Former middle infielder and one-time Manager of the Year for the White Sox was named Willie Randoplh's bench coach in 2005 and in 2008 succeeded Randolph as manager. At his best, Manuel exerted a kind of compassionate authority as manager, famously surviving a potentially explosive conforntation with Jose Reyes in his very first inning as manager and later diffusing it with humor that earned him a reputation as "Gangsta Jerry." It was part of an extraordinary start to his managerial career that saw a sonambulent team suddenly reawake and contend for much of the year before, even more remarkably, ending in the same disappointing fashion that 2007 did under his predecessor.
In retrospect, the Mets should have cut ties with Manuel then and there, but instead they blamed the players (the bullpen, mainly) and rewarded him with a two-year contract. What they got then was a manager whose adherence to a "prevent defense" appeared to wear away at the team's will to win by any other means and ground up one reliever after another in fruitless pursuit of an airtight eighth inning. Manuel had a doghouse and wasn't afraid to use it, and a tendency to employ character-building but ineffective strategies like the sacrifice bunt. While his humor and quiet dignity remained, the team failed to contend in either of those years and he was quietly not asked to come back.