McCraw banks on big year from Met millionaires

April 02, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,Staff Writer

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- You're Tom McCraw. You're the hitting coach for Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Howard Johnson. You're thinking, "Life is good."

"I'll either be the greatest hitting coach in the world," the former Orioles instructor says, laughing, "or I'll get fired the quickest."

Chances are, it'll be neither, but McCraw probably has the best job in the Mets' organization this season.

He isn't responsible for holding the players together as they face various allegations of sexual misconduct. Better still, he isn't responsible for them catching the ball.

That will be a problem for the Mets, but who's McCraw to worry? He's the hitting coach for a team that has assembled one of the most intriguing lineups in major-league history.

Bonilla, Murray and Johnson -- the 3-4-5 batters, in whatever order -- each rank among the top 10 switch-hitters lifetime in home runs per at-bat.

The Mets' leadoff man, Vince Coleman, also is a switch-hitter. So is the No. 8 hitter, rookie catcher Todd Hundley.

The lineup is not without holes, but McCraw worked with two of the weaker hitters -- Hundley and shortstop Kevin Elster -- while serving as Mets minor-league hitting instructor from 1986-88.

Surely, he can't complain when the Mets spent nearly $40 million to add Bonilla and Murray to a lineup that already included Johnson, the National League leader last season in home runs and RBIs.

McCraw said he was "elated" when the Mets signed Murray the && day before Thanksgiving, and even more ecstatic when they added Bonilla only a week later.

"When I heard about Bonilla, I was in a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Roanoke, Va.," he recalls with a smile. "I threw my box of chicken up in celebration."

You're Tom McCraw.

You're a happy man.

"All I have to do is see they don't get hurt on the freeway coming to work," McCraw says, laughing again. "Well, it's a little more than that, but not a hell of a lot."

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