Late last week the Mets fired manager Mickey Callaway after only two seasons. Surprisingly, the cheapskate Wilpons are letting him go with a year still left on his three-year contract.
Looking purely at the record, he actually finished over .500 over those two seasons at 163-161, and the team’s 86 wins in 2019 were nine more than the previous season. Of course, managerial record can be a lousy way to evaluate a manager. It‘s just that we really do not have much in the way of objective measures for manager performance.
Anybody familiar with my work knows that I rarely form opinions on managers for that reason. Sure, we can see what they do in terms of lineup construction and in-game tactics, but we rarely learn how they are impacting the team by way of player development and personnel management. I need to see reports of how a manager is failing in those latter areas for me form a negative opinion on him.
Sometimes a talented beat writer can give us some insight on those things, as seemed to be the case with former-players-turned-skippers Matt Williams and Mike Matheny, two managers who clearly failed both tactically and as people managers. However, those kinds of insights are not common, and in the case of Williams, I blame injuries far more than him for the Nationals’ disastrous 2015 season.
Callaway was definitely a subpar tactical manager, and based on reports, I think it is fair to conclude that his people management skills were not so great either. Also, we are all well aware of Callaway’s dust up with a reporter who was just doing his job by asking him about a tactical error he made in a game (again). However, this is the Mets we are talking about, and their incompetent owners confound everything. Who knows how much of Callaway’s shortcomings are the results of having his hands tied by the meddlesome ownership.
One piece of criticism I am comfortable levying against Callaway is his reported lack of hands-on instruction with the pitching staff. Remember that before coming to the Mets, he was the pitching coach for the Indians, and in 2017, he oversaw what was possibly the greatest pitching staff in baseball history up to that point. I understand that a good boss knows how to delegate responsibilities, but the Mets likely would have benefited from more hands-on interactions and instruction from him.
It is also important to point out that Callaway was not hired by rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen, and new GMs generally like to bring in their own personnel. Furthermore, it was reported that one time Van Wagenen got so upset with Callaway and his coaches that he threw a chair during a meeting.
Perusing articles on the firing from other sites, it seems that Mets fans are pretty happy about the move. This Mets fan however, is pretty indifferent to it. Last year, the Mets won 77 games, and would have had to win at least 91 to crack the Wild Card. There is no way on Earth that you can pin 14 wins on Callaway. The Mets fell only three games short this year, and while it is plausible to pin that on Callaway, the fact of the matter is that it can’t be proven, which, by the way, is why the Manager of the Year award should not exist. When it comes to manager performance, we are all just guessing.
Veteran leaders such as Joe Girardi and Buck Showalter have been tied to the new managerial opening. Their apparently proven track records of managing personnel seem ideal, and the Mets have an exciting core of players that would attract any interested managerial candidate.
Unfortunately, I do not see why anybody would want this job unless the guy is desperate for one of the thirty MLB jobs. The Wilpons will undoubtedly continue to meddle and not allow the incoming manager to do his job. Perhaps a Girardi or Showalter could lay down the law during the interview, demanding that he be granted the autonomy to perform his duties with minimal interference, not unlike what Phil Jackson did with the insufferable James Dolan, but either the Wilpons won’t allow it, or more likely, lie that they will and then go back on their word. My guess is that they will hire some stooge whom they can manipulate to do whatever they want.
The fact of the matter is that the Mets are in the most competitive division in baseball, and it is only going to get more difficult next season, as the Phillies are likely to improve. I’d speculate that it will take at least 95 wins to take the division next year, and at least 90 to get a Wild Card. Earl Weaver could not add 5-10 wins to a team. It is going to be up to the Wilpons to open up their wallets for once and to Van Wagenen to make up that difference. Any of my fellow Mets fans will understand when I say that I am not at all optimistic that they can do that.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.