Mets Should Be Wary With New Closer Approach
One of the biggest benefits of Mickey Callaway being the new Mets manager is the team and organization has a fresher way of looking at things. This is a welcome breath of fresh air from the Terry Collins Era when he was almost purposefully against the advanced metrics game, and he was loathe to play young players like Michael Conforto.
With Collins stubbornly played veterans like Jose Reyes, even when it was clear he wasn’t the guy who won a batting title in 2011 anymore, it was clear this change of direction was needed. However, it should always be questioned just how far a new manager should push the envelope.
Judging from Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece, Callaway is really looking to push the envelope:
On paper, this absolutely makes sense. Typically speaking, a team’s closer is their best reliever. They have the best stuff, and more than that, they have the mental toughness required to face these difficult situations and come out on top.
And yes, as fans, we time and time again lament how the best available reliever wasn’t used in a particular situation. Usually, this is when a game goes into extra innings. Typically, a backwards thinking manager, like Collins, would go to their third or fourth best reliever, so they can save their closer for the save situation. The example brought up most often was Buck Showalter not bringing in Zach Britton in the 2016 Wild Card Game.
On the surface, it would seem the Mets are well equipped bullpen-wise for Callaway to implement this plan.
Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Paul Sewald have closing experience. While not a closer, Anthony Swarzak has been used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen. We did see Jerry Blevins record three saves over the past two seasons. Finally, while many Mets fans are skeptical, Hansel Robles has shown he can handle a number of different roles in the bullpen, and with his working with Pedro Martinez this offseason and Dave Eiland this season, we may see fewer meltdowns.
Now, the main difference between the Indians situation and what Callaway is proposing to do is the Indians stuck with Allen as the closer. Clearly, that was more in line with Terry Francona‘s thinking than Callaway’s. What remains to be seen is whether this was the perfect blending of two schools of thought or Francona not going far enough.
Perhaps the reason why Francona not allowing Callaway to fully implement his plan was because we have seen many closers struggle in non-closing roles. Now, many will point out this is typically in a situation where a closer is just getting work in with their team having a large lead. We have not really seen the situation where a team full of strong relievers with closing experience can come in at any moment and be thrown into a pressure filled situation.
To date, we have seen teams toy with the idea but never truly implement it. Perhaps, that’s because there’s the theory relievers thrive when they know their role. Perhaps, that’s because there is value in free agency and arbitration in save totals and relievers are not going to let their manager “steal” money from them. Perhaps, that’s because managers do not want to put themselves on the line by trying something new.
Whatever the case, the Mets have a manager who is willing to try something different. It’s a good theory, and he should pursue it. However, he should not steadfast if it is not working. And with that, we really have the first true measure of what Callaway can be as a manager.
If nothing else, Callaway will make the 2018 season an interesting one to follow.