General Manager Sandy Alderson and Manager Terry Collins told the media that Bench Coach Ken Oberkfell, Third-Base Coach Chip Hale, First-Base Coach Mookie Wilson and Bullpen Coach Jon Debus will not return to the Mets – leaving Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens and Pitching Coach Dan Warthen as the only remaining members of Collins’ 2011 staff.
Replacing Hale at third-base will be Tim Teufel, a Mets alumnus and class AAA Buffalo’s manager last year, and Ricky Bones, the pitching coach at AAA Buffalo last year, will take Debus’ job as the bullpen coach.
The moves were spurred by Hale accepting the bench coach job in Oakland, to serve under former Mets managerial candidate Bob Melvin. Once Hale, who was a respected member of the staff, decided to leave and sign a two-year contract with the A’s, the Mets decided to reevaluate their entire staff.
“I know what the perception is going to be,” Collins said in an interview for Mets.com. “Obviously I said that I wanted our coaches to come back. But at the end of the year, when we sat down and evaluated everything we thought that [we needed] for us to move forward, maybe some changes needed to be made.”
The most intriguing position that will need to be filled will be the role of bench coach. Many times in fandom, the importance of a bench coach is forgotten. In New York especially, the role of bench coach is often undervalued, as they truly act as the coach to all of the players, while the manager deals with the periphery duties each day – such as consulting with the media.
Oberkfell served under Collins last year, but had limited Major League coaching experience – having served in the Mets farm system as AAA Buffalo’s manager most recently. This time around, Collins said he was looking for experience and a strong familiarity with players in both leagues for their bench coach heading forward.
Recent reports have listed former Nationals Manager Jim Riggelman and former Oakland Manager Bob Geren as possibilities for the position, but fan-favorite Wally Backman will not get looked at as an option.
Writing Backman off so quickly was puzzling to many fans because of his success in recent years as class A Brooklyn’s manager and class AA Binghamton’s manager. However, while Backman might not be in consideration for any position on the major league staff, he is currently the front-runner to replace Teufel at class AAA.
The name that is most interesting, besides Backman, is Riggelman – who left the Nationals in the midst of a messy dispute over his contract heading forward, but led the lowly Nats to a 140-172 record over his three years at the helm and left the team with an above .500 record after 75 games before resigning earlier this year.
Despite his rocky departure, which stemmed from his uncertainty with his position in the Nationals’ future and came during an 11-1 run for the club, Riggelman represents exactly what Collins said he was looking for, as Riggelman has previously coached the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners besides his time in the Nationals dugout.
Riggelman is a well-respected baseball mind, and as Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heymen said, getting Riggelman to be the team’s bench coach would be a “coup.” Andy McCullough of the NJ Star Ledger also reported that Riggelman has a strong relationship to both Collins and Warthen, which could factor into the Mets decision.
Geren does has connections to the Mets front office – which is stacked with former executives (Alderson) from his former team, The Oakland A’s. His familiarity with the top executives could factor in.
Riggelman makes a lot of sense for the Mets to hire. During his time at the helm of the Nats, he took a less-than-stellar club and turned them into over-achievers. In addition, he has a strong knowledge of the NL East and would provide the Mets with another collected mind in the dugout. He is presently the best option available and would fit perfectly into the Mets coaching puzzle.