Pete Alonso was enroute to Denver Sunday after the Mets series finale loss to the Pirates at Citi Field and is ready to defend his 2019 Home Run Derby title. Dave Jauss, the Mets bench coach, will join Alonso in the Mile HIgh City at Coors Field.
Jauss is not a member of the NL All-Star coaching staff. Instead, he will be on the mound and pitching to Alonso in the first round of the Derby. With a team leading 17 home runs, Alonso and Mets fans have seen the home run swing return.
The fan spectacular returns Monday night. Last year the All-Star game and festivities were cancelled due to the pandemic.
“We wouldn’t go out there if that wasn’t expected,” Jauss explained in regards to Alonso becoming a consecutive HR Derby winner. “Pete has that natural swing.”
This is his second stint as bench coach for the Mets and he had that role when Jerry Manuel succeeded Willie Randolph as manager during that rough and tense 2008 season.
But this is now and the Mets head to the break holding first place in their division for the first time since 2007. True, the NL East has not lived up to expectations with the struggles of the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals, but the Mets have dealt with the adversity of 17 or more players on the injured list.
The start of their 2021 season was delayed due to a COVID outbreak that engulfed the Washington Nationals.
“Everybody has it,” Jauss explained about the adversity the Mets and other teams confront. “And secondly, you learn from it. There is adversity all the time. Ours was different from other clubs. We take it as a learning opportunity. As a group, we have a closer bond. Everybody knows we are going to be better each day by playing those nine innings or seven.”
The Mets have dealt with the adversity in the first half of playing 10 doubleheaders of seven-innings, all due to inclement weather, and have three more scheduled.
So the Mets coaching staff and Manager Luis Rojas have confronted the adversity. Rojas has seen 51 players pass through the clubhouse which is a franchise record but most of the injured are back on the field.
By the way, those seven-inning doubleheaders, that were implemented for safety reasons during the truncated 2020 season, have a mixed reaction. But they may be here to stay and will be unless the players and management decide to revert course.
I asked Jauss about the grind of a record number of twin bills on the schedule, just a part of the adversity the Mets have confronted during the first half. The complexion of the game changes for the manager and players playing seven as compared to the standard nine innings. Add in the extra inning ghost runner at second base.
Jauss, 64-years old and a veteran coach with four other teams, is content with the new way baseball is being played. Saturday, the Mets split two games of seven innings with the Pirates. But this was different as the Mets in the previous nine won the first and lost the second game.
“Quite a grind on 18-innings of baseball.” he said. “It affects you, two or three days later. The tenseness of the seventh inning comes so fast. If I don’t accept it then I wouldn’t be in that role. I’d be up there with those fans eating a hotdog.
“Steve Cohen, Sandy Alderson, Zach Scott and Luis Rojas, I want to again thank them for the opportunity to be a part of what this organization can accomplish in the coming years,” Jauss said.
Felipe Alou is also a connection. The former Major League outfielder, first baseman, and manager has known Jauss a long time. He is also the father of Luis Rojas.
The relationship with Alou and Rojas dates back years ago. Rojas sat on the bench when his father managed spring training games with the old Montreal Expos. Dave Jauss also sat with the young Rojas and learned a lot from Alou.
And this second time around has been a charm for the Mets’ bench coach. Working under Manuel and for a brief time with then manager Terry Collins, Jauss started to see the development of first round pick Brandon Nimmo and two-time NL Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom.
“Nimmo as a young guy being a first round draft pick with the ability to be stronger and a good leadoff hitter,” he said.
It has been a season of going the extra mile for many others on the roster and that includes the “Bench Mob” of depth who have all played a role in the first half. It has been a team effort, leadership of Rojas and his coaches.
“The players playing first and foremost,” said Jauss. “They execute and play hard. And they play together as a unit and we are part of that with them. It’s an entire clubhouse dugout and an entire team effort.”
Besides Alonso, Dom Smith has seen better at bats and commanded his position in left field. Jeff McNeill, since his return from the injured list, is averaging 7.33 plate appearances per strikeout, eighth in the NL.
And Edwin Diaz has been perfect as the closer. With the exception of his second blown save Sunday, Diaz and the bullpen have turned it around.
“We expect those guys to do what they do everyday,” Jauss said. “ Now they are ready to continue what they are doing. “
The grind will continue Friday.
The Mets open the second half with three games at Pittsburgh. They will be rested and J.D.Davis is expected back in the lineup after missing most of the first half with an injured left hand strain. The starting rotation will likely get a needed boost with the long awaited debut of Carlos Carrasco, who was acquired in the trade for Francisco Lindor.
First, though, Dave Jauss gets to throw those pitches to Alonso.
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