Before the New York Mets can party like it’s 1999, Mickey Callaway has to start managing his pitching staff closer to what teams did 20 years ago.
Remember the phrase “party like it’s 1999?” First popularized by Prince in 1982, it’s something we heard plenty of in the 1990s. The decade which first introduced me to baseball looked a lot different than the one we see today. Specifically, it’s how starting pitchers were used. For the New York Mets, I advise they travel back to the days where we feared Y2K if they want any shot at a party this year.
On Wednesday night, Mickey Callaway didn’t manage like it’s 1999. He removed Steven Matz from the game after only 79 pitches. Matz had been in a duel all night with Atlanta Braves starter Dallas Keuchel. In his six innings of work, Matz allowed only two hits, a walk, and a single earned run. Back in 1999, he would have had a legitimate shot to go the distance if all remained well.
It’s not 1999 anymore. Instead of allowing Matz to continue, Callaway made a double-switch at the start of the inning. Seth Lugo took the mound for the seventh with the Mets ahead 2-1, confirming the bullpen roles are still undefined.
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Lugo broke and allowed 5 earned runs to the Braves. The familiar sight of a blown lead re-entered the picture and cost the Mets a chance at winning.
As much as we all trust Lugo, this was not the spot to bring him in. The Mets need to play like a throwback team and lean heavily on their starting pitching. They need to play a little more like it’s 1999.
I understand this is too much to ask for. Looking at how many innings starters ate up back then, it’s astonishing how much baseball has changed.
Randy Johnson delivered 271.2 innings in 35 starts. Behind him, we find Kevin Brown and 252.1 innings logged on his elbow. In total, 44 different pitchers reached 200 innings with Juan Guzman as the lone ranger in the final spot. Last year, only 12 men reach 200 frames.
I don’t expect Mets pitchers to all go the distance and cross over this threshold. This is a ridiculous thing to ask for. However, in games like the one on Wednesday, it’s essential Callaway relies on his starters to go an extra three outs when needed. This bullpen is not talented or deep enough for early hooks.
Sometimes it feels like Callaway rolls the dice on a certain situation. A lot of 2019 has been this way with him and Brodie Van Wagenen. They took chances, which when they fail, look like the wrong call. I like risk-taking, but I prefer common sense. In games like this, you need to keep Matz in the game until he shows signs of slowing down.
Every decision has a cause and effect. The effect of this one is a loss. Plus, they lost Lugo’s services for the following day. Other unforeseen circumstances—such as Lugo losing his confidence and going on a cold streak again—is yet another one to worry about.
During the successful stretch in late July and early August, the Mets called upon their starting pitchers to go a little deeper into games. You can’t do this all of the time, however, with an extra day for Matz in between starts, I think giving him a shot at the seventh would have been fair.
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It’s easy to question the manager’s decisions when the team loses and the downfall happens immediately after a choice he made. For Callaway, he makes it especially effortless. Far too often, his decision-making has cost this team games.