July 29, 2010

OH, FOR DECENT OWNERS...:

Leaving Mets Put Herzog on a Path to the Hall (RICHARD SANDOMIR, 7/23/10, NY Times)

In a 1966 New York Times article about Herzog, accompanied by a photograph of him flat on the ground exhorting a player to slide, he explained his style. “A good third-base coach can win 16 or 17 games a season for his club,” he said. “When a base runner has a chance to score, you’ve got to remember that the percentage is with him. It’s like being a gambler — you’ll force the other side to make either a perfect play or a damaging mistake.”

He was using the lessons he learned as a minor leaguer in the Yankees’ farm system. “I’ll bet Casey Stengel walked me down the third-base line 75 times a day teaching me that good base running boils down to anticipation and knowledge of the defense,” he said. Those teachings added up to one thing, he said: “You can steal a lot of runs.”

Herzog’s subsequent six years in player development helped stock the Mets for their 1969 World Series run and a little bit beyond. Jon Springer, who runs the Mets by the Numbers blog, said that Herzog brought along Jon Matlack, Ken Singleton, Gary Gentry, Amos Otis, John Milner and Wayne Garrett, “about as strong a group of minor league talent the Mets would develop until the Strawberry-Gooden 1980s.”

Ed Kranepool, the Mets’ longtime first baseman, said, “He had a crystal ball; he could look at players to see how good they’d be later on, especially with 17- or 18-year-old kids.”

But Herzog disliked M. Donald Grant, the Mets’ imperious chairman, and was perturbed when Grant did not hire him as the manager after Gil Hodges died in 1972. Yogi Berra got the job instead.

“Whitey was a very logical choice to manage the Mets,” Kiner said. “He had earned the job.”

Peter Golenbock’s book “Amazin’: The Miraculous History of New York’s Most Beloved Baseball Team” quotes Herzog as saying: “Grant’s people even ordered me to stay away from Gil’s funeral just so there wouldn’t be speculation that I’d be hired as the new manager. I’ve never forgiven them for that.”

Kranepool said: “He should have stayed in the organization. We would have been a lot better for it.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 29, 2010 4:00 PM
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