Originally created 06/16/04

Mets fire hitting coach



NEW YORK -- Frustrated by a season-long struggle to score runs, the New York Mets fired batting coach Denny Walling on Tuesday and replaced him on an interim basis with bench coach Don Baylor.

The Mets went into Tuesday night's game against Cleveland batting .246, next to last in the major leagues, trailed only by Montreal.

The team was particularly bad with the bases loaded, going just 6-for-59 (.102).

"I made the decision based primarily on results," general manager Jim Duquette said. "It had nothing to do with his work ethic or what we think of him as a person.

"We've struggled with what to do. Our failures are well known. We tried a number of things that didn't work. We felt the timing was now. Maybe a different voice with a different message will help. I'm hopeful we can put out past troubles behind us and start fresh," he said.

Walling came to the Mets a month after the team hired manager Art Howe in October 2002. Howe called him a close friend and was not happy with the firing.

"I know the offense has had problems," Howe said. "Everybody knows how much trouble we've had scoring runs. You realize something like this can happen and it has. Denny did everything possible to get the guys going. It just did not happen. Sometimes, things don't sink in."

Walling and Howe were teammates from 1977-83 with Houston. He played for the Astros in 1992 when Howe managed that team and was Oakland's hitting coach from 1996-98 when Howe managed the Athletics.

"This didn't come out of left field," Howe said. "I knew if it continued, something would happen."

Baylor has been a Mets bench coach for two seasons, sharing the job this year with Bobby Floyd. He has worked as a hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals and managed the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies.