October 27th, 2002
Art Howe Hired
Over the nearly two years I've been at this, I've done a fair amount of writing on managers. And this is also the period of the year when managers are endlessly discussed as to who is going to be fired, who is going to replace those people who were fired and all the rest. For my money, this is all kind of silly because while there are some truly excellent managers, and some truly awful ones, a huge majority--maybe seventy-five percent--is just as good as their team. The problem arises when a team hires a manager without doing anything to noticeably improve the team, and then is surprised when things don't go as planned.
Such is the case of Art Howe and the New York Mets. Howe was coming off seasons of 102 and 103 wins in Oakland, and had increased "his" winning total every year since 1997. He was leaving Oakland with six hundred wins and a .530 (87-75) winning percentage. Of course, Howe had also managed in Houston for five years, never won ninety games and averaged eighty-four losses a season but the Mets were evidently convinced he'd come around. He hadn't of course, and the Mets were rewarded with two years of 95 and 91 losses, and the team finished a collective fifty-nine and a half games out of first place before Howe was fired with two years and more than four million dollars left on his contracts. Having sat at home and cashed the Mets checks Howe is now back in baseball as the third base coach for the Phillies, meaning he'll get to return to his old Shea stomping grounds several times a season. As he does, and Willie Randolph looks brilliant guiding the talented Mets, remember that the difference between them is probably less about the men themselves and more about the men they command.