While the New York Yankees took over the baseball spotlight in the Big Apple with their run to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, the New York Mets have been working to assess and fix what went wrong in a year that was supposed to include a deep playoff run of their own. After a 92-loss season filled with injuries, underachieving, and ultimately a fire sale of veteran players, the Amazins decided to shake up their staff for the 2018 season. The club dismissed head athletic trainer Ray Ramirez, pitching coach Dan Warthen, and ultimately moved long-time manager Terry Collins to a role in player development after a seven-year tenure in which he went 551-583 with two playoff trips including the 2015 National League pennant. This all led to the news that Mickey Callaway is the new Mets manager.
To replace the longest-tenured skipper in Met history, Sandy Alderson and his staff compiled a list of about half a dozen candidates that they considered to run the club on the field. While candidates like Brad Ausmus and Robin Ventura removed their names from consideration prior to interviewing, the Mets interviewed Alex Cora, Joe McEwing, Mickey Callaway, Manny Acta, and hitting coach Kevin Long. Despite reports circulating that the Mets were leaning towards promoting Long, they ultimately decided on hiring Mickey Callaway to be the 21st manager in franchise history.
Mickey Callaway’s Resume
Mickey Callaway spent parts of five seasons as a pitcher in Major League Baseball and won a World Series ring as part of the 2002 Anaheim Angels. He then moved on to play in Korea, where he was a two-time All-Star in his three year stint in the KBO. Following the 2007 season, he signed on to Texas A&M University as an interim head coach prior to finishing his playing career in 2009 in China. Starting in 2010, Callaway joined the Cleveland Indians organization as a minor league pitching coach, ultimately becoming the pitching coach of the Indians in 2013 where he has worked in the same position since.
Cleveland Success & Terry Francona’s Blessing
As pitching coach in Cleveland, the 42 year old Callaway took a pitching staff that ranked last in the American League in ERA in 2012 and elevated them to league leading ranks in ERA, strikeouts, shutouts, and complete games in 2017. He was credited with the development of Trevor Bauer and Cody Allen in addition to influencing Carlos Carrasco’s move from the bullpen to one of the top starting pitchers in baseball. Of his pitching coach, Indians’ manager Terry Francona said, “He had such an impact on the pitching staff. He’s so good. And I would be surprised if that doesn’t lead to him managing if he wants to at some point, because he’s really good.”
Future With The Mets
As the process has now come to a close, what does this mean for the New York Mets going forward? In my opinion, given the options the Mets were presented with, this is the right hire for the club. Sure, Callaway has not managed before, and thus there is risk in the hire, but no candidate other than Manny Acta had managerial experience and he was fired twice in the middle of seasons from that post. The reality was that the floor was six feet under for any of the possible managers the Mets were looking at.
With that said, there is tremendous upside in this hire that makes it exciting. As previously mentioned, Callaway has a proven track record of developing pitching and maximizing its performance. The New York Mets built this organization around its starting pitching, and it is clear after a disastrous 2017 that they need someone who can come in and bring them back to the productive unit they were in seasons past. Can Callaway help fix Matt Harvey? Can he develop the spin rate sensation Seth Lugo into a front end starting pitcher? Can Callaway find a steady role for Zack Wheeler or Steven Matz that allow them to be productive and healthy? These are all questions that will face the new manager as he begins his tenure in the Met dugout.
It is important, however, to remember that Callaway is not coming to New York to be the pitching coach, but rather to manage the team. In fact, there have been few pitching coaches in the past who have ultimately been winning managers so he will have to show he is more than just an expert in one area. To be successful, he will have to hire a strong staff that can implement his philosophies on pitching as well as the other aspects of the game, all while maintaining a strong clubhouse and navigating the media circus that is New York City. As much as Met fans will look to Callaway to have a positive impact on the pitching staff, it will be equally important to see increased development in young position players such as Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Dom Smith.
At the end of the day, the Mets could use a new voice in the dugout who may think about the game differently than the way in which they are accustomed. He has worked under one of the best managers in the game in Francona, and has seen first-hand some of the strategic and culture building moves that win a lot of games in the current environment.
The Mets hired a relatively young man who has a grasp on an analytically driven game that is being overtaken by young players. None of these things could be said with Terry Collins in the dugout. It is not an easy job, and there will be growing pains, but the New York Mets took a gamble with hiring Mickey Callaway as their manager, and it has the potential to pay off in a big way.