Jan 14, 2016

2000 N.L. Champion Mets Hitting Coach: Tom Robson (1997-2002)

Thomas James Robson was born on January 15, 1946 in Rochester, New York. He attended Utah State University getting drafted by the New York Mets way down in the 50th round of the 1967 draft. He would play three seasons at first base with the Mets minor league teams, having a huge 1968 year at AA Visalia hitting 35 HRs with 102 RBIs & a .283 average.

That season he was a teammate of future Mets Teddy Martinez, Ken Singleton & Jesse Hudson. His numbers fell way off the next year at AAA & he eventually went to the Expos, Reds &Rangers organizations. He set a Rangers minor league record which still stands with 14 HRs in 1974, getting him a call up to the big leagues. He played briefly in the majors with Texas in 1974 & 1975 appearing in 23 games overall, batting .208 with 4 RBIs.

Coaching: After his playing days Robson went into a coaching career & began working with Bobby Valentine back in 1986. He was the batting coach on Bobby V’s staff until his departure from Texas in 1992. Robson arrived on Bobby Valentine’s New York Mets staff in Bobby’s first full year at the helm in 1997. 

Looking back it must be noted at how the team improved under his tenure as batting coach, getting to two straight post seasons, with the likes of Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura & John Olerud. Olerud himself, called Robson the best coach he ever had, as he improved from a .274 season in Toronto to a .294 (1997) season in New York, followed by a .354 season (1998).
But it wasn’t an easy ride for Robson.

After an eight game losing streak in 1999 capped off by a subway series loss, GM Steve Phillips fired Robson, along with Bob Apodaca & Randy Nieman. Bobby Valentine was furious & had known nothing about the firing of his two closest coaches until he arrived at the ballpark. Robson was replaced by minor league hitting instructor Mickey Brantley.

The powerful 1999 team were the second best hitting team in the NL with a .279 average & the league’s best team on base %. After the season Valentine fought to get Robson back & Steve Phillips gave in, admitting he was wrong to fire him. Robson was rehired for the 2000 season & his Mets hitters went all the way to the World Series with the leagues fifth best on base %, although they fell to tenth in batting average (.263). He was fired a second time after the World Series & was replaced with Dave Engle.

In May of 2001, as the Mets bats were struggling, Robson was asked by GM Steve Phillips to stop by & give the hitters some help. Phillips downplayed the idea that new hitting coach Dave Engle wasn’t doing a good job. The Mets hitters finished 15th in the league in hitting after the departure of Robson. At the end of that season, Robson was once again added to the staff as the bench coach replacing Bobby Floyd.

He stayed with the Mets for one more season, and left when Valentine & his staff were dismissed. In 2003 Robson wrote a book called the Hitting Edge with a forward by John Olerud

No comments: