I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I know a whole lot about Mickey Callaway besides the fact that he’s the new manager of the New York Mets, and he was once the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians. A cursory check of the stats shows that the year before Callaway showed up (along with some guy named Francona), the Indians had the second worst staff ERA in the league at 4.78. Starting with 2013, the Indians went straight to 3.82 (15th), 3.56 (14th), 3.67 (8th), 3.84 (7th), and last season they finished first in the league with an ERA of 3.30.
If you don’t believe the statistics, check out what Indians fans and Indians media had to say:
The reaction on the Mets side was quite positive on the whole, which is amazing because we can’t agree on anything. As far as we’re concerned on this side, what’s right about Callaway is as much about what he’s not as it is about what he is.
He’s Not Kevin Long
At first glance, Long and Callaway are on similar paths. One is a hitting coach, one is a pitching coach. In a world where the bench coach is the closest step and preferred path to the manager’s position, the question is always about whether a hitting or pitching coach can take the leap. Joe Kerrigan, for example, was a highly regarded pitching coach in the league before he became the manager of the Red Sox in 2001. But after going just 17-26, he fell victim to new Red Sox ownership and never got the chance. So what makes Callaway the more attractive choice for the Mets than Kevin Long?
For me, it’s clearly the fact that Callaway brings a fresh voice from outside of the organization. Long has a reputation of being a great communicator. But when a coach becomes a manager, he has to be the bad cop sometimes. Being a bad cop to people who are used to you as the good cop can cause some problems. It certainly didn’t help Buddy Harrelson in his tenure as the Mets manager. At least Callaway has the good cop reputation in Cleveland, away from this current roster. Callaway can now run the club as he sees fit without changing anybody’s perception of him in the clubhouse, because there is no point of reference for him in Flushing. Long has one, and it would be changed if he had become the manager.
He’s Not A Retread
The Mets could have taken the safe way out. They loved Manny Acta when he was a coach under Willie Randolph, but he was already gone by the time Randolph was fired in the middle of a 2008 night. You could see a scenario where the Mets believe that Acta could recreate the magic that made him the hot managerial prospect at some point long ago. But the Mets don’t need that right now. They need to start fresh and go with somebody whose flaws we don’t know about yet. That’s why it was probably a good thing that …
He’s Not Dusty Baker
Now as far as I’m concerned, Dusty Baker would have been a fine choice for this team in its present state. If they were replacing a Hall of Famer who had won three or four championships, they would have been in a position to be more picky. But for a team that has won 70-80 games a year since 2009 save for the two seasons where they caught Cespedes in a bottle, I’d kill for a good regular season manager who had some bad decisions/bad luck in the playoffs. Let me complain about a playoff game rather than going 30-49 by the end of July.
But oh my, Mets fans did not want Dusty Baker under any circumstances.
It occurs to me, as it does for any “retread” that was on the Mets wish list: We know Dusty’s flaws. We don’t know Mickey’s flaws yet. That counts for something. And it means that there is still a chance … until maybe Game 3 of the season … that Callaway is the perfect manager. We’ll have all winter to dream about that one.
He’s Not A Former Star From The 90’s
This one is my own hang-up. Robin Ventura and Joe McEwing would have been popular choices among the fan base. McEwing has been managing in the minors for a while, and Ventura managed the White Sox to the playoffs. So it isn’t as if they wouldn’t have resumes (as Ventura didn’t when he took over the Sox). But let’s face it, this would have been as much a ploy to sell tickets and create good will as it would have been a choice based on merit and what they can do for the club going forward. There was even chatter amongst my inner circle about John Franco being tabbed the pitching coach with no major league coaching experience. It would have been such a Mets move to go in that direction, and that makes the Callaway hire intriguing: It’s counter-intuitive to what the Mets normally do, on many fronts. It’s the same line of thinking that has many assuming that the Mets’ offseason plan will circle exclusively around Yankee playoff heroes such as the aging CC Sabathia and/or .220 hitter Todd Frazier.
So is this the right hire? The passage of time will communicate this to us. Is this the hire that makes the most sense at this point in time? In many ways, yes. He is a bright young man (younger than me, which is a first in Mets managers) highly endorsed by one of the best managers in the game. He’s not a lot of other things that we usually see from Mets hires. So I’m intrigued. But one man can’t put banners on the poles in a week. He needs a strong coaching staff around him (and if that Francona quote is any indication, Callaway won’t be threatened by strong minds around him.) He also needs players. So Sandy Alderson, come on down. Because it’s on you now. It’s on you to decide Callaway’s success. If you hired him because he’ll magically fix the pitching so that you don’t have to go out and get better players than this will be a failure. Whether a manager is smart and inexperienced or crusty with a record of winning, they need good players to help them do their job. All of them.
So go upgrade this roster and give your bright new hire a real chance to succeed. Because there’s no excuses now. The ax’s next chop will land higher on the tree.
Today’s Hate List
An off season hate list? You don’t say. But it’s just a tweet … from a former Met at that:
You should boo him for this tweet. Wouldn’t be the first time.