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Getting to know new Mets manager Mickey Callaway

The rookie skipper has been better at coaching baseball than playing it.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

They say that star players don’t make great coaches, and in that regard, Mickey Callaway has already gotten off to a great start in his major league managerial career. That’s because he was a very lousy big league pitcher.

Selected in the seventh round of the 1996 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Callaway made his major league debut three years later in June of 1999. While his present club was making a run at the National League Wild Card, the Ole Miss product was pitching 19.1 innings with Tampa Bay for a 7.45 ERA. The cup of coffee didn’t go so well, and although Callaway would get a few more opportunities to establish himself in the majors, he never pitched more than 65 innings in any season.

The closest he came was in 2003, when he split time between Anaheim and Texas as both a starter and a reliever. In 60.2 frames, he threw for a 6.81 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 24 walks. His most successful season was probably the year before, when he worked as Anaheim’s fifth starter for a few turns of the rotation and had a 4.19 ERA in 34.1 innings. Although Callaway earned a World Series ring for his efforts, the Angels ended up releasing him in 2003.

After another poor season for Texas in 2004, Callaway took his show on the road and became a successful starter in South Korea’s KBO in 2005 and 2006. Although he missed all of 2007 with an elbow injury and dipped into the coaching pool by taking the head coach role with Texas A&M International University in 2008, he toed the rubber once again in 2009 for the Uni-President-7-Eleven Lions of the Chinese Professional Baseball League. Callaway led the Lions to the playoffs and retired following the campaign.

It was in 2010 that Callaway first joined the Cleveland Indians organization as a pitching coach. Although he started in the Midwest League with the Lake County Captains, Callaway took just three years to work his way to the big league level. In 2013, his first season as a major league pitching coach, Callaway coaxed solid seasons out of Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez while helping Scott Kazmir revive his career after he appeared to be finished.

The next season, Callaway’s stock rose even higher when Corey Kluber took home the Cy Young Award. 2015 and 2016 saw the rise of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar as promising young arms, and by the 2017 campaign, Callaway was overseeing one of the most deep and talented staffs in the big leagues. Considering those results and the success that Cleveland had as a franchise during Callaway’s tenure, the Indians and their fans are sad to see him go.

"You could see it from the get-go, just the confidence that he exuded through coaching," [Indians pitcher Josh] Tomlin said on Sunday night. " He kind of has an overall view on how to use a scouting report and use the information that he was given to kind of tailor-make it for each guy on the staff, especially the starting rotation."

Likewise, the move by New York to hire Callaway is being almost universally praised as a smart hire.

His time with the Indians has immersed him in an organization that excellently melds analytics with its players. And his time with [Terry] Francona should inform Callaway how vital it is to remember that it is humans who produce the numbers, and they do a better job of accumulating strong stats when the manager forms honest, legitimate connections with them.

Although he drew a lot of ire from fans for his bullpen management and questionable decision-making, Terry Collins did a great job from a macro perspective of guiding the Mets from the rebuilding stage to the competitive one. With Callaway now at the helm, expectations will be for the Mets to return to postseason play sooner than later. If the team gets off to a slow start in 2018, the bloom will be off the rose quickly, but for now, Callaway looks like a great candidate to lead New York into the future.