Jun 4, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1999) GM Steve Phillips Fires Three of Bobby Valentine's Coaches

After a Saturday subway series loss, the Mets were tumbling in a horrid eight game losing streak. In the off season the team had spent $165 million to upgrade the team. They were considered a wild card favorite & even a possible challenge for the Atlanta Braves. But at this point they were 27-28 & in third place.

After the game, in a heated meeting Mets manager Bobby Valentine & club GM Steve Phillips vented their disagreements. Next to the shock of Bobby Valentine, three of his coaches were let go.
First, pitching Coach Bob Apodaca, who had been with the organization 28 years, as a pitcher, minor league & major league coach was fired. Over the previous two years, Apodaca was credited with the success of the team’s pitching staff.

Valentine had once even insisted Apodaca get signed to a deal in order for him to sign. But at this point in 1999, the staff ERA was at 4.84 & every starter had a personal ERA over five.
Apodaca commented: “All I know is that over the past three years I have been prepared for every game and the pitchers have been prepared for every game. All I can say is if I’m responsible for Al Leiter’s knee, for Bobby Jones’ shoulder, for Rick Reed being on the DL, then I’ve got to go.”
Phillips on the other hand, said he didn’t like the way he was handling the staff. He stated that one pitcher went as far as telling him; if Apodaca was fired no one would complain.

Phillips said: “We needed to make changes with the people who had the most immediate contact and responsibility with those departments. There are some areas where we succeeding but not finishing the job. Other areas, like pitching, we just aren't getting the job done."

Also getting the axe was hitting Coach Tom Robson, who had been with Valentine since his first managerial job back in 1986 with the Texas Rangers.

The Mets were eighth in runs scored but were leading the league in on base %. Strangely Robson would be back in 2000 as hitting coach, as the Mets won the pennant. Bullpen coach Randy Niemann was also let go, although the bullpen had been the best spot of the team up to that point.
Bobby Valentine was furious at the actions taken upon his staff. Phillips stated that the organization had no intentions of firing Valentine & he was their guy. Valentine did not step down & would take the team to two straight playoff appearances, including an NL pennant in 2000.

Dave Wallace was named the new pitching coach, Mickey Brantley the new hitting coach & Al Jackson the new bullpen coach. Other coaches who were not touched were first base coach Mookie Wilson, third base coach Cookie Rojas & bench Coach Bruce Benedict.
The next night, the Mets broke their losing streak on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. They beat the AL New York team & Roger Clemmens, breaking a personal winning streak of his own. They knocked him off the mound by the third inning after he had given up seven runs, including a two run Mike Piazza HR.

The Mets went on to win 40 of the next 55 games & tie for a wild card spot. They beat the Reds in that game, then beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, but lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games of the NLCS.

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