Oct 24

Callaway’s Things To Do List

Mickey Callaway was probably working on “Things To Do’’ list the moment he talked to Sandy Alderson on the phone asking his interest in managing the Mets. Odds are, he went over the list during the interview.

Here’s what I’m guessing is on that list:

Meet with Alderson: Callaway and Alderson will meet to discuss among other things: what went wrong in 2017 for the Mets; issues Alderson must be consulted on; the coaching staff; injuries; pitching issues; preliminary roster evaluation; and spring training.

Coaching staff: Everybody wants to know who Callaway will choose to be pitching coach. Much was made about collaboration at yesterday’s introductory press conference. Will Callaway have free reign? Not on all matters, but it’s doubtful Alderson will bully him on that choice. If Callaway has a name in mind, I’m guessing Alderson won’t stand in his way.

Callaway hopes to develop his coaching staff the same way Terry Francona did in Cleveland.

“[Francona] empowered me to do everything I could to make us the most successful staff we could be,’’ Callaway said. “I realized very quickly that I’m not just a pitching coach, I have to manage all these people and their personalities. I know there’s a process for that.’’

Odds are hitting coach Kevin Long won’t be back. He’ll interview to replace Dusty Baker in Washington, where he’ll undoubtedly get a hearty endorsement from Daniel Murphy.

Since this is Callaway’s first managerial assignment – and let’s hope it lasts for a decade or more – he’ll need a strong bench coach, one not to be afraid to voice his opinion and be a yes man.

Talk with the players: Callaway said at least a half-dozen times he plans to tell the players he cares about them. Presumably, that will include talking with Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes about their off-season workout programs that resulted in season-ending injuries.

Callaway and his pitching coach will undoubtedly spend a lot of time talking with the staff. He’ll ask pointed questions trying to ascertain the cause of the injuries. For Syndergaard that would mean his off-season weight training and for Matt Harvey that would mean being rushed back.

Evaluate the roster: He and Alderson will evaluate the current roster as to ascertain holes and needs. Considering the pitching injuries, that would likely include adding a starter and another reliever.

Among the first things they’ll have to determine is the likelihood of Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Cespedes and Michael Conforto will be ready for spring training.

Preliminary decisions could also be made on Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Find another Miller: Unfortunately, they won’t get the real Andrew Miller, but Callaway will look at his relievers in the hope finding the Mets’ best facsimile. That might also include considering starters Harvey, Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for that role.

Baseball has changed and that includes bullpen roles. Francona and Callaway were on the cutting edge with how they used Miller so you’ll have to presume he’ll bring that role to New York.

Defining an offensive philosophy: Alderson loves Sabermetrics, which emphasize home runs at the cost of strikeouts.

Cleveland’s offense incorporated power with situational hitting, a high on-base percentage and speed. I hope Callaway brings some of that to the Mets.

Living solely on power hasn’t gotten it done for the Mets.

 

Oct 23

Callaway Era Begins

Sure, it was a gamble, and nobody knows how Mickey Callaway will pan out as the 21st manager in Mets’ history, but after listening to him this afternoon GM Sandy Alderson deserves credit for thinking outside the box.

I wondered yesterday whether Callaway represents a risk as to whether Alderson reached out and got the Mets a nugget or whether he was seduced by a hot “flavor of the month.”

NEW METS ERA

           NEW METS ERA

Alderson said the Mets had on their board a list of roughly 35 names and after their research, they whittled it down to six. Originally, Alderson planned a second round of interviews, but Callaway blew him away with his session.

“All of us came out of [Callaway’s interview] excited for the possibility that Mickey would be our manager,’’ Alderson said. “That’s a visceral reaction, not one that you can put down on a checklist, but to me that said everything. I think it was consistent throughout.’’

Callaway said the feeling was mutual.

“When I sat in the room and listened to the words that Sandy, [assistant general managers J.P. Ricciardi and John Ricco] and [Chief Operating Officer] Jeff [Wilpon] were saying to me and the questions they were asking me, I knew right then we were going to be in alignment in what we wanted,’’ Callaway said. “That’s why I was so excited when I called my family after. The team itself, the pitching is something that can be some of the greatest guys on the planet. So that obviously is very exciting to me.’’

Callaway impressed today at Citi Field with his enthusiasm and charisma.

“First, we’re in the greatest city in the world,’’ Callaway said. “This is one of the greatest franchises in the world. … When I look at the New York Mets, I see a team that can contend and compete with anybody and that’s what we’ll work hard to do.’’

Secondly, and this might be most important, is his pitching background. If the Mets are to get back to the postseason, they must pitch. The 42-year-old Callaway built a staff in Cleveland that included Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Andrew Miller that led the majors in ERA (3.30), strikeouts (1,614) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.1).

Callaway favors fastballs and curveballs opposed to the sliders under former pitching coach Dan Warthen. It will be interesting to see if there is a reduction in the number of sliders thrown and how it might cause a decrease in the injuries that crippled the staff for the past two years.

Callaway has already spoken with several players – but only singled out David Wright – and said he was eager to start making calls. But, one of his first orders of business is working with Alderson and his staff on finding a pitching coach.

“We already have a partial list, we want to make sure it’s as inclusive as possible,’’ Alderson said. “I think Mickey and the front office will work collaboratively to find someone that he’s comfortable with. One of the things that we’re going to do over the next few days is put together a list of potential pitching coaches.

“I think that it’s important to recognize that yes, Mickey is a former pitching coach and it’s important for us because that’s our strength. But at the same time, Mickey will be focused entirely on the 25-man roster and the pitching coach will be very important.’’

While Terry Collins’ name wasn’t mentioned today, there was a disconnect between several of the younger players and the former manager. Callaway vows that won’t happen with him.

“We’re going to care more about the players than anyone has before. We’re going to value their work. Value their dedication,’’ Callaway promised. “I’m going to reach out to the players. I know they got the news obviously from some other source than myself, but I’m going to reach out to them, let them know how excited I am, and we’re going to start this very, very important 2018 offseason. These next three months are going to be critical to what we try to do in the season and we’re going to get to work right away.’’

And, there’s so much work to be done.

Oct 22

Breaking News: Mets To Name Callaway As Manager

Multiple reports are saying the Mets have named Mickey Callaway, the pitching coach of the Indians since 2013 as their new manager, beating out a huge pool of candidates.

Kevin Long, Manny Acta, Bob Geren, Robin Ventura, Joe McEwing and Alex Cora were reportedly among those GM Sandy Alderson was considering.

Callaway will replace Terry Collins, who was forced out and took a position in the team’s front office after a disastrous, injury-filled 70-92 record this season.

Like everybody else considered, Callaway represents a gamble as it remains to be seen whether Alderson reached out and got the Mets a nugget or whether he was seduced by a hot “flavor of the month.”

Callaway, 42, built the Indians’ pitching staff into one of the best as they led the majors in ERA (3.30) and strikeouts (1,614), shutouts (19), complete games (7) and finished third with an opponents’ batting average of just .236. But, don’t forget, he’s not bringing Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer or Carlos Carrasco with him.

Among Callaway’s first priorities is getting, and keeping, the Mets’ young pitchers healthy as the Mets’ season imploded with injuries to Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.

 

 

 

Oct 21

How Should Mets Handle Yankees’ Success?

So, how should the Mets handle the obvious news the Yankees are back to being the bullies on the New York City block?

No question, 2015 and 2016 was fun while it lasted, but the essence of winning is to sustain it, and do it again, and again. Whether the Yankees can do that remains to be seen, but they but have the necessary building blocks the Mets didn’t.

The Yankees have the young core of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius, while the Mets had only one young star the last time they saw October, and that was Michael Conforto.  The Mets have since added Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith.

The Yankees have a solid bullpen, while the Mets don’t. The Mets have the potential of a good, but not a great pen, but clearly, there’s a gap.

The Yankees have several good, young starters, while the Mets supposedly had the best young rotation in the majors. Suffice to say, that never happened, and Jacob deGrom is the only healthy arm the Mets can count on for next season.

The Yankees have a reputation with general manager Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner ownership group of not being handcuffed when it comes to a willingness to spend to reach the next level. The Mets’ reputation with GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons is the opposite.

That’s four categories with the Yankees holding the edge in each one.

So, if you’re the Mets, what should you do?

The Mets’ first decision is to ignore the Yankees, regardless what happens tonight in Houston. The Mets don’t compete with the Yankees for anything other than the back pages of the tabloids, which in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant. Let the Yankees enjoy their success and just concentrate on your own business.

The Mets’ second step – not surprisingly – is to hire a new manager, and I’m guessing it will be Manny Acta based on managerial experience.

Alderson has a lot of work to do, beginning with devising a rebuilding plan. It won’t be exactly going to Square One, but it is close. Alderson said he expects the Mets to be competitive in 2018, but hasn’t defined what that means. It should be noted the Mets finished 22 games below .500 this season.

It’s a stretch to think, even if they get all their players back that they’ll improve by 28 games, which would tie them at 87-75, the record of the Colorado Rockies, the second wild card in the National League.

That’s just for starters.

For that to happen, Alderson must add the following:

Starting pitching: The Mets can expect deGrom back and possibly Noah Syndergaard, the latter whom returned from the DL but is far from a given. The Mets probably have higher expectations of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo than they do Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. It would be reasonable to think Alderson would pursue at least one starter.

Bullpen: Alderson has never been able to build a reliable bullpen, but there’s potential with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. If one or two of the arms they acquired when they stripped themselves of their veterans at the trade deadline. Even so, they shouldn’t pass on getting a quality reliever in free agency.

Outfield: Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are recovering from significant injuries and both are questionable to be ready for the start of the season. That leaves Nimmo and Juan Lagares as the only reliable outfielders, and the Mets are sold on the latter.

Second/third base: The Mets are expected to bring back Jose Reyes and/or Asdrubal Cabrera, but both? That might be a stretch. I believe Cabrera is better at both positions and could be a better offensive threat. But, Reyes is a better shortstop replacement. Is that enough?

Should Alderson address all four in the positive the Mets should be better, but will it be enough for the playoffs?

 

Oct 20

Mets’ Search Reportedly Down To Acta And Long

According to reports, the Mets’ managerial search is boiling down to hitting coach Kevin Long and Manny Acta. The Mets aren’t interested in talking to Dusty Baker, who was fired today by the Nationals.

A coach for the Mets under Willie Randolph, Acta previously managed the Indians and Washington.

Frankly, I’ve been disappointed in this whole process. My choice is Ron Gardenhire, who was given a three-year deal today by Detroit. I would have thought they’d at least kick the tires on Baker.

If Acta gets the job, the Mets say Long will stay on as a hitting coach. I don’t like this for two reasons, 1) how will Long react if he doesn’t get the job? and 2) how will Acta feel if he’s not allowed to name his own staff?

UNDERSTANDING DE BLASIO: I am not a fan of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, but I do admire his loyalty to the Red Sox.

De Blasio is a Red Sox fan, which is his right, and when asked about rooting for the Yankees, said he couldn’t do it if they reached the World Series.

Hey, the Mets are your team, so I can’t imagine you’d be rooting for them, either.

If you are a fan of a team, you don’t cheer for their archrivals. It’s just not done.