There's a lot of skepticism at the true impact a hitting coach can have on a swing decades in the making, but one of the few who has undeniably made his mark is Kevin Long. That talent has made him invaluable to the Mets and has pushed his name near the top of the list of managerial candidates.
Long has had a significant effect on Mets hitting since joing the team in 2015. He translated the organizational focus on plate discipline -- not necessarily with the goal of drawing walks, but with the goal of finding a pitch to drive -- in a way that clicked for many of their hitters.
Curtis Granderson, who had sung Long's praises since they worked together in the Bronx, rebounded from a rough Mets debut to put together one of the best seasons of his career. Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera both saw big spikes in on base percentage working under Long as well. And Long's intense work with Daniel Murphy certainly seems to have paid off as well, albeit not for the Mets.
There's no guarantee that a great hitting coach will also make a great manager, but Long has a few points on his side. The players trust him, and listen to him. Murphy, Granderson, and Lucas Duda have sung his praises. Brett Gardner, who worked with Long as a Yankee, has said he sees him as a potential manager. A manager's job first and foremost is to connect with his players, to gain their trust, and to unlock their strengths. He has certainly shown the ability to do that.
Long also has made a close connection with the front office staff, and GM Sandy Alderson has done nothing but compliment him since he arrived. That endorsement is key since Alderson has generally shown a preference for those with managerial experience, of which Long has only two years, both in A-ball. But with communication challenges arising in Alderson and Collins's relationship, the proposition of working more closely with someone who he does connect with easily will be appealing.
The team as a whole has a deep respect for Long and has already committed to keeping him on staff for 2018, despite widespread changes. It's possible that his greatest value lies in doing what he already does so well. But this is a team in transition that has expressed a willingness to be creative in their selection, and they could do a lot worse than a good communicator who knows the game, and the Mets, inside and out. With an eye towards keeping him in the organization long-term, he may have an inside track to this job.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring