Saturday, February 11, 2006

What Ricky's excellent ten days might mean

News that Ricky Henderson, the all-time stolen base leader will be in Port St. Lucie prompts some thoughts. As I spent 12 years in professional baseball and was getting paid to watch, I spent much time, well, watching.

First and foremost, Willie Randolph wants more stolen bases from Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. And included in this will be getting more walks-particularly for Reyes. I imagine you may even see Henderson coaching some first base in spring training games and sitting next to Reyes in the dugout. Unless Henderson has other obligations or has an offer to try-out, his time could be extended.

Another thing you may see Ricky doing is working with baserunners on going from first to third. This involves getting jumps and intricate details as cross-over steps. Proper mechanics here can cut down on the number of steps it takes for any runner to get to third from first.

I love what George King said today about Ricky. He's the only player who could coach without officially retiring. But it speaks to a natural evolution of athletes to mentors and then to coaching. He appears to have a taste for it while playing with independent teams these past two seasons. A new kind of gratification occurs in many athletes when they find they can pass something along. Often it evolves to coaching full-time and a natural career change.

I observed Lee Mazzilli and Clint Hurdle going through this phase in their careers. When my own career change to teaching occurred in the 90's, a wonderful female colleague told me that teaching is a calling. Like teaching, coaching becomes the same for many.

Some observers have commented that they found Ricky's presence curious;that Randolph can already do this. This is true to an extent, but managers don't want to commit themselves to hands on instruction in spring training. They just can't give it the time it requires. Managers are just too busy with meetings, the press, and being able to observe. Coaches in all sports benefit from watching their players get instruction and training from others. This is one of the reasons you see so many extra coaches in camp.

As this is an high-profile hire for camp, both Randolph and Omar Minaya signed off on it. Randolph certainly knows Henderson well and has significant regard for him. All-in-all this is a good move by the Mets.

Its natural to speculate that Henderson could get a look as well, but the numbers don't necessarily work. Assuming Randolph keeps at least eleven pitchers and two catchers, you consider seven other everyday players and only five spots remain.

Two will most steamily be from the Victor Diaz, Xavier Nady, Tike Redman and Endy Chavez group. That allows for three infielders, one of which is certain to be Chris Woodward who also a true shortstop. If Julio Franco will be on the club and Jose Valentin represents the only lefthanded bat off the bench. Either Chavez or Redman will make the club as they can play centerfield and lead off an inning as a pinch hitter. Little room for Henderson is here to be considered.

The battle to watch in spring training will be to see if Anderson Hernandez beats out Kaz Matsui for the second base job. If the Mets are unable to find someplace for Matsui, Woodward's spot will be imperiled. This of course is all cart before the horse material. What one speculates in February is usually far, far different than the reality of who's on the team charter going north in April.

But getting back to Henderson, what may materialize is a silent commitment from Minaya to him that if he's unable to find the employment he's looking for, a player-coach role might be in the cards in Tidewater. And then the potential is there for Randolph and Minaya to summon this legend should need arise.


At 8:38 AM, Blogger Wild Duck of CT said...

Mets sign Rickey Henderson to coach, and the next thing I see is that Tike Redman has been outrighted to AAA.



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