New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway has some wonderful qualities. The best is his willingness to hold himself accountable.
For far too many years, the Mets always just seemed to reward poor play. Veteran players who continued to struggle would not only remain on the team but continue to play regularly.
In prior recent seasons, Terry Collins would sound like a broken record. He would say how that particular player would just have to get going. How exactly does a manager get someone going?
Hitting and pitching coaches are there to correct a flaw in a hitter’s swing or a pitcher’s mechanics. The player still ultimately has to perform. At the end of the day, when you have so many prospects vying for a promotion to the majors, players have to perform or be replaced by someone else who will.
Mickey Callaway was named the Mets manager for the 2018 season. Having been a successful pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians under Terry Francona, Callaway was ready to become a manager for the first time. You could feel his energy from the moment he started speaking in his introductory press conference.
The difference is that he backs up his words with actions.
Callaway made it clear that the best players will play for this club. The Mets also brought in Dave Eiland to be their pitching coach. Eiland won two World Series rings and echoed the same mantra; that either you perform, or be replaced with someone who will.
Zack Wheeler assumed that he would be guaranteed a spot in the rotation. He had a rude awakening when he was informed that he would start the season in Las Vegas.
Wheeler struggled with injuries for a number of years. He pitched rather poorly most of last season. Wheeler made it clear at the close of Spring Training that he was a starting pitcher, not a reliever (sound familiar, Matt Harvey?) so Callaway demoted him to start but work on specific things.
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Wheeler went to AAA, worked on his mechanics and shortly thereafter was promoted back to the rotation. Callaway has been rewarded for his tough decision by having quality starts pitched by Wheeler. With Jason Vargas returning to the rotation next week, it was Matt Harvey who was removed from the rotation instead of Wheeler.
Matt Harvey was the toast of the town in 2013. However, serious arm injuries have affected Harvey’s fastball. It’s no longer the same unhittable pitcher he was. Actually, he’s VERY hittable, and has been for all of 2017 and this first month of the 2018 season.
Now came another tough decision. Callaway had to decide whether to continue to have an ineffective Harvey in the rotation or send him to the bullpen. A demotion to Las Vegas was solely in Harvey’s control, as a player with five years in the majors can turn down a minor league stint.
In prior seasons, Collins would have stayed with Harvey in the rotation. Last season, ineffective relievers Neil Ramirez and Fernando Salas were constantly blowing games out with their high walk rates and runs allowed. Yet Collins kept going to them in the bullpen, and there was absolutely no accountability on the team whatsoever. That falls on the manager and Sandy Alderson, the general manager.
This season, it’s Sheriff Mickey.
Callaway was candid when he admitted that he wouldn’t guarantee another start by Harvey after he proceeded to give up six runs in six innings. Harvey was adamant that he was a starting pitcher, but Callaway and Eiland made the right decision to pull him from the rotation. Callaway wants Harvey to regain confidence and get him to use his pitches more effectively and hope to return him to the rotation eventually.
That’s the way accountability works. Players get paid millions of dollars to play a kid’s game, and players have a responsibility to perform or else be replaced. Callaway’s accountability decisions also can wake up the rest of the team, because no player should assume their playing time is safe.
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There’s a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Mickey needs you to do your job, or there will be consequences.