Only a few weeks ago, it felt inevitable Mickey Callaway wouldn’t open 2020 as manager of the New York Mets. Now, he has a believable chance of saving his job.
In sports, there’s no secret formula to success; nor any better cure for pessimism or controversy than winning. In Mickey Callaway’s case, I’m not sure there’s anything else he can do, but do everything in his power to maximize the New York Mets chances of winning.
And as their recent surge in the standings seems to suggest, they have all the passion, and more importantly, the starting pitching and offense to win games down the stretch.
So, how does Callaway save his job? Simply put: Just win. That’s it.
However, in order to do that, he needs to protect his team’s leads late in games. And to do that Mickey must be nothing short of perfect in managing the shifty bullpen.
First, what he needs to do (but won’t) is to switch Seth Lugo to the closer role over Edwin Diaz. The only thing that could hold the Mets back right now is their manager, and his commitment to apparently sink or swim with Diaz as his closer.
“Callaway’s decision” to keep Diaz in the closer role, which I’m not so sure is his decision alone (as I’m sure Van Wagenen also wants Diaz to close) will either help what little chance he has of being extended by the Mets or completely torpedo his managerial term right out of Flushing.
No matter what happens, Diaz will be a Met next year, and I mean that literally. Unless the Mets trade him in the offseason (which they’re unlikely to do given what they gave up for him last winter and for his potential to return to his old form), Diaz will be in the bullpen. Therefore, whether he gets his act together or not doesn’t matter per se in the short term.
Callaway, on the other hand, does not share that same luxury of simple trial and error with each call to the bullpen. His failure to feed the Mets hot streak will mean his departure from the Mets organization.
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Should Diaz succeed, perhaps we’ll hail Callaway for his faith in the young flamethrower. However, should Diaz continue to struggle, or get worse (if that’s possible), Callaway will inevitably receive the blame and consequently get the boot.
For the sake of the Mets playoff aspirations, I hope he’s seeing something others are not where Diaz is concerned. This decision will not only make or break the Mets season, but it will also be the final nail in the coffin of Callaway’s career with the Mets.
Furthermore, there’s also the situation at second base and the Mets recent addition of former San Francisco Giants, Joe Panik. While this signing appears to be the epitome of a low-risk, high-reward gamble, it also shores up the defensive alignment in the Mets infield.
Although defense has been a problem for the Mets this season, adding Panik should also allow Callaway to spend more time managing Amed Rosario’s recent hot streak and encouraging the 23-year-old kid keep up his defensive improvements at shortstop.
Also, with reports that Brandon Nimmo is beginning his rehab assignment, how Callaway manages his outfield depth come September when Nimmo is expected to return will also play a factor in how the front office judges his ability to utilize the talent on this roster provided to him.
The way I see it – given the Mets recent tear since the All-Star break – if they make the postseason, and if they go far, perhaps Callaway can save his job.
But after what has become a season where he has been beleaguered by the media and so-called experts around the league for a bleeding bullpen and countless questionable in-game decisions, it’s probably safe to say that anything short of an NL Pennant would make the decision to let him go an easy one for the Brodie Van Wagenen-run front office; especially with Joe Girardi available this winter.
Moreover, he was one of Sandy Alderson’s last hires, and with a new GM sitting in the front office; Callaway will likely be getting the boot so that Van Wagenen can choose his own on-field general.
Besides, the fanbase hasn’t exactly been on Callaway’s side for the majority of the season – to put it mildly.
He’s a nice guy who has not fully demonstrated that he is built for the New York pressures and criticisms that come with the territory. His questionable in-game calls, early-season mismanagement of the bullpen, and head-scratching press conferences are all factors working against him. But winning is the best form of job security.
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Mickey Callaway needs to do something big to entice the Mets to give him another contract; this will probably involve the Mets playing in the Fall Classic.