Winter Meetings Q&A with Jerry Manuel


Posted Dec 8, 2009


INDIANAPOLIS -- Mets manager Jerry Manuel spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings Monday. The following is a transcript of the Q&A.

Q: I guess just based on what you've done so far this winter, two backup catchers, does that signal you were not enthused with the signal calling and receiving last year?

JERRY MANUEL: I just thought that we felt that we had to shore up that particular position. I don't think there's a relatively strong position right now, even in Major League Baseball. But to acquire a number of people in case we run into trouble at that position, we feel like we can still compete.

Q: You didn't think a whole year he would be capable of being the backup...

JERRY MANUEL: I think that Omir did a great job for us last year. I think he came out of nowhere. I think to put that type of thing on him, to be the No. 1 guy at this point, you would still need some protection. It's not that he is out of it by any stretch of the imagination. But at the same time, you need a number of people in that position to protect yourself and going forward.

Q: What do you do when you're at home during the off-season just trying to keep up on Mets off-season news? I'm sure you're in touch with Omar.

JERRY MANUEL: I stay in touch with Omar, and that's about it. I don't, obviously, read any of the periodicals or anything like that. I just kind of pick up the garbage, sweep the kitchen floor, those types of things. I don't really do much.

Q: Is it difficult knowing there are a lot of things that outside your control that could impact your future? Is that hard to deal with at all?

JERRY MANUEL: No. You know what, I think the one thing, when you come to these types of settings, especially with the season that we had, people expect a reaction or to do something.

I think we have to be careful in that and not be too hasty in going forward, and make sure that we put the pieces in the right place. I think if we come out and make these big splashes and so forth, I think our splash has to come to where, before spring training, we know that we have a good team. That's what we have to do. We have to make sure by the time spring training starts we have some pieces in place that will give us a good shot.

Q: You would think, though, at some point you do need some major changes, or need some major changes at some point?

JERRY MANUEL: I think with the year that we had, it's very difficult to evaluate where you are as a team, simply because of the depletion of the roster that we had.

So I think in going forward, I think what we have to do is say, We have got to get healthy. We really have to get healthy. And our players that get healthy have to play in the form and fashion that we project them to be. I think if we do that, we can compete. We can compete in the National League East. Would I like to see us do some things? You see the managers around, you say, I might like this or that. But, again, you have to be somewhat cautious of going out and doing things that don't fit what you're trying to put together.

Q: I guess I'll be the one to ask.

JERRY MANUEL: Go ahead. What you got.

Q: Terry Collins joined the staff. He was interviewed for the job when Willy got it. Bob Melvin is the former Diamondbacks manager. Do you read anything into that kind of stuff?

JERRY MANUEL: Fourth guy on that list. (Laughter.) I think the organization is putting together some good baseball people. I think those are all good baseball people, good baseball minds. I think for any organization to move forward, you need those types of people in place. You know, perception would say, Hey, Jerry, turn around. (Laughing.) But I'm not turning around. I'm just going to go do my thing and do the best I can. We have the means to acquire, and have, a good team, and I think if you've got a good team, you should be okay. So I don't have a problem with that.

Q: When we talked to you last year at this time, you guys were pretty much on the verge of getting K-Rod and you don't really have any -- you have a lot more holes to fill and you don't have really anything done right now. I mean, how much uncertainty do you have going forward? Obviously not that time is running out, but would you like to see things getting done so you have an idea to start putting pieces together?

JERRY MANUEL: Again, I don't want us to act too hastily. That would concern me more than anything.

I think this is a place where you're gathering information and kind of seeing where everybody is and what everybody is doing. Really, you're talking to scouts about your team, what you look for as a manager, and you get all this stuff together.

Then they go out and say, How would this piece fit, how would that piece fit, and go from there. So I'm not in a hurry. I think that once spring training starts, pieces will be in place. Philosophically, we will be in place. With that being said, we will move forward. We will move forward.

Q: How much does a full season at Citi Field impact the construction of the ballclub?

JERRY MANUEL: It's a lot. It's a lot. It's a different type of venue for Major League Baseball in the sense that it's very spacious. We saw a lot of triples hit in our ballpark. We have some people that have that type of ability. When you get the return of a Jose Reyes, you still have a guy like Angel Pagan, Luis Castillo, you got Carlos Beltran, David Wright. You have a lot of guys that can hit triples.

So I think with our ballpark the way it is, it gives us an opportunity to kind of set a different philosophy or put a different emphasis on a different part of the game that we haven't before. Everybody puts an emphasis on pitching and defense, but we really have to emphasize that a lot now. Because if you throw strikes you have a chance in our ballpark, and that could be a simple remedy for us at least in going forward.

Q: You were talking about having not only the roster in place in spring training, but philosophically. How much of a difference do you expect there to be when every guy reports in two months?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, for me, it will be an emphasis on pitching and defense. And the pitching part will be to throw strikes, command control, that type of thing. I think going into last spring, we tried to put an emphasis on hitting, on the hitting part of that. We kind of reconstructed that whole thing and different thoughts in spring training and so forth.

So this year, we are going to do that same thing emphasis-wise, but it will be on defense and pitching. You will see us doing a lot of work individually on those things and trying to get a mindset if we can do that. If we can pitch and catch the baseball, it will give us an excellent opportunity to win some games.

Q: Will baserunning be a part of that, too?

JERRY MANUEL: Yeah, but it's not going to be as emphasized as the pitching and defense part. We made some mistakes on the bases, but at the same time, we also created a sense of aggressiveness, as well. We led the league in stolen bases without our best base stealer. We'll still do some things in those areas as well, but the emphasis will be on throwing strikes and catching the baseball.

Q: Any budget on what you need to do this off-season? Would you see the money allocated among smaller contracts to add more players to help you, or do you see a bigger-ticket player as the key to getting you guys over the top?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, that's a good question, and what I try to do is not -- I never get caught in the money side of it. I try and take what we have and put them in the right place to win games. So I think if we can feel, going into spring training, that we have a good team and then perform in that manner, then it might be a need that we are missing at that point. Then to go out and acquire that, I think that would be a better way, for at least me, to approach it. Now, as far as what they want to do with a big-ticket item, blah, blah, blah, this type of thing, I'm more concerned with what's on the roster at this point.

Q: Do you think that David psyched himself out last year as far as hitting for power?

JERRY MANUEL: No, not at all. I think you'll see David Wright return to the production that he has had in the past years.

Q: So you just write that off?

JERRY MANUEL: Yes, as an aberration. I don't see that as an issue for us going forward.

Q: Talking about relief pitchers, you have to have short memories. What about managers who had to endure all of the troubles of last year and clean the slate this year?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, I think for us, that part is relatively easy as compared to years past where we have had opportunities in years past and haven't done well at the end of a season. But last year, to be as depleted as we were, it's very easy to say that if we are healthy, there are some things that we can accomplish. Because we had some pretty significant players, impact players, a lot of impact players that went down for a long period of time, we weren't able to sustain a level of play that was good for our fans in New York and good for the organization. So I think now that those players are healthy, it gives us an opportunity to get back to, hopefully, championship-type team.

Q: Have you spoken to any of the players who have been banged up, like Jose or Oliver or whoever?

JERRY MANUEL : I have spoken to Ray. I text those guys back and forth and that type of thing, but haven't spoken to them. I try to give the guys at least until Christmas before they hear anything from the manager. You know, they see me 162 days a year.

Q: You don't know where Jose is?

JERRY MANUEL: He's progressing very well. From what I understand, his spirits are extremely high. He's exactly where the rehab people have him scheduled to be. The thing that I notice -- they say he's in very good spirits, and that's a good sign. That's a good sign.

Q: Do you have a return date for him?

JERRY MANUEL : (Laughing). That's cold, man. That's cold. That's all right. He'd better be ready for January. He'll be ready. He'll be ready.

Q: You talk about not getting involved in some of the free agent stuff, but you've talked openly about needing to get off to a good start so you have a stake in this. Are you more active or more vocal about what you need, maybe positions or a type of guy?

JERRY MANUEL: The thing that I talk about is the philosophy going forward, and if we can make that fit with the people that they can acquire or we can acquire, or that we think that need to be acquired. So, you're right. Getting off to a good start is important. But at the same time, you know, with all of the perception out there and these types of things, the only reason that you want to get -- if you want to get off to a good start just to get hot and then fade, then that's not the thing you want, you know what I'm saying?

You want to get off playing good baseball and have a feeling that this team and what it has shown you in the start can do this for a long haul, or play good baseball for a long period of time. What you don't hope for is that if you don't get off to a good start, now the distractions begin that take away from the progress of you trying to take the team to a different level. That's the only issue with that.

Q: Indirectly or directly, probably since you started in the job, is there anything you've learned from watching Willy that's allowed you to maintain a sense of humor?

JERRY MANUEL: That's just who I am. I try not to take it all too seriously. Y'all don't know nothing about baseball anyway, so I just move on anyway. (Laughter.) Because y'all will be hard on me tomorrow. But that's okay. No, but this is a great opportunity. The organization, the people you have, Wilpon's been in baseball for a long time. They have the pulse of the city and the people. They know baseball. Omar. They know what they are doing. I can't get caught up in that. I have to get those 25 men kind of moving in the same direction and believing in a certain thing: That this can get done.

Q: Why were Dave Johnson and Chip Hale the right selections for the staff, and how did you come to the decision?

JERRY MANUEL: We felt that once Sandy Alomar, Senior, we needed an infield guy, and they had done some research about Chip. Did not know him personally, but have watched him over the years in competing against Arizona as a third base coach and some of the infield play. He came highly recommended, and he did very, very well in the interview. He is a very, very energetic person. So felt that was something that was needed in the infield play, which is going to be very paramount to us in going forward. So we were very confident that he could get that done.

And Dave Johnson, I've known Dave Johnson for a very, very long time. I think I was a part of the hiring process for Dave when he first became involved into pro baseball with Montréal. And him having spent all of those years with Felipe Alou, I know the creativity and the energy that he brings. So I thought they would be a good fit for me in going forward.

Q: There was a chance that Razor was going to be the bench coach and Sandy, Junior was going to be the first base coach. Did the innings thing take him out of consideration or what were the dynamics?

JERRY MANUEL: No. He had a better situation for him, personally.

Q: Did that dictate hiring two coaches then, or was he going to be on the staff...

JERRY MANUEL: Yes. No question.

Q. And you were going to hire one coach?

JERRY MANUEL: Yes.

Q: With the addition of Polanco, how does that change the dynamics of the Phillies?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, he's a good baseball player and he's a very heady player. I was just talking to Jim Leyland about him, and it's a good acquisition for the Phillies. I think Pedro Feliz was a good player for them, as well, and he hurt us in a number of spots. So hopefully this guy can be a good player, but not against us, you know, and we can hopefully attack him in the right way and do some things to get him out. But they have a very solid team. Very solid team.

Q: It's obviously very hard to get back to the World Series, but how long do you see this collective group of Phillies being able to carry on the run and be a dominant team?

JERRY MANUEL: Probably until spring training. (Laughter.) Then the Mets will take over. We will take over. No, they are a good team, good players, very good players that have come together. Charlie has done a tremendous job with those guys in keeping them loose, putting them in the right spots and those types of things. I think the difficulty with a run is staying healthy, and I think if any team stays healthy, it gives them a shot, especially if they are a good team, to do some things like that they have done.

Q: So you're saying you are the team to beat now.

JERRY MANUEL: I'm not saying we are the team to beat. We haven't done anything. No, we are a long way. The Phillies are the team to beat.

Q: Last year the young players got a chance to show themselves. Who do you think will make a major contribution this year?

JERRY MANUEL: I think Angel Pagan stepped up. He had some mistakes that he made on the bases and those types of things, but for the most part, I thought, given the opportunity that he got, he played very good defense, hit very well, hit over .300, had a number of triples in our ballpark. I thought he really stepped up.

I thought Santos showed very well. I even think Josh Thole, even at the end of the year, played extremely well. And the acquisition of Francoeur in our ballpark got a chance to look at him on an every-day basis, and I thought he played well.

Q: What's your thoughts on Perez right now, as far as is he ever going to make it? Is he ever going to be the pitcher that you envisioned him to be; is this kind of a last shot for him?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, we hope to be optimistic and think that, especially at this point, he can get it done. Again, I think the big emphasis this spring will be on throwing strikes. If he can do that, being left-handed gives him a tremendous opportunity to be productive for us, especially in our ballpark. He has shown some signs of brilliance against some of the tougher teams in our division, outside our division, and it's a matter of us getting him to be somewhat consistent.

Q: You just mentioned Santos; can you expand on some of the good things you saw in him this past season?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, we put him in and brought him up. He received the ball very well and he threw very well, and he collected some big hits, some big hits for us. I think what happened going forward was that the Major League season, for a young catcher, or early catcher, kind of took its toll. And that's the question that we have out there now: Can he sustain the level of play that we saw early, through the course of 162 games? And that's a big question for us.

Q: What's your feeling on that, either way?

JERRY MANUEL: I don't know. I don't know, because I haven't recollected or experienced anyone come out of nowhere as a catcher and be able to sustain that level of play for that period of time.

Q: So it's a complete unknown right now?

JERRY MANUEL: For me it is, yes.

Q: Given that you need to sign a No. 1 catcher, probably a starting pitcher, a left fielder, does it stand to reason that Murphy is probably the first baseman? And given other teams get a lot of power out of first base, is that concerning because you have to off set somewhere else?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, that's the thing for us, is how do we get all of these pieces to fit. So with a guy like Daniel Murphy, we know that we don't come in expecting or anticipating, because of the history has showed that he does not have that kind of power. But what he did show is good defense, and it's the first time him playing over there. He hit a number of doubles and extra-base hits. He showed that he can make the adjustments.

But you're right. We are going to have to supplement that throughout the lineup at some point, someplace, to have at least a threat of consistent power in other spots. And hopefully David, even Jose, Carlos Beltran, Francoeur, the left field could possibly have places where we could implement and get a little bit more power.

Q: A long ways to April, but based on the other holes you need to fill, does it stand to reason that he is most likely the first baseman?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, at this point, I would have to say yeah. We can leave in five minutes and that can change, but right now he's the first baseman and look to improve him defensively. Thought he did a good job in that area. He showed that he can make some adjustments.

I think the latter part of the year you saw some of the power, some of the doubles that he hit. So right now, I'm looking for him to progress to the next level, but not possibly be in the category with Pujols, Derrek Lee, and these types of guys, but get that from other parts of the team.

Q: What have your conversations been like on the possibility of bringing back Delgado?

JERRY MANUEL: Carlos Delgado is a guy that we like to see obviously in the winter, in winter ball, and I think from what I understand, he's scheduled to play, I think the 20th or the 15th of this month, to start playing. So he's a guy that we are familiar with. And if that looks like a possibility, I'm sure we'll explore it.

Q: I don't know how many days you spent in the Arizona Fall League, but can you give your observations of Davis, or just whoever you saw there?

JERRY MANUEL: I only stayed there for two days, so I can't say that I can give you an evaluation. But I did like the arm strength. Again, if I come in and say, Hey, the emphasis is on throwing strikes and you're a young pitcher, then that's one of the things that obviously you are going to have to prove me or prove to us that you can do.

I'm not interested in 98, 99; I'm interested in strike one and strike two. So with that being said, hopefully he can get his stuff together, because I understand he's got electric stuff. But that doesn't do any good if you're not throwing the strikes. You hate to -- again, we have to be patient with those types of arms and those types of situations, especially where we are now as an organization.

Q: Is it safe to say that entering spring training, assuming you're still with the organization, that Parnell is in the bullpen?

JERRY MANUEL: Yes, that's safe to say.

Q: You're talking about seeing Delgado in the winter league, but you saw a lot of him during his recovery with the team down the stretch. Do you have confidence from what you've seen that he can be the guy that he was two years ago again?

JERRY MANUEL: I think offensively, yes. I think defensively, it might cause some limitations to him. But I don't think it hindered him to hit, even before. But I think the issues were the lateral movements defensively. But I do think that he's still going to be the same hitter regardless.

Q: Hindered him for years defensively?

JERRY MANUEL: No, no. (Laughter.)

I think that's something that he's going to have to adjust to being over there at first base, and I think that's the issue in going forward. If they were to ask me about Carlos, my first question is not going to be what he hit. My first question is going to be, How did he move? Because I still believe he's going to be a dominant hitter.

Q: Is that tempting for you, a guy that hit 30 home runs two years ago?

JERRY MANUEL: No question, and he has a presence, too. No doubt about that.

Q: Who do you envision being in front of K-Rod in the bullpen?

JERRY MANUEL: Well, there's probably a number of guys. I think Feliciano did very well as far as a situational guy. I think we might have to expand there. I think Parnell, Brian Stokes, Sean Green, all of those guys will be a part of that group.

There might be somebody that comes out or that we sign that fits right into that eighth inning role. Last year in left field, we thought we were in pretty good shape. We were very, very confident that, Wow, we have a chance to make this a short game, blah, blah, blah. But this year, you know, it's a little different. I think hopefully the growth of Parnell and Green and those guys can handle that role.

Q: Does it concern you that you're saying five different names?

JERRY MANUEL: No. No, because the way I work it, if they don't get it done, I have somebody else to go to. But you would like a guy that you can say, Hey, this is the guy. And if they get hot and do those types of things, you leave them.

Q: Considering how last year unfolded and the previous two years, do you think there's a delicate psyche with your team and a fast start is needed?

JERRY MANUEL: No, no. I think if they want to keep me around... (Laughter.) But if not, hey, they take their time because they are good players. You know, we have got good players. We've got good players. We have some good players that have had a history of playing well at the Major League level. So I still believe that the finish for this team is going to be the most important. I don't think you're going to -- in 162 games, I don't think you just say, Hey, you know -- we have good players. We should be okay. We have to remain healthy. We know that's a big factor, huge factor.

Q: What were your impressions of Matsui's World Series performance?

JERRY MANUEL: I didn't watch much of the World Series. But for him to accomplish and do what he did is a testament to his professionalism. I have great respect for him as a professional hitter, the way he went about his approach and his style, his professionalism. So for him to accomplish that feat, that's great for baseball. It makes it truly international, and I think that's good for the game.

Q: I know that defense could be an issue also. It's Omar's call, but would you be interested in managing a guy like that?

JERRY MANUEL: (Laughing) Sure. (Laughter.) Sure.

Q: How did you miss the World Series?

JERRY MANUEL : I was in meetings. I was. I was traveling back and forth.

Q: Would you play him in left field, though?

JERRY MANUEL: Oh, man, I don't know. I don't know.





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