Last night, Mickey Callaway trusted Seth Lugo to finish the seventh inning over Noah Syndergaard. Even with Syndergaard cruising, the numbers were the numbers. As a result, Callaway decided to go with his best reliever to get the team a win rather than let Syndergaard get himself into a jam. It didn’t work out.
Sometimes managers make the right move, and it doesn’t work,. Sometimes, you want the managers to have a feel for the game and stick with their starters. After all, that was the justification for Terry Collins sticking with Matt Harvey, and we know how that ended.
But it’s not just Collins/Harvey, it’s also Callaway/Syndergaard.
Take the April 10th game against the Twins as an example. Syndergaard allowed one earned on two hits. He came out to start the eighth, and he allowed three straight hits starting what was a four run inning which chased him from the game.
There have been a number of instances all year where Syndergaard was cruising and just like that he lost it. There was the game against the Tigers where he struggled in the first two, but seemed to settle down only to allow homers in back-to-back innings. There was also his game against the Padres where he allowed homers, and as he got deeper into the game, he began to allow more base hits.
If we’re being honest, while Syndergaard has been much better starting May 1, he still has his issues while he is struggling with this slider. He’s allowed the most hits in the majors. He has a 4.83 ERA, 83 ERA+, and a 3.60 FIP. He’s allowed the most hits in the majors. Most of his numbers, including his strikeout rate, now stand at career worsts.
This isn’t the 2016 Syndergaard who was one of the best pitchers in baseball. This is a very talented pitcher impressively gutting through starts giving his team a chance to win while he’s still trying to rediscover pitches he’s lost due to the new ball.
Point is, we have seen Syndergaard lose it this year at a moment’s notice. It’s one of the reasons why Mets fans and reporters have jumped at the chance to criticize him all year long. But now, all of a sudden, everyone gets amnesia and pretends like they didn’t say the things they said about him about a week ago.
While you can defend keeping Syndergaard in, you can also realize why Callaway would go to Lugo. What you don’t understand is the composition of the roster and why there hasn’t been more attention focused upon it.
Right now, this team has only two reliable bullpen arms – Lugo and Edwin Diaz. That’s it.
In yesterday’s game, the Mets started J.D. Davis in left field and Carlos Gomez in center. They rushed Jeff McNeil off of the IL. Against a Giants bullpen, they mustered just four singles over the final four innings. They played poor defense in the field.
When Lugo blew the lead, eventually Callaway had to go to Robert Gsellman. Now, Callaway does deserve blame for completely overusing Gsellman. It’s led to him being terrible. However, as bad as he is, Callaway’s other options are worse. Honestly, in a pressure spot who do you want him to pick:
Looking at those options and the players who currently comprise the roster, you see that even with Callaway’s faults, this is on Brodie Van Wagenen and the just ridiculously bad offseason he had.
Take into consideration the fact he gave Jed Lowrie a two year $20 million deal. That’s $20 million to a 35 year old with a knee issue. In true J.J. Putz fashion, the Mets didn’t discover anything during the physical before the deal was consummated.
In lieu of that $20 million, the team could have signed Adam Jones ($3 million) and Greg Holland ($3.25 million) and saved some money to add another bench piece or reliever. The point is the Mets needed more depth in the outfield and the bullpen, and Van Wagenen instead opted on another infielder.
Sure, we can criticize Callaway for his faults, but this isn’t on him. This was a poorly constructed roster, and it will remain that way even if he’s fired and the team replaces him with Jim Riggleman, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter, or whoever else you could conjure up.
So go ahead, blow up at Callaway for using a terrific reliever while pulling a starter you have likely been killing all year. Get angry with him for putting in one of his not up to the task relievers in a spot. Get upset when the offense full of bench players and Triple-A starters can’t score runs in a close game.
Certainly, he’s the issue here and not Van Wagenen or the Wilpons who haven’t come up with the money for Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel despite the team desperately needing the. Make Callaway the whipping boy here just like Van Wagenen and the Wilpons want. After all, what good is a human shied if he’s not there to block all the the criticism really due to other people?
When Jim Riggleman was hired as the bench coach this past offseason, the running joke was the Mets hired their interim manager. With the Mets faltering, Mickey Callaway‘s seat grows hotter by the day, and it would appear this is less of a joke than it is becoming a reality. Or is it?
Not only is Rojas a rising star, baseball runs through his veins. From the moment he was born, baseball encapsulated his entire life. This is the way things are when you grow up in country like the Dominican Republic. It’s also that way when your father is famed player and manager Felipe Alou, and your brother is Moises Alou. Taking a look at the bloodlines, you could almost see being a Major League manager as Rojas’ destiny.
For his part, Rojas believed this upbringing has influenced not just his career choice but also his views. Rojas would tell Anthony Dicomo of MLB.com, “Growing up in that environment was very impactful, very influential in my baseball growth. Just being born in a baseball atmosphere, right away opening my eyes on baseball from the beginning of my understanding was just really helpful. Right away, I wanted to follow my brothers’ steps. I wanted to follow the family’s steps.”
Obviously, Rojas was never the baseball player he brother was. From 1999 – 2005, he was a part of the Orioles, Marlins, and eventually Expos farm systems. He’d play 37 games for the Expos Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2004 hitting .240/.315/.352. Two years later, Rojas would begin his managerial career for the Expos Dominican Summer League team.
After that one season, the Mets jumped on Rojas, and they made him their DSL Manager for one season. The team then brought him stateside to serve as a coach for two years in the Gulf Coast League. Finally, in 2011, at the age of 29, Rojas would be named the manager of that same affiliate. From that point until this year, Rojas has been a manager in the Mets farm system.
During his time as a manager in the Mets system, he has managed a number of Mets prospects including current Mets Pete Alonso, Tyler Bashlor, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Drew Gagnon, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, and Daniel Zamora. Put another way, Rojas has helped develop the current Mets core become not just Major League players, but in some instances, All-Star caliber players.
He’s certainly left an impression on each of these players. When hired, Alonso shared a story about Rojas’ enthusiasm for his players saying, “He was jumping up and down, arms waving in the air. I honestly think Luis was happier than [Nick Sergakis].”
But it’s more than enthusiasm and relationships, Rojas can coach. It’s one of the reasons why the Mets see him as a rising star and why they were so enthusiastic to name him the team’s first ever quality control coach. In addition to those duties, he is also the team’s outfield coach.
We are seeing his impact as an outfield coach right now. Entering this season, McNeil had played all of 26.1 innings in left field over a six year span. It was up to Rojas to get McNeil up to speed. As he explained, Rojas’ plan was to begin “with the basics: pre-pitch, stance, route, reads off the bat and we progress into other things that we are taking here into camp and then some of the drills that we bring in with some of the outfielders.” (NY Post).
With Rojas coaching McNeil, McNeil has quickly become good in the outfield with a 2 DRS, which is sixth best in the league. It’s also important to note when Conforto was drafted, the knock on him was his defense. He worked with Rojas on his defense, and he has been really good out there. Now that he’s reunited with Rojas, Conforto has a 3 DRS which is good for sixth best in the majors.Credit is due to the players, but they got to that point because they are working with an excellent coach.
Rojas is not just a coach who is able to connect with this players, he is also comfortable not just with analyzing advanced data, but also putting it in terms which are useful to the players. As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, it is Rojas’ responsibility to streamline the data to the players.
While comparisons of this nature tend to be unfairly lofty, in some ways Rojas does remind you of Alex Cora. Rojas has shown the ability to understand not just the fundamental aspects of the game, but he is also well versed and comfortable handling analytical data. He is an excellent communicator and coach. He loves the game, and he loves his players.
Whenever the time comes, Rojas should prove to be a good manager for the Mets. He is everything an organization and its players want in a manager. Being the communicator he is, he should also be able to handle the press well. Hopefully, another team doesn’t realize what the Mets have in Rojas and grab him before the time the Mets have a chance to elevate him into the manager’s role he was destined to be seemingly since the day he was born.
When a team disappoints, the manager will be on the hot seat. So far this year, the Mets are one game under .500, the organization had a meeting to discuss what was wrong with Mickey Callaway and to see if there are things the team can do to prevent a repeat of what happened last year. Considering how the team traded away all those prospects in a clear win-now move, it does not seem Callaway is going to stand on firm footing.
The question is whether Callaway should be on the hot seat. The Mets Bloggers offer their views:
There’s no question about it. I never like to blame the roster or it’s issues on the manager, but the fact remains they have under-performed to this point in the season. The schedule has been rough, but that’s not an excuse for good teams. And the decision making in the dugout continues to be perplexing at its best, which only exacerbates the problems they have. I think there could be action taken if the Mets don’t come through what should be a lighter 16 games heading into Memorial Day over .500.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
Unfortunately, yes, I think he should be. His players appear to enjoy playing for him. But if the results aren’t there, despite his players’ support, he’s gonna have a hard time sticking around.
Joe Maracic (Joe Art Studio)
I never want to see someone lose their job but Mickey should be on the hot seat. Back to back seasons of starting strong then fading is not a good sign. He was a pitching coach and has been anything but creative handling the staff.
Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)
Should he be? Yes, this team was built to get off to a fast start and should have, despite the injuries. I like Mickey, seems to be a good man who the players seem to like. But that sounds like how people described Terry Collins for the majority of his tenure. Will he be? Hard to tell. Brodie didn’t hire him, and Jeff Wilpon is reactive, so if the team starts creeping toward being 10 games under, a change will be made.
Here’s the rub for me; the heir apparent is Jim Riggleman, who is the living embodiment of a retread. Not much winning in his background, but a get along, go along persona that will fit right in with an organization that thinks scripting the lineup is the way to run the day-to-day. Think a more assertive, more veteran type of skipper is needed in New York, esp a team that has a perception of not being “all in” financially. A guy who can get more out of players, a guy who has the confidence to walk into his office, see a lineup on his desk, and choose to write up his own if he feels it will be a better one.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
He will be, but he shouldn’t be. I think he should get the season and I think that’s probably going to be it for him. But this team started struggling when it stopped hitting. The players that stopped hitting were Brodie’s acquisitions. They may come out of it and when they do, everything will be fine again. Callaway hasn’t been the best, but we’re living in an age where front offices are taking more of a role in how a manager does his job and makes more decisions than ever. More of what makes a manager successful these days is having a good bench coach. So a manager does less and less, right? Then why now, when we look at fall guys, do we still look at the manager? And if Callaway goes, who replaces him long term, assuming Riggleman is the interim for the season? Is it going to be Joe Girardi or Buck Showalter or Wally Backman? Can you picture the Wilpons hiring a strong personality like that? Okay, so Callaway’s long term replacement is probably going to be somebody else just like Callaway. So my quesion is: what’s the point? Fire Callaway if you want. It won’t do much. This is the way we’re going in baseball now. GMs and team presidents are the stars of the show now. The only question is how long are they going to get away with using managers as scapegoats before people pull back the curtain and realize that front offices have most of the responsibility these days anyway?
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The hot seat is a terrible concept, but Mickey Callaway hasn’t been much of a manager.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
To me, it seems like too many fans judge managers mostly based on whether or not they look like Lou Brown from “Major League.” I’ve seen a lot of people saying things like “Mickey has no fire” or “this team isn’t hungry enough,” or things like that, but I think the simple truth is that we hit a bunch of offensive skids (Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, Wilson Ramos, Jeff McNeil to an extent, Todd Frazier, J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo) and not many teams could overcome that. To me, the manager barely matters at all, and in terms of actual managing, I’d say Mickey has been pretty much solid so far. If there was someone else who could make the team better, I’d say sure, go out and get them — but I don’t think the manager is where our problems are coming from right now, and our problem certainly isn’t some ridiculous 1950s-style intangible, like “not wanting it more,” that could be fixed if we just brought in a guy with a beer gut and a mustache who cursed a lot.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
Lou Brown was an analytics pioneer. Knew exactly how many wins the Tribe would need to take the division.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
Oh, believe me…the moment the Mets call the California Penal League and sign a big arm with no control who doesn’t realize he needs glasses, Lou Brown is the guy you want.
Until then, though…
There are many and varied valid criticisms of Callaway. Personally, I find his willingness to just burn pinch hitters late in game to be a bizarre move, especially when the front office routinely gives him short benches. But when you look at it, this is the team the front office gave him.
There’s no amount of managing Callaway can do to make Cano younger, or to make players who are playing through injuries, like Nimmo, play better. Also, when a team buys into Chili Davis‘ offensive approach like the Mets seemingly have so far, you begin to realize this is more a problem of design than execution.
When looking at Callaway, you do see a team continuing to play hard, and you do see the team pitching well. These are two areas which could be attributable to Callaway. You also see a manager handling the bullpen much better than he did last year. Taking a long term view, the real strength of this team is the pitching, and it has been Callaway and Dave Eiland who has taken them to the next level.
What the Mets need to do before even considering putting Callaway on the hot seat for the inherent flaws in this roster, is they need to figure out who they can hire to keep Eiland around even if they fire Callaway. Short of Girardi, is there really anyone? Of course, the next step is to figure out why Girardi would make this team his last stop or how exactly the Mets plan to pay him.
No matter what the Mets decide with Callaway, this great group of fans and bloggers aren’t going anywhere. You should do yourself a favor and follow the links to their sites to read their great analysis of Callaway and all things Mets.
There were many reasons why the Mets lost this game. For his part, Noah Syndergaard would blame the travel schedule which had them playing a night game last night and a 1:00 P.M. start tonight, which does seem like it was avoidable.
If fact, it was with Major League Baseball giving the Mets the option to start at 4:00 with the Mets passing at the opportunity.
There was the fact the Mets were facing Stephen Strasburg, a very good pitcher having a very good day. It certainly didn’t help the Mets were 0-for-3 with RISP and left seven runners on base.
Syndergaard had some bad luck. We was squeezed in the second leading to two walks and actually a wild pitch and run bunted home. Certainly, it was an odd box score with the Nationals having a run and no hits for the first five innings.
It looked just as odd when the Nationals had two runs on one hit with Victor Robles leading off the sixth with a solo homer.
There were certainly a number of factors at play. Unfortunately, Mickey Callaway was also a factor with his decision making in the seventh inning being a key factor.
In the seventh, the Mets had Strasburg on the ropes after a pair of two out singles from Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario. With Juan Lagares due up and the left-handed Matt Grace warming in the bullpen, Callaway had a key decision to make.
With Strasburg at 108 pitches, he might’ve been coming out of the game anyway. Perhaps, things would be different if the Mets stuck with Lagares or pinch hit Luis Guillorme.
It should be noted last year batters hit .271/.322/.436 in their third plate appearance against Strasburg.
It should also be noted in a very small sample size, Guillorme has been a good pinch hitter (3-11, 2B, RBI, 4 BB). Of course, that’s if the Nationals didn’t take Strasburg out of the game.
Callaway opted to go with Smith to force Grace into the game. Apparently, Callaway did this to get the matchup he wanted, which for some reason was J.D. Davis. The only acceptable explanations for this decision were: (1) Callaway has not watched one minute of Mets baseball this season; (2) Jim Riggleman was goading Jim into it so he could take over as manager at some point this year; or (3) Brodie Van Wagenen was holding his family hostage forcing Callaway to use Davis.
Given the options, Davis was probably the last option you wanted to see there. Even if the Mets were inclined to burn their best pinch hitter (which is bizarre in its own right), Davis was the absolute wrong choice as he’s done nothing to show he’s even as good as former whipping boy Eric Campbell (Campbell has a much higher OPS+).
If you take into account Lagares was out of the game, Keon Broxton is a .252/.357/.445 hitter off left-handed pitching, and the Mets needed someone to come play center with Lagares gone. Of course, sticking with Smith was also a viable option.
Instead, Callaway went with Davis who struck out looking.
That situation was created because Callaway opted to bring in Seth Lugo to pitch the ninth despite his being ill recently and has had diminished velocity lately. With his UCL issues, we can only hope this a combination of illness and fatigue from over-use.
Callaway’s treatment of Lugo is at Terry Collins levels. Remember, Collins was the pitcher who disregarded pitcher health and used them dangerously. It would have an impact and eventually lead the end of the careers of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, and Jim Henderson.
Right now, the Mets are winning and off to their second hot start with Callaway at the helm. However, it looks like Callaway is regressing, and if he continues to do so, we may see him continue to put the Mets in disadvantageous situations.