Is Mickey Callaway The Right Manager?
When the Mets hire a new General Manager, one of his, or in the case of Kim Ng getting the job, her, first duties is to decide if they want to retain Mickey Callaway as the Mets manager. Given how Callaway may come attached at the hip with Dave Eiland and seeing how this pitching rotation took off this year, you’d be inclined to keep Callaway on the job.
However, seeing Aaron Boone in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS, we know a General Manager needs to look at much more than that. Basically, the new General Manager needs to assess not just if Callaway is the guy who can bring the Mets to the postseason, but he needs to assess if Callaway would stand as an impediment to the Mets winning a World Series.
In the regular season, we have seen some really good and really terrible things from Callaway and his coaching staff. The question is what is fixable and what are flaws which stand in the way.
The negatives have been oft discussed. There was the lineup card incident. Callaway had real difficulty handling the media. We saw him exhaust the bullpen, especially Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, early in the season. He was also not above continuing to go back to that well even with them being overused. At times, the lineups were outright baffling, and unlike some of his other issues, this was something which seemed to get worse (more traditional?) as the season progressed.
On the positive, the Mets players did progress. According to wRC+, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League. Michael Conforto returned to his All Star form. Amed Rosario went from potential bust to improving young player. Jeff McNeil emerged as an everyday second baseman. Lugo became a dominant reliever. As noted previously, the rotation improved. Mostly, this team did not quit even after the season was over after a 5-21 June.
We have also seen Callaway use analytics to inform his decisions. In April, he was started Juan Lagares because Jacob deGrom was a flyball pitcher, and the Cardinals starter, Michael Wacha, had reverse splits. Essentially, he is well versed in analytics, and he’s able to use them to inform his decision making.
He’s also an aggressive manager. On multiple occasions, he brought in a reliever to force the other managers hand. Instead of being reactive to another manager’s pinch hitting choice, Callaway ensured he brought in his better pitcher to get a worse hitter up at the plate thereby ensuring himself of the better match-up.
Essentially, there’s enough here to suggest Callaway is the right guy for the job, but make no mistake, it is not a clear-cut decision. While he was strong in motivating and developing players as well as being aggressive in his pitching decisions, his position player choices left something to be desired and arguably got worse as the season progressed.
In the end, if the Mets are going to keep him or replace him, they better be right.