So. The New York Mets.
It takes a certain ... something ... to fire a man on a national holiday. The Mets? The Mets fired two. Following a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates suffered due to one of his trademark disastrous outings, New York parted ways with Jose Valverde, a reliever they never should have hired in the first place -- Valverde's best pitch and only real means of getting hitters out, his splitter, more or less disappeared almost two full years ago. In fairness to the Mets, players are somewhat different beasts from everyone else in the organization; once the decision has been made to cut one loose, there's nothing gained by waiting and letting that roster spot carry dead weight. And besides, Valverde will be back on his feet pitching somewhere soon enough -- just look at Kyle Farnsworth, the Mets' other journeyman veteran with nothing left in the tank: he's right at home on the Houston Astros. Maybe Valverde can join him there.
Hitting coaches, on the other hand, have no one waiting to claim their rights -- nor is waiting 24 hours to can one going to make a tangible difference between winning and losing a game, like not having a reliever to take Valverde's spot conceivably might for Tuesday's contest against Pittsburgh. No hitting coach is going to be able to come in and fix overnight Ruben Tejada, Travis d'Arnaud, Chris Young or any of the other hitters on the roster not named David Wright, Daniel Murphy or Juan Lagares. And yet for some reason, the Mets decided Memorial Day was the proper time to send a message about how seriously they took their squad's inability to hit with the bases loaded or with runners in scoring position or whatever dismal offensive Mets stat you prefer to look at, and show Dave Hudgens the door.
Hudgens, who was in his fourth season in Queens, will be replaced by the team's minor league hitting coordinator Lamar Johnson. Johnson has held that position for the last decade, which means he oversaw the development of a bunch of the guys on the big club whose lack of production got his predecessor canned. Now, maybe Ruben Tejada was never going to hit at the big league level anyway, but firing the hitting coach and then turning around and insisting that "our hitting approach will not change appreciably," as Sandy Alderson did on Monday, raises no small number of eyebrows, and as well as the question: If the approach isn't going to change in any meaningful way, why make such a big deal about firing Hudgens?
It's unlikely this is a shot across Terry Collins's bow, either, because Hudgens isn't Collins's guy; he's Alderson's guy. Hudgens and Alderson's relationship goes back to Alderson's time with the Oakland Athletics in the mid to late nineties, just before Billy Beane took over, when Alderson was general manager and Hudgens was assistant director of player development. Beane, who was himself an Alderson disciple, would move Hudgens into the dugout as the hitting coach for his early Athletics squads, giving him his first resume experience in the position.
If canning Hudgens and replacing him with Johnson is a warning to anyone, it's Alderson himself -- Johnson, after all, predates Alderson in the organization. That said, Alderson hasn't exactly been shy about cleaning out long-timers in the Mets coaching system and front office of whom he didn't approve; if Alderson didn't want Johnson in his previous position, he'd have been let go. Absent any information to the contrary, one assumes that's true of Johnson's new position with the Mets as well.
But then, it's understandable why it might be a bit difficult to get information to the contrary at the moment. It's Memorial Day, you see. No one really expects to be covering a round of firings on Memorial Day -- but in the end, no one really expects the New York Mets.