The New York Mets surged late last season by mercilessly beating bad teams down the stretch. They have done it again this season, sweeping the lowly Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds heading into the weekend. They will play the Braves again this week, at Citi Field, and then head for San Diego to meet the Padres, another last-place team.
The Padres have had an unusual season. They were shut out in each of their first three games, and they have since been blanked three more times. When they broke loose for nine runs on Thursday, they gave up 13 and lost to the Giants, who completed a three-game sweep.
In Andy Green, at least, the Padres have a manager who should help them grow. The Padres, who have not reached the playoffs in a decade, gave the former Lexington Christian Academy and University of Kentucky star his first major league managing job last October.
“He is a star,” said Tony La Russa, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ chief baseball officer, who would know. La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager, noticed Green’s acumen while touring the Arizona farm system in 2014. Green — who, like La Russa, had a brief major league playing career as an infielder — knew his boss’s meager batting statistics.
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“The first time I met him, he asked me to introduce him to my team in Double-A,” Green said recently. “And I’m like, ‘You really think you need an introduction?’ He’s got, like, all three World Series rings — he’s Tony La Russa.
“So I said to the guys: ‘If he needs an introduction, you don’t deserve the jersey that’s on your back. He’s got more World Series rings on his fingers than I’m guessing all of you have ever seen. But there’s really only one thing all of you need to know: He’s a career .199 hitter, I’m a career .200 hitter. So in this clubhouse, you know who you need to be listening to.’”
Green laughed as he told the story. He played parts of three seasons with the Diamondbacks, hitting .199 from 2004 to 2006. He went 1-for-4 in four games for the Mets in 2009, freezing his average at .200.
After one more season as a minor league player, Green spent four years climbing the managerial ranks for the Diamondbacks, who promoted him to Chip Hale’s staff as the third-base and infield coach last season.
“He knows how to communicate with people; he knows how to develop relationships, which then creates a trust factor where he can start to teach the game,” said Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed, who played for Green in the minors. “He’s very intelligent about the game, he studies it, he cares about it. There’s no arrogance about him. He just wants to learn and get better.”
The Padres have plenty of room to get better. After a series of costly moves for veterans before last season, the Padres staggered to a 74-88 record. Two of the new stars — Craig Kimbrel and Justin Upton — did not return, and while others like Wil Myers and Matt Kemp have been productive, the Padres entered the weekend with the National League’s second-worst slugging percentage. They also lost their No. 2 starter, Tyson Ross, to a shoulder injury after one start.
Green cannot control all that, but he said that he hoped he could at least influence the Padres’ style of play.
“I want to be opportunistic,” he said. “Every team has a weakness on the field, and we should be able to take advantage of it. We should play intelligent, aggressive baseball. That’s why the fine details matter to me, because that’s how I want my teams to be defined.”