Manuel completes first year as Mets manager

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Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes
that today is Jerry Manuel’s one-year anniversary as Mets manager.
Manuel has gone 88-67 at the helm, producing what has to be one of the
most-complained-about .568 winning percentages in baseball history.

Manuel took over for Willie Randolph 69 games into last season and
guided the Mets to a 55-38 (.591) record after they went 34-35 (.493)
under Randolph. Of course, they faded down the stretch and ended up
missing the playoffs by one game, so Manuel’s tenure was viewed as more
failure than turn-around.

This season has been similar in that the Mets currently sit a
half-game out of the playoff picture at 33-29 and fans criticize Manuel
constantly. Meanwhile, from a non-New Yorker’s point of view he has the
team in the thick of contention despite a ton of injuries to everyone
from Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Brian Schneider to Billy Wagner,
Oliver Perez, J.J. Putz, and John Maine.

He’s certainly been far from perfect and Mets fans have plenty of
room to complain about specific issues and faults, but in the big
picture Manuel has won 57 percent of his games with a somewhat flawed
and now injury-wrecked roster, which is good for the second-highest
winning percentage in franchise history behind only Davey Johnson.

Or as Sherman so aptly puts it:
“Manuel is a gregarious, self-confident man with a ton of baseball
knowledge. I sense an excellent manager in there. I just wonder if he
will ever have enough time or the right team with the Mets to prove
that.”

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.