Over the past four seasons, Bill Masse has gone a combined 299-268 as a Double-A manager.
74-68 in 2005.
80-62 in 2006.
70-73 in 2007.
75-65 in 2008.
The numbers don’t lie. Neither do playoff appearances in three years and missing out by one game in the fourth.
But the fact that those four seasons came in three different uniforms might start to tell part of the problem Masse’s had.
The first two years of that run came with the Trenton Thunder, where he led the team to their first playoff berth since their magical 1999 season.
But a now infamous article in one of the Trenton papers had some quotes that didn’t exactly endear Masse to the Yankees front office, and he was very publicly let go after two outstanding seasons.
So he landed on his feet with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, taking them to within one game of the Eastern League playoffs, finishing just behind the Portland Sea Dogs and the Thunder, who he would eventually watch win a championship without him.
He also got involved in more controversy, when he took issue with the front office promoting then-Red Sox prospect Clay Buchholz coming to town.
So Masse was one and done with the Blue Jays organization.
But again, he landed on his feet with the San Diego Padres, taking over their Double-A affiliate in San Antonio.
He led the team to an improbable playoff run, and sent a handful of players to the big leagues as well.
But another tumultuous season led to Masse not being asked back there, either.
And that’s how Masse ended up taking a cut in pay and responsibility to become the Binghamton Mets hitting coach.
No one can ever question Masse’s skills as a baseball man. His knowledge of the game is amazing, and his passion for it is as well. I’ve never met someone who cared as much about winning as Masse does…which isn’t always a great recipe for managing in affiliated baseball, where development is often placed over championships.
In any event, I recently got a chance to catch up with the abrasive, yet likeable former Thunder skipper during Binghamton’s recent trip into Trenton, and we talked about a wide variety of topics…
Thunder Thoughts: Well, you’ve been back here before with New Hampshire…but what are your general thoughts on yet another trip back to Waterfront Park?
Bill Masse: “I’ve always loved Trenton. It’s a beautiful park, great fans. I have nothing but positive memories of Trenton. It’s always nice to stay here. Plus, they put us in the Marriott downtown (laughs). But no, Trenton’s always a pleasure to come back to. I understand they have a new GM now, so both of my GM’s are gone; Rick Brenner and Brad Taylor from the two years I was there. But if this guy does any kind of a job like those two guys did, Trenton’s in for good business.”
TT: I heard you and Tony Franklin were talking about the new batting cage here…
Masse: “I wish we could have had that when I was here. They have all these new things. There’s a new gravel parking lot out there. No more bleachers. Different colors, too. I wasn’t here for the uniform change. The best one had to be back in 2006, and the whole first level of boards was the facade of Yankee Stadium. I don’t know if you remember that. We had to make them paint it…someone couldn’t figure out that was in the middle of the batter’s eye (laughs). You can’t put white there, that didn’t go over so good. But yeah, Trenton’s one of the best places in all of minor league baseball.”
TT: Is it still a little weird to be on this side looking over at the home dugout?
Masse: “Yeah. As they all say, as time goes on you kind of roll with the punches. But I always enjoyed my time over there, and I always enjoyed my time with the Yankees. I was with them for 13 years. But hopefully this is a new chapter for me with the Mets. They’ve treated me with nothing but respect, and they’re first class. Hopefully this is a good sign of things to come.”
TT: So how did this opportunity with the B-Mets come about?
Masse: “It was just one of those things where they called…and to be honest with you, I’ve been managing the last four years in Double-A, and it’s kind of a nice change to just be the hitting coach. That’s always been my passion, I’ve done it in the past, so sometimes it’s kind of nice to just kind of concentrate on one thing. I’ve always had a passion for hitting. So this is kind of a nice break from managing, I guess.”
TT: Do you eventually want to get back to managing?
Masse: “We’ll see, we’ll see what happens. I’m actually enjoying myself doing this right now. There’s a lot less other dealings I have to do. Being a manager’s tough sometimes, you’ve got to deal with a lot of different things. Not only do you have to manage the players, you’ve got to manage front offices and sometimes that’s a tough job. I’d like to think I’ve become a better coach because of it, because I understand the trials and tribulations of being a manager. Mako’s the manager, and I told him at the beginning of the year, if there’s anything I can do to help out, just let me know because I know it’s not easy.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com