When it comes to potential game-changers for the New York Mets in 2018, the new face running the place might be the biggest one they’ve got.
Mets fans already know there is no help coming from ownership or the front office that’s going to jettison the team to challenge for a playoff spot. But there’s Mickey Callaway in the dugout. and he just might be able to do more than both of those entities.
Along with others, I’ve been arguing all season for the organization to change not only the players they have but the culture surrounding the franchise as well. I give up. And if any further proof is needed to show that fight is useless given the mumbo-jumbo witnessed when Jeff Wilpon bared his soul the other day before the media, I don’t know it could be.
All is not lost for the Mets, though. And that’s because they did have the foresight to hire Callaway to replace Terry Collins. Regardless what anyone says about Collins, the man did his very best under trying circumstances. A fiery sort of guy, Collins, for the most part, held himself in check even when it was clear his face couldn’t get any redder.
At this point, we don’t know what the “buttons” are for pushing Callaway. We haven’t, for instance, seen him taking the microphone for SNY’s postgame show when the Mets have lost their fifth game in a row, and this one was a 3-2 squeaker loss to the lowly Pirates on a misplayed ball by Amed Rosario.
What we have seen though is an upbeat, no-nonsense idea man who is ready to tackle his job despite a front office that persists in tying one hand behind his back. With that, nothing should cherish the hearts of Mets fans more.
Callaway comes to the Mets with a background primarily centered around pitching. And while that is a tremendous asset, as my colleague, Nicholas Santuccio recently pointed out, the Mets season will be driven by the offense they produce, not their pitching.
With that, Callaway is fortunate the Mets were able to bring the veteran power bat of Jay Bruce back for his second go-around with the team. Bruce will be an asset in the clubhouse, representing one of only a few players Callaway doesn’t have to worry about regarding professionalism.
That all changes when you come to Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes can be a bane or a boom to the team, depending on who he wants to be on any given day. If he had a bad day on the golf course that morning, things usually start off poorly and end worse following his arrival in the clubhouse for that night’s game. It’s just the nature of the man wearing the uniform.
Or is it? And will Callaway be the first manager over time spent with four other teams to finally get Cespedes’ attention? The Mets are paying the outfielder big bucks and they are locked into him for the next three seasons. Should he turn sour, he will be virtually untradeable given his salary, and by then, his reputation as cancer on any team will have killed what little trade value he had. Here’s hoping Cespedes, under Callaway’s tutelage, turns into the second coming of Miguel Cabrera and not Manny Ramirez. The team’s season may hinge on it.
Beyond that, Callaway’s primary job will be to instill a winning attitude into a clubhouse that’s taken a few hits since their last World Series appearance in 2015. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Mets need to win 85 games to have a “winning” season. Instead, it just says that the team goes out there every day prepared to win and with the idea that they can win.
Injuries aside, Callaway also needs to hope there are no other hiccups or distractions that arise. For instance, one of the worse things that can happen to the Mets this season is if David Wright decides to rise from the dead instead of unofficially retiring with his head held high. Wright’s career is over, and the team needs his permission to move on, even though a vast open hole exists at his position.
Callaway seems to be of the mind, though, that all he says is give me 25 guys and I’ll figure things out. Some of this mindset is probably due to his “newness” with the team, and he has yet to be beaten down as his predecessor was. But hopefully, over time, Callaway will raise his stature with Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons to the point where he will have a seat at the table when it comes to evaluating talent and making personnel moves based on those assessments.
Because Callaway was hired in November, which seems like eons ago, he’s oft-forgotten as the lone bright spot in the Mets mostly unproductive offseason. The Mets, above all else and even including on-field production, need leadership and the drive to instill a winning culture on a team that has lost its way.
Joe Maddon did it with the Cubs, and Joe Torre did it with the Yankees. Mickey Callaway, you’re up to do it with the New York Mets.