NEW YORK – Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor learned from phone messages that the New York Mets had fired hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant Tom Slater, a move that left players unhappy.
New York made the announcement late Monday night, two days after Alonso started to publicly mention the positive assistance of a new batting instructor — someone who, apparently, is fictional.
"I found out on Twitter while I was eating my postgame meal,” Alonso said, explaining he then talked to acting general manager Zack Scott and gave Davis and Slater hugs. “And then I cried at my locker a little bit.”
The slugging first baseman referred to the dismissed coaches as “Uncle Chili and Uncle Slate, I mean, they’re like family to us.”
“It really caught us all off guard,” Alonso said. “It’s confusing for me, and, listen, I respect everybody who made that decision. But to me, it just doesn’t make sense right now."
“But I know that the guys coming up, guys coming in have great minds, they’re great people. And I know that people who were in charge in the office know that they want to win, everybody wants to win. But I guess from a results standpoint, from let’s say 2, 2 1/2 years, the results have been there and so to me it still doesn’t make sense," he said.
Hugh Quattlebaum, the team's minor league director of hitting development, was promoted to big league hitting coach. Kevin Howard, who was director of player development, was appointed the assistant hitting coach.
Scott was hired by team president Sandy Alderson after new owner Steven Cohen bought the Mets last fall.
Manager Luis Rojas said the coaching changes were an “organization decision ... that’s the best way I can share it right now.”
He said he was not concerned a manager change could be coming.
“Those are types of things that I do not think about just because in my field, it’s just very disrespectful to the group here to be worrying about that before worrying about the team,” Rojas said.
The sudden moves, uncommon for this early in a season, were announced after a 6-5 loss at St. Louis.
“It broke my heart. I was sad,” Lindor said. “It hurt me a little bit.”
While the Mets began Tuesday ranked ninth among the 30 teams with a .240 batting average, they were last in runs with 76 and homers with 18. Their .209 batting average with runners in scoring position was 29th and they were dead last with a .143 average with two outs and runners in scoring position.
After Saturday night’s 5-4 win at Philadelphia, Alonso made a curious reference to the contributions of a new coach.
“We just made a nice, new hire: Donnie,” Alonso said then. “He’s a great hitting/slash approach coach. Donnie’s been great helping the team. I think Luis forget to mention Donnie. Donnie really helped us today, too.”
Asked to explain further, Alonso said: “He’s a new hire. He’s our like mental-slash-approach coach. I feel like we had a really cool collective like team approach today, and Donnie helped us out, for sure.”
Pushed for Donnie’s last name, Alonso said: “I've got to ask that, I've got to ask Chili — oh, Stevenson, I think that’s it.”
Following Alonso to the interview chair, Michael Conforto smiled when asked.
“Donnie’s a new guy. He made an appearance today at our hitters' meeting. He’s all about the approach,” Conforto said. “He’s a hitting approach guy. He’s a guy that just gets the boys fired up and ready to go.”
Alonso brought up the mystery man again after Sunday night’s 8-7 victory.
“He had some guys in the cage and we were just focusing on ripping heaters,” Alonso said. “And that’s what we did today. We were focused on ripping the fastball around the yard and ripping the heater today was the main focus. We put a lot of runs on the board and we were really locked in. He had some really good words of advice and, yeah, I mean, it’s awesome.”
Asked Tuesday about whether his references to a different hitting coach didn’t help Davis’ situation, Alonso replied: “I’m not going to talk about that.”
Scott also refused to address the mysterious coach, Mr. Stevenson.
“You’d have to ask the players about Donnie,” he said Monday night.
Cohen did chime in on the players' imaginary helper.
“I love Donnie,” he tweeted. “A major resource to the team and pretty cheap, too.”
Davis didn’t blame Alonso’s and Conforto’s comments for his departure.
“The players were having fun and I know they didn’t mean any harm,” Davis was quoted as saying by the New York Post. “It was a fun time for them, but it probably didn’t help. People were just trying to loosen up as a group and it worked that night. They went out and put some runs on the board. I am all for them enjoying the game.”
Mets staff held a meeting with players before Tuesday's rainout against the Cardinals, a session that didn’t seem to change any perceptions.
“It’s an explanation that still doesn’t make sense to me right now,” Alonso said.
Lindor, a four-time All-Star, began Tuesday with a .163 average, 151st among 155 qualified batters. He learned of the firings from a text while walking to the team bus.
“Maybe if I would have been hitting a little bit more, maybe he had a job. I don’t know,” Lindor said.
Alonso said teams should not overly rely on analytics, calling himself an “old school-type player.”
“As times keep going on, the game stays the same. I mean, the game has been the same since the Civil War,” he said. “When it’s game time, when it’s my turn to hit in the box, it’s not Luis, its not Chili, it’s not the analytic department that’s in the box hitting. It’s Pete Alonso. It’s me. And that’s the same thing with every single one of those guys in the clubhouse."
“You've got 13 hitters and all those guys, as soon as they step in the box, you might as well take the computer and break the screen, because any time you think about all those numbers in the computer, if you’re in there in that box and thinking, oh, it’s a 2-0 count, he’s 45% changeup, he’s 30% fastball and it’s a certain percent slider, you’re out, you’re a walking out, you’re an out in a helmet,” he said.
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