Johnson steps into new world as hitting coach
NEW YORK -- When Lamar Johnson last held a Major League hitting coach position in 2003, the tools of the job were starkly different than what they are today. The video available to hitters was not nearly as in-depth as it is now. The statistics used to evaluate performance were not quite so complex.
So when Johnson reported to his first day of work as the Mets' new hitting coach Tuesday, replacing Dave Hudgens, he stepped into a bit of a new world.
"It's a lot different -- a lot more technology, you get a lot more stats," Johnson said. "But you still have to go in there and hit the ball. That's still basically what it is."
In that sense, Johnson may personally need to transform more than the Mets do under his tutelage. A member of the organization for the last 11 years, Johnson said he preaches the same philosophy that Hudgens did, imploring hitters to wait for a pitch that they can handle and be aggressive once they receive it. The difference will be in how he relates that message.
"Obviously, times have changed since L.J. was a Major League hitting coach," manager Terry Collins said of Johnson, who manned the position for the Brewers from 1995-98, the Royals from 1999-2002 and the Mariners in 2003. "The information available now is mega-times what he had at his disposal when he was in the big leagues doing that job. We just told him we'll do the best we can to get him up to speed."
As for Hudgens, the outgoing hitting coach continued speaking critically of his former employer Tuesday. During an appearance on ESPN Radio, Hudgens said that if the Mets "want a winner in that town, I would let the purse strings loose and let [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] do what he wants to do."
Alderson, whose professional relationship with Hudgens dates back three decades, responded later Tuesday by saying that payroll is not "the issue."
"We spent $85 million and we expected a little more at this point in the season than we've gotten," Alderson said. "I think what we have to do is we have to put a good product on the field, and we have to demonstrate that the team is worthy of support, and as a result get more people out here. It's not incumbent upon them. It's incumbent upon us to change that situation."