Mets manager Mickey Callaway

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Keidel: Could Mickey Callaway Go One-And-Done With Mets?

Mets Are A Mess, Manager Seems Lost

Jason Keidel
June 29, 2018 - 11:06 am
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When it comes to Mickey Callaway, we mix meanings and metaphors and come to mangled conclusions. It's easy to do, since he does much the same. 

In his opening presser, the new Mets manager talked about loving his players in awkward, almost romantic tones. Three full months into his tenure, the love isn't being felt by the fans. The Mets (32-46) are tied with the Marlins -- a team famously gutted by Derek Jeter -- for the fewest wins in the National League. 

Callaway's club is slapstick, at best. Teams have stolen home plate on his Mets. They have scored a sac fly on a ball caught by the second baseman. He said he refused to order a bunt because the batter had bunted just once or twice in his professional life, which included thousands of plate appearances in the minors. His team once batted out of order on his watch.

It may be absurd to blame Callaway entirely for the club's failures. It may be equally absurd to fire him before halfway through the season. But it's not absurd to wonder if he should stick around for next season. 

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Its not like the Mets hired Tony La Russa and are just waiting for the fertile farm clubs to mushroom into the majors. It's not like they poached Joe Girardi, known for squeezing wins out of hard-luck squads. Callaway was a pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians. He did a fine job, it seems, as Cleveland has had the best rotation for a few years and went on a surreal streak last year, winning 22 straight games. 

And while most of us wonder about the merits of a hitting coach, we tend to agree that a fine pitching coach yields good results. But Callaway's magic touch hasn't reached most of his Mets, who have a 4.30 ERA overall, 12th out of 15 NL clubs. And he looks lost in New York, poisoned by his first bite of the Big Apple. His postgame pressers are a garbled, recycled sermon, taken from yesterday's talking points. He belches the bromides about getting better each day, learning to field, hit and throw better than the day before.

It's these sleepy, Captain Obvious statements and sentiments that have to make the Mets fan cringe. Just as some guys fill out a suit or make a uniform fit right, some coaches or managers just look right. They walk into a room and are in charge before they say a word. Callaway is not one of them. 

There's no joy in pining for a person to be canned. Not only is Callaway faced with a talent-starved lineup, one of his two aces (Noah Syndergaard) can't seem to stay healthy enough to post 20 starts. His best position player (Yoenis Cespedes) is also toiling on the DL with opaque maladies. Neither Thor nor Cespedes seems to be in any hurry to return to the diamond. The Mets don't tell us if either is close to playing or pitching anytime soon. Their offseason signings -- most notably Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce -- are galling failures. And now general manager Sandy Alderson has left the club to deal with cancer

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Connie Mack couldn't lead this club to a pennant. No one could. But the Mets are laughably bad despite spending $172.7 million on payroll, which is fifth in MLB, according to USA Today. They are spending more on the players than the Yankees ($161 million), with a fraction of the traction, prospects and pitching. Their farm system is frighteningly bereft of young studs. Their only option seems to be to boot Jacob deGrom for a gaggle of prospects, which is painful just to propose. DeGrom is the only reason to watch this club. Indeed, on my Facebook thread, a fan gleefully posted about spending 10 bucks for a seat to see deGrom pitch against Clayton Kershaw at Citi Field.

A couple years ago, I suggested that Chris Mullin -- who had never coached a basketball team in the NBA or NCAA -- wasn't ready to run St. John's. I was swarmed by alumni, fans and even his wife. We'll see if I was prescient or impatient. But Mets fans seem simpatico on Callaway, who is either overwhelmed, overmatched or overrated.

Callaway has three months to prove he belongs, or he will become the Ben McAdoo of Big Apple baseball. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel