After accepting an offer to become the next manager of the New York Mets, can Mickey Callaway handle those Big Apple baseball pressures?
Well, it may not have lasted very long, but the New York Mets’ search for a manager is over. As of Sunday night, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway accepted an offer to become the Amazins’ new manager.
Callaway, the architect behind Cleveland’s tenacious pitching staff that featured Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar, is expected to sign a three-year deal with the Mets. He will inherit a rotation that is just as talented and capable as the one he oversaw in Cleveland, with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey now under his tutelage.
After coming highly recommended by his now former skipper, Terry Francona, Callaway beat out Mets hitting coach Kevin Long and Mariners third base coach Manny Acta for the job. Chicago White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing was the only other serious candidate left in the running other than the formerly mentioned three, but the club informed them all of their choice to go with Callaway as early as Sunday morning.
Hailing from Memphis Tennessee, Callaway was a two-sport athlete in high school, excelling on the basketball court and baseball diamond. He was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 16th round of the 1993 MLB Draft, but opted to play college baseball at the University of Mississippi.
His time at Ole Miss proved to beneficial in raising his draft stock, as he was later drafted in the seventh round of the 1996 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. Three years later, he debuted with the Rays, pitching six innings, recording the win, and notching two hits and a RBI at the plate.
In the midst of their World Series run in 2002, the Anaheim Angels traded for Callaway and eventually slotted him into the rotation after Aaron Sele went down with a shoulder injury. He was praised for his performance down the stretch and received a World Series ring, but by the time 2003 ended, his career with the Angels was over. After a brief cup of coffee with the Texas Rangers, Callaway’s time in the major leagues was effectively over and he opted to fend off the baseball grim reaper by pursuing a career overseas.
Callaway spent three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) as a member of the Hyundai Unicorns, where he was named a two-time All-Star. When an elbow injury threw a wrench in his path one more, Callaway returned home to the States and served as the interim Head Coach of the Texas A&M International University baseball team. He attempted a brief comeback when he signed with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of the Chinese Baseball League, but called it quits shortly after and began his foray in to coaching baseball at the professional level.
Initially joining the Indians organization in 2010, Callaway climbed his way up to the major league staff prior to the 2013 season. His impact was felt almost immediately as the club produced a Cy Young Award winner in Corey Kluber in Callaway’s second season tenured as pitching coach. 2017 saw even more dominance from the Indians’ staff under Callaway’s tutelage, leading the major leagues in ERA (3.30) and strikeouts (1,614). 2017 was the fourth consecutive season that Cleveland sat atop the American League in strikeouts.
Baseball insiders rave about Callaway’s upbeat personality and positive, infectious energy. Given how battered down the Mets were by injuries and how they underwhelmed in terms of expectations, Callaway could be the exact shot of energy this team needs to turn things around. Managing a team in a market like New York is a unique experience, one that is not for the faint of heart, but Callaway’s reputation around the game suggest that has the temperament, confidence, and self-awareness to be successful in a situation like this.
With the hiring of Callaway, the Mets may be slighting Kevin Long, their hitting coach since 2015 and a candidate that was seriously considered for the role of manager. The club is hoping to keep Long on staff considering the positive impact he’s had on the club’s offensive approach over the last few seasons, but his contract did expire following the 2017 season.
With the Terry Collins era officially in the books, Callaway is an interesting hire that seems to be the right fit for this club going forward. After winning a pennant in 2015, making the postseason in 2016, and bottoming out in 2017, expectations will be high for this ball club as the clock is ticking on their young talent.