Towards the end of the 2017 season it became obvious that Terry Collins should not and would not be returning to manage the Mets in 2018. After enjoying some success as manager, despite continuously being on the hot seat, an injury plagued and tumultuous 2017 ended his tenure as skipper.
Marc Carig published a scathing article about how bad things got toward the end of the season. The list of faults ran deep such as Collins abusing relievers, playing favorites, and a complete lack of communication between the manager and his players. Shortly after the article was published, Collins resigned as the longest tenured coach in Mets’ history but was still allowed to stay on and work in the front office.
After a brutal season, it was crucial for the front office to find the correct replacement for Collins. The window of contention was still cracked open but could shut quickly if the status quo was left in place. Early on some of the candidates being interviewed did not inspire much confidence. Bob Geren, Chip Hale, Manny Acta, Joe McEwing, Brad Ausmus, Robin Ventura, and Kevin Long were all rumored to be in the running for the managerial position. In the end, Mickey Callaway impressed the Mets brass and convinced them he was the man for the job.
From Mickey Callaway’s introductory press conference it was easy to see why Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons hired him. His resume with the Indians spoke for itself, but in front of the cameras he was charismatic and clearly thrilled to be the next manager of the New York Mets. Since that introduction, he followed up on what type of manager he was going to be and what would be emphasized in the clubhouse once spring training got started. Those points of emphasis and his actions that followed, proved he was a man of his word and that he would be a vastly different manger than his predecessor.
The first issue he addressed was accountability and it happened fairly early on in spring. Despite being one of the top prospects in camp, Dominic Smith was benched after showing up late to a meeting. This punishment was welcomed in Mets camp, as one anonymous Met thanked the manager since players weren’t necessarily held accountable for their actions in the past.
The next time accountability came up was when the Mets played a particularly bad game in the field. After the game, unprompted, the new skipper said he was not pleased with the lack of fundamentals the team displayed and stressed that the problem was already addressed and it wouldn’t happen again.
Communication with the players has been another major sticking point with the new manager. He stressed the importance of it in his first press conference of spring, and demonstrated it when it came to his ideas about bullpen usage. A.J. Ramos was happy he heard about the skipper’s plans in the offseason so he could prepare, Jerry Blevins appreciated that he would now have a heads up on players and situations he would face in games, and Jeurys Familia said he would do whatever was best for the team and liked that everyone was on the same page under Callaway.
Bringing in a new manager is a fresh set of eyes, certainly, but he also does not have any loyalties or biases. Collins seemed to have his “guys” and would rely on them regardless of merit. Unburdened by such allegiances, Callaway established a meritocracy. Juan Lagares lost his starting role to Brandon Nimmo, Seth Lugo pitched his way into the starting rotation, and both Hansel Robles and Zack Wheeler did not make the cut after putting up poor performances in spring. Both Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland did not mince words when it was announced that the two pitchers would start the season in Triple-A.
Yes, Adrian Gonzalez in all likelihood will be the Mets’ Opening Day first baseman but Wilmer Flores will not go overlooked on the bench and the catchers will split playing time after both Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud put up good numbers this spring.
After saying all the right things since his hiring, Callaway’s actions this spring reinforced the culture he is trying to establish here in New York. Despite the record not looking great at the end of camp, things were trending in the right direction and all signs point to quite a different manager than the one that held the position for the past seven seasons. Decisions will again have to be made when Jason Vargas and Michael Conforto come off the disabled list, but so far it seems Callaway is more than capable of making them.