smart, and making decisions based on statistical information and visual evidence.
In terms of his language, he frequently talks to baseball people about, "staying connected," "doing damage," "putting in the work," "little things, fundamentals, and details," and, "being prepared and in the best possible position to succeed."
Can he handle running a team in New York?
I think so. The fact is, unlike anyone else being interviewed, Long has been coaching in New York for more than a decade, during which he served under Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, and Terry Collins.
Equally important, he has already gone through having New York fans call for his job. He's already heard his name torched on New York talk radio. He's repeatedly read in New York newspapers about what he and his players are doing wrong. He's had Mets and Yankees fans praise and criticize him to his face. He's even gone through being fired in New York (by the Yankees in 2014). And, he has already sat at the podium in Yankee Stadium and Citi Field facing a dozen local and national reporters, many of which he's been connecting with day after day for roughly 10 years.
The point is, if Long gets the job, it will hardly be his first rodeo...
If Long gets the job, who will be on his coaching staff?
I have zero idea what Long knows about proactively setting up a rotation and managing a bullpen. That said, he clearly has an understanding of how to attack them because that's what he did as a hitting coach.
There are countless examples of guys making this transition, so I'm not too worried about it. I've always heard it is more difficult for pitching coaches to transition in to managers than hitting coaches. Regardless, I have no doubt that Alderson will be plying his manager with information and ideas about what to do, when and with whom, so it's not like Long will be on his own every night. Similarly, someone will be his pitching coach, such as Dave Eiland (or someone else from his past).
March 19, 2013; Kevin long and Joe Girardi at Bright House Networks Field. Credit: Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In 2014, the Mets hired Long's assistant hitting coach from the Yankees, Pat Roessler, to be his assistant hitting coach with the Mets. The two worked well together in the Bronx and they work well together in Queens. If Long becomes manager, I assume Roessler will take over.
Most important, I would like to see Alderson give Long an experienced bench coach.
It would also be helpful if the person speaks both English and Spanish. Sandy Alomar, Jr. or the team's other reported managerial finalist, Manny Acta, might be terrific lieutenants since they have worked in New York, are bilingual, respected, smart, and repeatedly tripping on hurdles when trying to be managers.
To be honest, I'm starting to think Alderson already knows Long is getting the job and the rest of these interviews are them interviewing people to be on the bench, such as Acta. I can't prove this, it's just fan fiction, but it wouldn't shock me to learn this is true...
Will the Mets regret not choosing Callaway or McEwing?
Probably, but only if the Mets are a disaster during the next few seasons. If the Mets flame out, fire their manager, front office, and begin another rebuild, they're going to regret every choice they made. If the Mets win, though, we're going to be happy with whatever Alderson decided.
What did players specifically say about working with Long?
"He is big on communication and getting guys together in meetings and around the cage. He was always encouraging us to talk hitting with him and each other."
"He's always going to come at you with a plan and a reason for why he's asking you to do things. He doesn't just react to stuff when he sees it. That happens, too. But, he's always studying you and if he has an idea, or a suggestion, he can make you more open minded to it because it's something you know he's already noticed and thought about before coming to you with it and he's already figured out how to correct it."
"He thinks like a businessman, and he treats his players like businessmen. He respects the job we do as hitters and what it took to get to the big leagues."
"He looks at all of the stats and video, but he keeps that stuff private. In the cage, he talks more about positioning and explosiveness, and keeping it focused on the little things. He wants you free and easy, not overthinking. He wants you to feel it click, so you want to repeat it."
Who would you choose? Long or Acta?
I would choose Long, if for no other reason than Acta has twice been fired in season with two other teams.
I have no doubt Acta is qualified for the job, nor do I doubt Callaway and McEwing are going to be successful big-league managers. For me, though, if my team's manager has to be one of the above, I'm choosing Long. I simply see him as being better prepared to work with Alderson and succeed in New York with this specific roster, this specific front office, us as fans, the New York media, and everyone's massive expectations.
Admittedly, while I don't know as much about the other personalities of each candidate, I get the impression from people that know him that Long has the necessary experience and qualities to adjust to what this ridiculous job at Citi Field is going to throw at him, survive it and keep things moving forward. And, in the end, that's what this whole process is about...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is the host of SNY's MetsBlog Q&ACast and the lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!