Now that Mickey Callaway was named as the 21st manager in Mets history, both he and the Mets now begin the process of building a coaching staff around him. That process includes hiring a new pitching coach to replace Dan Warthen.
So far, we have heard the Mets are considering a number of names including Dave Righetti, Dave Eiland, and Chris Bosio. Other candidates who were considered were Mike Maddux and Jim Hickey, who have taken jobs elsewhere, and Ricky Bones, who is rumored to be joining Alex Cora‘s staff in Boston.
The Mets have certainly compiled an impressive list. However, one name is missing from that list whom the Mets should consider – Ruben Niebla.
In 2013, Callaway and Niebla would swap roles for the Indians. With Callaway being promoted to become the Major League pitching coach, Niebla would become the minor league pitching coordinator after serving as the Indians interim pitching coach. As a tandem, the two have helped build the impressive Indians pitching staff.
With respect to Kluber, Niebla is the one who was pinpointed for taking the pitcher to the next level. The moment began when Niebla one day said to Kluber, “We want you to try throwing a two-seamer.” (Washington Post).
From that point forward, Kluber’s stock rose, and he’s now a perennial Cy Young contender. That moment began when Niebla not only made the suggestion, but also showed Kluber his preferred grip.
In fact, if you look at the Indians staff, many throw Niebla’s two seamer. That two seamer has helped the Indians post the best team ERA in the majors.
If this pitch is truly responsible for part of the success of these pitchers, we may soon hear the Niebla two seamer in the same breath of the “Warthen Slider.” For that to happen, Niebla needs a chance.
As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Niebla has drawn interest in a major league coaching position. While the Mets have not been linked to Niebla, they very well might soon be with the hiring of Callaway.
Certainly, there’s already a level of report between Callaway and Niebla. The question is whether it’s enough for Callaway to want to bring him aboard. It’s also a question if the Mets want to give him that job.
Overall, it seems like Niebla may very well get a job as a pitching coach this offseason. With the Mets hiring Callaway, presumably in large part due to his work with Indians pitchers, the Mets should take a long look at the coach who helped Callaway make those pitchers so successful.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO
Anytime you enter into a search for a new manager, you are really dealing with the realm of the unknown. For first time managers, you really have no idea if that person is truly ready for the big leagues, he is better suited to the minors, or is a better coach. For every Davey Johnson you hire, there are also the Joe Torres of the world, who were talented managers, but not ready to manage at the time you gave him the job.
Really, in these instances, you have to look at the relevant information available and the recommendations of other baseball people. Mostly, you’re going with your gut.
The Mets gut told them to go out there and hire Mickey Callaway.
The Mets only needed one interview to choose Callaway over former manager and Mets coach Manny Acta. It was sufficient enough for them to bypass current hitting coach Kevin Long.
Callaway had impressed so much during his interview and during his time with the Cleveland Indians, the Mets were not willing to wait. They had Fred Wilpon sit down and sell him on the franchise similar to how the team once did with Billy Wagner and Curtis Granderson.
Give the Mets credit here. They identified their man, and they did all they could do to bring him into the organization. Deservedly so, many complimented the Mets on making a smart hire, including the fans who were skeptical of the direction the Mets would go.
Their man also happened to be a pitching guru, who will now be tasked with the responsibility of fixing Matt Harvey as well as finding a way to keep Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia healthy for a full season.
If Mets fans want a reason to be excited for this season, there is no bigger reason than Callaway choosing to manage this pitching staff. By doing so, he’s announced he’s a believer, and he’s put his and the Mets future on this lines.
The team hiring Callaway so early and so aggressively had a domino effect. It looks like the first domino to fall will be hitting coach Kevin Long.
Long has had a positive impact on the players on this Mets roster. He helped turn Yoenis Cespedes from a slugger to a star. By OPS+ and wRC+, Asdrubal Cabrera had two of his best five offensive seasons. Michael Conforto would prove he could hit left-handed pitching at the Major League level.
With Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith being two cornerstones of the franchise, Long was exactly the man you wanted to help them reach their offensive ceilings. Now, that won’t happen because Long is likely gone.
Another person you would want to help lead young players like Rosario and Smith is Joe Girardi. In his one year with the Marlins, and this past season working with young players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees made a surprising run this season that ended with a Game 7 loss in the ALCS.
What is interesting is the Mets were rumored to want Girardi. As reported by the New York Post, the Mets were looking to possibly “pounce” on Girardi if the Yankees did not bring him back.
That was written during the ALDS when it appeared Girardi’s job was in jeopardy. After the Yankees recovered and upset the Indians and took the Astros to seven games, there weren’t too many people who stuck believed Girardi would be looking for another job.
And yet, he is. This should at least raise some questions whether the Mets should have done their due diligence. Maybe another round of interviews were in order. Conducting that extra round could have left the Mets open to the chance of not making an hire before Girardi became available.
Maybe if there was a second round of interviews, Long feels more appreciated instead of taking his binders to another job. That other job could be as the manager or hitting coach of the Washington Nationals where he would reunite with Daniel Murphy. Maybe with Long at the helm, the Nationals finally get past the NLDS.
If that were to happen, and if Callaway falters, it would be too much for Mets fans to bear. Yet again, the Mets let one of their own go to the Nationals leading them to further success because they were enamored with someone from another organization. Like with Murphy and Justin Turner, Sandy Alderson will have opened himself up to justifiable second guessing.
The team jumped the gun costing themselves a chance to hire a terrific manager in Girardi, and it might have cost them the opportunity to retain a coach they thought highly enough of they almost made him their manager. The Mets were left with a manager who has never managed professionally, and they have to rebuild a coaching staff.
Instead of making the safe choice like they did when they hired Terry Collins, the Mets instead chose to go for the high risk – high reward hire. It worked with Davey, and it failed with Torre.
This is exactly why the Mets need to be right about their decision to hire Callaway.
For the most part, Mets fans were ecstatic about the team hiring Mickey Callaway. That went double after that upbeat press conference where Callaway both promised he would love his players, and they would be the most durable and well-prepared players in the Major Leagues.
There are plenty of reasons to like the move. The Mets hired someone who worked with Terry Francona, who is a future Hall of Famer. The team found someone who has shown the ability not just to comprehend analytics, but also to translate them to pitchers in a way that helps them improve. He’s a new and fresh voice that the team has not had in quite some time. People around baseball seemed to just love the decision of the Mets hiring the second most coveted managerial candidate behind Alex Cora.
These are all well and good reasons to get excited about the hire. There are presumably many more. However, the biggest reason to get excited about the hire is a pitching coach like Callaway chose to manage this Mets team.
That is of no small significance. After the 2015 season, many believed the Mets were going to be a perennial postseason team. Certainly, if things broke the Mets way, they could very well have become a dynastic team, at the very least in the mold of the 1980s Mets teams that were in contention each and every season. However, instead of things breaking the Mets way, the team mostly broke down.
Matt Harvey had to have surgery to alleviate the effects of his TOS, and he followed that up with trying to pitch with an atrophied muscle in his pitching shoulder. Zack Wheeler missed two seasons due to a torn UCL and complications from his Tommy John surgery, and he found himself missing the final two and a half months of the season with a stress reaction. Noah Syndergaard had a torn lat. Jeurys Familia had blod clots removed from his pitching shoulder. Steven Matz had another injury riddled season with him having to have season ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve. That was the surgery Jacob deGrom had last season. Speaking of deGrom, he really was the only healthy Mets pitcher during the entire 2017 season.
The pitching behind the injured starters wasn’t pretty. Rafael Montero continued to be an enigma. Chris Flexen showed he wasn’t ready to pitch at the Major League level. Robert Gsellman had his own injury, and he regressed quite severly after a really promising September in 2016. Seth Lugo had come back from his own injury issues, and upon his return, he struggled to get through the lineup three times.
Add to that Hansel Robles being Hansel Robles, and Josh Smoker failing to emerge as that late inning reliever his stuff promised he could be, and the Mets lack of Major League ready starting pitching talent in the minors, and you wonder why anyone would want to become the Mets pitching coach, let alone a manager whose strength is his work with a pitching staff.
Make no mistake, Callaway had to have liked what he saw with this team. Maybe it’s an arrogance any manager or coach has thinking they will be the one to turn things around. Maybe, it was his work with injury prone pitchers like Carlos Carrasco that made him believe he could definitely make things work. Whatever it is, the pitching guru that Callaway is purported to be liked what he sees with the Mets enough to potentially put his reputations and maybe his managerial future on a staff that some believed had fallen apart beyond repair.
Certainly, Callaway would have had other opportunities to accept a managerial position whether it was this year with an up and coming team like the Phillies, or next year when there would be more openings available. Instead, he chose to resurrect what was once a great Mets pitching staff. In part, he chose to do this because he believes in this talent, and he believes he is the man to do it.
That more than anything else is the biggest reason to be excited about this hire, and it is a reason to get excited about the 2018 season.
With the Mets hiring Mickey Callaway, they have a manager with no managerial experience at any professional level. Sure, he’s a well respected pitching coach who has gotten the most of out young players and has helped rejuvenate careers. However, we have no idea how he will handle more than just a pitching staff. We don’t know how he will manage the dynamics in a clubhouse or how to manage playing time for everyone on the roster. Really, we don’t know how he will manage anything.
Having worked with Terry Francona sure helps, but ideally the Mets will need a respected veteran voice to help Callaway through the process. With the Nationals not bringing back Dusty Baker, the Mets should seriously consider him to be Callaway’s bench coach.
Now, we know the reasons why any organization, especially the Mets, would not want to bring Baker aboard. Baker railed against things like “clogging the bases,” and he has long been blamed for the injuries that would befall Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. His in-game strategy was always in question. For the longest time, many pointed to Baker’s decision to lift a cruising Russ Ortiz as the moment the Giants lost the 2002 World Series. While Baker has purportedly improved on the decision making front, including his use of Max Scherzer out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS, Baker was still the manager who not only kept Jayson Werth in the lineup, but also batted him second.
Behind that is a guy who has won everywhere. Over his 22 year managerial career, Baker has amassed a 1,863-1636 (.532) record, and he has a pennant to his resume. Remarkably, Baker has had 14 winning seasons in his resume. He has taken the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and Nationals to the postseason with him totaling nine trips to the postseason. One of the years his teams didn’t go to the postseason was in 1993 when his 103 loss Giants team was edged out by the Braves for the division on the last game of the season in the pre-Wild Card format.
Yes, we all know that rosters win games more than managers, but still Baker has typically done something right as a manager to get the most out of his talent. You need not look any further than how the Nationals fared under Baker as opposed to Matt Williams. While it may not show up anywhere tangible, Baker knows what he is doing, and he would serve as a fine mentor for a young manager like Callaway.
Hiring Baker serves another purpose as well. If the Mets want to get back to the postseason, they are going to have to go through the Nationals. It certainly wouldn’t hurt the Mets to have an insight into that Nationals team. Certainly, information like that could go far to helping the first time manager.
Overall, Baker may not have the one calling the shots with his somewhat antiquated worldview, but that’s why you hired Callaway. You want him to come to the job using an analytical approach to managing the game. For the rest, Baker’s knowledge is unparalleled and would go a long way to helping Callaway.