By Zach Gewelb
Well, this was certainly a surprise. The Mets agreed to terms with former Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway to become the club’s 21st manager.
Callaway’s reputation had gone nothing but up since teaming up with manager Terry Franconca in Cleveland following the 2012 season, but his hiring came out of left field, as he was not connected to the Mets in any way before he had agreed to terms. But Callaway made a strong first impression during his interview with the club, making the decision to hire him an easy one for the Mets.
“Throughout this diligent process of speaking to a number of candidates for our manager role, Mickey clearly in our eyes rose to the top with his successful coaching track record, winning and energetic attitude as well as strong communication skills with players and staff,” Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said. “We look forward to him guiding us back to the playoffs with a winning culture.”
Callaway was formally introduced as the team’s manager Monday afternoon at Citi Field and it is clear he will bring a fresh, exciting voice to the locker room.
“We’re going to care more about these players than anyone ever has,” Callaway said at the press conference. “And we’re going to know they are human beings and individuals, and this is going to be a group that feels that every day we come to the clubhouse, and that is going to be our main concern.”
Callaway has shown he will care for his players. Now I’m not saying former manager Terry Collins didn’t care, but there were times during his tenure with the Mets when the players’ best interests weren’t always first. It doesn’t look like that will happen under Callaway. Things can change as he spends more time on the job, but it certanily seems Callaway has his players’ best interests at heart.
“We know they are human beings and their numbers or stats are going to be a byproduct of how durable, prepared and aggressive they are, and that’s it. We’re not going to have expectations on numbers,” Callaway said.
Callaway, a former Major League pitcher with the Devil Rays, Angels and Rangers from 1999 to 2004, has received high praise as Francona’s pitching guru. He’s credited with straightening out the enigmatic Trevor Bauer and keeping Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber on top of his game.
Before the 2017 season started, the Mets’ rotation — along with Cleveland’s — was considered to be one of the best in baseball. Injuries and inefficiency haunted New York, while Callaway guided The Tribe’s staff to a league-best 3.30 ERA. Callaway knows how to handle a pitching staff and is perfectly suited to work with the Mets’ young arms.
“The team itself, the pitching is something that can be some of the greatest guys on the planet,” Callaway said.
Now it’s up to him to turn all of that talent into sustained success. It won’t be easy, but Callaway has the pedigree to make it work.
“I think his commitment to collaboration, and I say that not just with a view toward the front office, but the coaching staff as well, sort of that vertical and horizontal level of collaboration that I think will be important,” Alderson said. “We want to get the best we can out of our coaching staff, we want to get the best we can out of our players, communication, rapport, empathy, all those things that make a personal connection are what sustain a team over 162 games.”
Callaway has the confidence of the front office and nailed his first interview as the club’s manager. Now, it’s up to him to guide the Mets back to the playoffs.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe