Mickey Callaway Could Still Be Best Managerial Option
The Mets need to be very careful before they decide to fire Mickey Callaway and let Brodie Van Wagenen, the same man who built this flawed roster, replace him with another manager. Believe it or not, there are things he does well, and those things are a good fit for the Mets plan to contend.
First and foremost, since he’s been the Mets manager, we have seen him keep this Mets pitching staff very healthy. Considering the history which predated him, that’s no small feat.
Steven Matz has pitched in 30 games and pitched in 150+ innings in consecutive seasons after only topping 100 innings once.
Zack Wheeler has consecutive seasons with over 180 innings. He and Matz have also reached their potential with Callaway has been at the helm.
Of course, no one has raised their game as much as Jacob deGrom. Since Callaway’s arrival, deGrom has gone from a staff ace to the best pitcher in baseball, and he’s poised to win his second straight Cy Young.
Like deGrom, Seth Lugo has raised his game as well. Like the starters, Callaway has helped keep him healthy. That’s all the more of a challenge with Lugo and his partially torn UCL.
Remember, at its core, this is a Mets team built on pitching. We’ve seen Callaway and his pitching acumen have a real positive effect on these pitchers in terms of getting the most out of them and keeping them healthy.
In addition to the pitching, we have seen the young position players continue to improve under Callaway and emerge as good to very good players.
Entering last year, some considered Brandon Nimmo a fourth outfielder. As it turned out, he was the second best hitter in the NL last year, and when he was healthy this year, he put up similar numbers.
The Mets thought of Jeff McNeil as just a second baseman, and there were concerns he was just a role player. McNeil would turn into a modern Ben Zobrist playing all over the field and becoming an All-Star this year.
Pete Alonso improved his defense significantly from where it was at the end of last year, and he has the rookie home run record.
Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith entered this year being viewed as busts. Smith was very good at the plate forcing his way into the everyday lineup. Rosario had a big second half making huge strides on both sides of the ball.
The impact goes well beyond that. Even if you don’t want to give Callaway specific credit for what these players have accomplished, we see Callaway has created an environment where young players learn, improve, and prosper.
That is part of Callaway having the pulse of his clubhouse. Certainly, that’s been a factor in the Mets playing hard to the finish in each of the past two years.
Last year, the Mets had nothing to play for, and yet, they didn’t just play out the string. Instead, they played hard and had strong ends to their seasons.
In 2018, the Mets 38-30 second half record was the 11th best in baseball and the best in the National League. In fact, it tied the Braves for the best in the division.
This year, the Mets turned their season completely around. They went from 10 game under at the break to eight games over .500 in the second half. That run got them back onto the race.
Despite that, many will argue Callaway and his in-game moves hold the team back. While we know Callaway isn’t making many of these decisions and is fielding texts with instructions on moves to make from his GM, it’s difficult to defend some of these moves and decisions.
And yet, we see it’s not holding the team back. Last year, their Pythagorean was just one game better than their actual record. That’s the same thing this year. While there are other measures, we should acknowledge this indicates Callaway has gotten what he should’ve from the team.
On that point, you could argue another manager could’ve gotten more out of this roster. That’s fair, but the managers who can do that aren’t readily available. There’s also the doubt the Mets will pony up for a big name like Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, or whomever else with a track record you COULD trust to take the Mets over the top.
If the Mets ate getting that top flight manager, then, by all means, get him. Callaway and his potential as a manager should not stand in the way.
If they’re not, they better be sure they’re getting a real upgrade. That’s easier said than done. The replacement needs to be able to keep the pitching healthy and performing at a high level to shield against the lack of depth.
The manager needs to be adept at developing talent and having the team fight like this team has fought the past two years.
Finding someone who can do these things are much easier said than done. Given the Mets history and Van Wagenen’s brief tenure, it’s more likely they do worse, much worse. With that in mind, absent the proven commodity, the Mets may very well be best suited to sticking with Callaway.