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Ex-Hitting Coach Chili Davis Sounds Off On Mets

Ex-hitting coach Chili Davis did not hold back his true feelings when discussing what went down with the Mets last season.

Tell us how you really feel, Chili Davis.

The ex-Mets hitting coach opened up about what truly went down with his early-season firing, and he certainly didn't mince any words in the process.

“That organization needs a big turnaround, they need to clean house,” Davis told Mike Puma of The New York Post. “Some of the people that have been there so long during those dismal years, they need to bring some fresh faces and baseball people in there. To be honest I don’t think Zack Scott was a baseball person. He was the head of analytics in Boston. He was an analytical guy. That’s where he belonged, in analytics.”

Scott, the Mets' acting GM last season who was fired earlier in the week after getting hit with a DWI charge on Aug. 31, got rid of Davis and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater 24 games into the 2021 campaign.

The Mets produced one of the best offenses in baseball from 2019-2020, but Scott decided to replace this duo with minor league hitting instructor Hugh Quattlebaum and assistant Kevin Howard in early-May. 

Although the Mets' lineup had gotten off to a slow start collectively at the plate last season, Scott valued the process more so than the results.

“I was told it’s not about the results, it’s about the process,” Davis said. “Well, if the process doesn’t produce positive or good results, then the process is worthless, because it’s not a good process. The process is making your players better. It’s a bullcrap statement to tell me it’s not about the results, it’s about the process.

“How did the process work out [with Quattlebaum]? That’s my question. How well did the process work? It’s not about the results, so how did the process work, because everybody could see the results. There is a wine in Napa called ‘Brilliant Mistake.’ I almost bought a case of it to distribute it. Brilliant.”

The Mets finished with a 94 OPS-plus [six points below league average] and had the sixth worst offense in baseball overall.

While Davis acknowledged Quattlebaum and Howard were not placed in the easiest of situations, he feels things would've gone differently if he and Slater were allowed to remain in their roles with the team.

“I don’t think Michael Conforto would have struggled, I don’t think Dom Smith would have struggled like that, I don’t think [Jeff] McNeil would have struggled the way he did, because we had built a relationship based on trust with these guys,” Davis said. “They trusted us and we communicated with them well, and I think throughout the year we would have managed to get them on track, doing what they do. And I think it was somewhat unfair to the Quattlebaum-Howard duo, to bring them in when they did, because they didn’t know anything about the players. It was just a bad decision.”

And what Davis said might actually have some legs to it. The Mets saw a number of key members in their lineup struggle immensely last season.

The Mets waited several months for the offense to come around, but it never did and ultimately sealed their fate of yet another losing record.

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Keep in mind, McNeil, Davis, Smith etc. all had previous success under Davis as their hitting coach across two seasons. And their struggles in 2021 were a big reason why the Mets missed out on the postseason.

“There’s some players that are going to be there that, are they good for the team? Are they team players?” Davis said. “I know the guys we had in 2019 and ’20 – that was a good team. It was on its way, it needed some pieces and they started to put the pieces together, but they had a good core of players. McNeil was an All-Star, Conforto was getting better, Dom Smith was getting better, J.D. Davis was getting better, Petey [Alonso] was becoming Petey and [Amed] Rosario had a big year in ’19 for us and the kid [Andres] Gimenez was coming around last year.”

Before coming to the Mets, Davis served as the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs. He also endured a successful 19-year career in the big-leagues, where he slugged 350 home runs.

Although Davis is known for being more old school with his coaching methods, he claims he is not anti-analytics. Even still, he did not agree with the Mets' new style that they attempted to implement last season.

For example, the Mets were facing starting pitcher Jake Arrieta in a game on Apr. 20, and the analytics staff presented Davis with a projection that stated the right-hander would only use his changeup seven percent of the time based off his previous three starts.

But the Mets faced Arrieta in September of the season prior, and he used his change 32% of the time against them, per Statcast. And low-and-behold, he wound up throwing it at a 14.7% rate against the Mets lineup on this night in Chicago.

“I challenged [the analytics staff] and asked where their information was coming from,” Davis said. “They said, ‘Well, we were looking at his last three starts.’ It was the beginning of the year and he had pitched twice against Pittsburgh and once against [Milwaukee]. It had nothing to do with the Mets. Maybe he didn’t use his changeup that much against those other guys. I challenged that and I was right. I don’t think that was taken very lightly.

“I look at analytics as information. It could be good information, but am I going to coach solely with analytics? No. Because numbers and computers and machines have a place, but when you are dealing with human beings and you are a hitting coach or pitching coach or any kind of coach, you have to deal with personalities, you have to deal with emotions sometimes. You have to deal with some guys’ psyche. I am saying that as a former player.”

Davis, who admittedly had a solid relationship with now former manager Luis Rojas, criticized the front office's pre-scripted game plan for the coaching staff.

“I was in some meetings and the lineups were already built for the day,” Davis said. “I don’t know how much input [Rojas] had in building the lineup each day, but I think that’s something even if the analytical people are involved, the manager and his staff should have some input. When you think about it, we are the ones in the batting cages with the hitters every day. We know their thoughts, we know what they feel, I hear what they grumble about, I know what they say and the same thing goes for the pitching coach and the other coaches. We’re around them every day, so the input we have would be valuable in building a lineup.”

Davis is disappointed with the way things ended with the Mets. He is still hoping to land another gig as a major league hitting coach and has been in touch with at least one team regarding a vacancy.

He also has respect for Mets owner Steve Cohen, but he is unsure of whether the organization is on the right track to success or not.

“I believe in my heart Steve Cohen wants to win and I know in his business analytics are big,” Davis said. “He’s a hedge-fund guy and analytics are big in that business and they should be because you are dealing with numbers every day. Just like baseball, you are dealing with numbers, but you are also dealing with a lot of human element in baseball. You don’t ever feel the same as a player every day, even when you are hot. Even when you are swinging good. You don’t walk to the ballpark every day and feel the same.”

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