Author: Greg Pomes
Growing up as Mets fan “HoJo” was one of my favorite players. I always looked forward to seeing him hit, hoping to see him hit a homerun when I was at Shea and to see the apple rise. I remember defending him when he wasn’t able to hit in 1992 and 1993 that I actually got into fights with friends who ragged on him as he was my favorite player. I was saddened to see him leave the Mets in 1994 for the Rockies. I think I was even more saddened to see him attempt a comeback in 1997 with the Mets that ultimately led to his retirement. In 2002 I was happy to hear that he took the job as the hitting coach and then the next year he became the manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones. I went to a few games that year just to see him. When he was promoted to AAA to coach future Mets batters I was thrilled. Afterall HoJo is 3rd on the Mets all time homerun lists as well as second in steals and doubles for the Mets. The future looked bright. I thought that HoJo being promoted to the majors as the 1st base coached was a good fit given his ability to steal bases. After the all-star break in 2007 HoJo became the hitting coach for the Mets and I thought that was going to make the Mets the best offensive team in baseball. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.
From the 2nd half of the 2007 season up to the present the Mets have been horrible at the plate. The 2006 Mets were known for how clutch they were during the season, the ability to wait for their pitch and take advantage. 2007 the team was not as good behind the plate, Delgado was awful so the Mets make Howard Johnson their hitting coach, firing the previous one. If you look at the stats the Mets ability to hit with runners on and in clutch situations went down. The lineup in September was downright awful except for Wright and Alou. 2008, more of the same, the lineup could not hit with runners on and left a lot on base.
This year has been even worse. Look at the way David Wright has hit this season, no power at all this season. Strikeouts are way up for him. Over Wright's career with two strikes he was one of the most dangerous hitters to face. His ability to go the other way with 2 strikes in the count made him one of the best hitters in the league. This year he has over 80 strikeouts, on pace for 170 strike outs. The power doesn't really concern me but his average is very deceptive. His swing is all over the place, he has struck out over 30 times looking. The last 2 weekends Wright has gone 0-23, 8 strikeouts and ground into 3 double plays. That's not even accounting the Fernando Tatis is another guy having a hard time at the plate. I noticed that his swing seemed a little longer, a little slower than last year. For the last month or so Keith Hernandez has been talking about the same thing. Tatis even admitted that something is different with his swing, but there have been no reports of HoJo working with him, trying to fix his swing, doing what the Mets pay him to do. When I watch Met games and other baseball games, after guys have some bad at bats the tv crews sometimes show into the dugout the hitting coach talking to someone, I've yet to see anything like that from Howard Johnson. Whenever we see him in the dugout he's usually sitting down, staring straight ahead, chewing gum.
This team at the plate has looked awful this year, even before the injuries started. This weekend the Mets had no extra base hits following the 7th inning Friday night. In 27 innings the mets have scored just 3 runs! 12 of 20 games this season the Mets lost by 3 or fewer runs. The lineup made Rodrigo Lopez, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton look like Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine circa 1995 this weekend.
For 2009 we are last in HR's. When I say last in HR's, I don't mean in the NL East or even the National League but in the entire league, we are dead last, it's not even close. At first it was blamed on Citi Field the Mets lack of power but this team is not hitting any more homeruns outside of Citi Field. Opposing teams homeruns at Citi Field have more than the Mets do.
I know firing and hiring a new hitting coach will not come close to solving the problems the Mets have but a change needs to happen and soon. Usually when a coach is fired a spark is ignited and the Mets need something to ignite them and soon.