The offseason has officially begun in Queens and I couldn’t be more excited. There was so much swirling around the open manager positions in the MLB that I thought for sure the Mets would wait until after the World Series to announce their new manager. Instead, they went for the jugular and announced the day after the Yankees were eliminated from the Postseason. “Oh, you guys just finished your season? Here’s our new manager while yours wonders if he still has a job.” It’s an amazing move by the Mets Front Office. A seriously smart way of using the despair of Yankees fans to catapult Mets fans into a hopeful euphoria.
It’s also hysterical to see Yankees fans acting like this is the end of the world, because it’s not, but that’s for another time.
Look, there’s a lot to be disappointed in with the 2017 Mets Season, and trust me we’ll get there, but right now we all need to stop and appreciate the new breath of fresh air that just arrived in Queens. The New York Mets have announced Mickey Callaway as the 21st Manager in the team’s 55-year history.
A little backstory about Mickey Callaway before we continue. Callaway, a 7th round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is not known for his pitching prowess. In his 6 year career, Calloway only started 40 games, getting shelled enough to post a 6.27 ERA and 1.714 WHIP, but doing well enough that he would earn a ring with the 2002 Anaheim Angels. Not great. After his major league career was over, Calloway went to Korea to play in the KBO, where he was named an All-Star twice.
Besides an interim head coaching job at Texas A&M International University, Callaway didn’t have much coaching experience until he was hired by the Cleveland Organization to be the Pitching Coach for the Lake County Captains in 2010. The next year Callaway moved up to the Kinston Indians, eventually landing the job as the Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the entire Cleveland Farm system.
Let’s take a look at that sentence one more time. Within two years of being a pitching coach, the Indians organization handed the keys to the car over to Callaway. That’s some trust in this man’s abilities. Needless to say, Mickey didn’t disappoint.
The 2012 Cleveland Indians were not very good, finishing the season with 68 wins. Their pitching staff was even worse posting a 4.78 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP, and a 6.78 K/9, good enough for the bottom of the league. The Front Office, obviously distraught over the lack of production and the solo postseason appearance in 10 years, they hired Terry Francona who brought in Callaway as pitching coach. Magically, the Indians made it to the American League Wild Card Game.
What happens from 2013 to 2017 is actually insane. In his first season, Callaway was able to revive the careers of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, who would take their talents elsewhere and make a lot of money. On the homegrown side of thing, Mickey was able to take the young group of Cleveland pitchers and turn them into league-leading studs. Corey Kluber, the 2014 Cy Young Winner, was a virtual nobody before Callaway took the reigns of the Indians system. Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin all flourished under his tutledge as Indians Pitching Coach.
In fact, in the past three years, the Indians have finished with top ERA, K/9, and WHIP numbers in the MLB. More specifically, they were able to grab hold of the top spots in almost every pitching category this past year. This Mickey, much like the Mouse, makes magic happen.
Coming in after Terry Collins, the longest-tenured manager for the Mets, might seem like big shoes to fill for Callaway. Collins did make it to the playoffs in consecutive years, the first time the Mets History, but if there’s one thing that Callaway brings to the table is something Collins never had: the ability to develop young pitchers as a staff.
Prior to the 2017 season, Mets fans and baseball fans alike were treated to primetime commercials, magazine articles, SportsCenter profiles and Page Six stories about the Mets pitching staff. Most notably was the Four Horsemen commercial for the MLB. The Commerical begins with the camera following a waiter carrying a huge meatball on a plate. That presumably very spicy meatball is brought to a table occupied by Mets pitchers Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey, all of them laughing, eating, enjoying each others company. Over the top of this is the following voice-over:
“For the first time in a very long time, the Four Horsemen of Queens are back together. No more cancelled plans, the reservation is set. These guys are locked, loaded and hungry. Serious question: Are we looking at the best staff in baseball?”
I think it’s time we all say something out loud, something none of us want to say. The kind of thing that only cultivates more self-doubt, more self-loathing and drags you deeper into that abyss of New York Mets fandom. However, the time has come to face that fear head on and hope that this acknowledgment can lead to an easier mind and a more hopeful tomorrow.
Those four pitchers never showed up.
In fact, their shadows didn’t even appear in 2017. There were injuries everywhere you looked, the bullpen was overworked from the get-go, specialists were facing guys they shouldn’t be shaking hands with, trust was given to pitchers who couldn’t hold runners and then there’s Matt Harvey.
Pitching was not a priority for the New York Mets and hasn’t been for the past two seasons. I know that sounds inflammatory, but it’s not meant to be. The Mets have taken their pitching for granted, which explains why they floundered to do much of anything in 2017. The rug was pulled out from under them and there was no time to make adjustments. We gave the keys to the car to young pitchers who weren’t ready to drive yet. Callaway’s the guy to take them to Driver’s Ed.
The Mets Pitching Window just expanded and they haven’t had to sign anyone to a long-term deal. With Collins resignation and Warthen’s departure, the Mets hired a guy to fill both roles in own move. This is brilliant. With Kevin Long’s Offense and Callaway’s pitching management, the Mets have a solid shot of really turning things around in Flushing next year. This is an investment in pitching, a helping hand offered to the pitching staff that Terry Collins rode into the ground.
At his introduction yesterday Mickey addressed what the New York Mets can expect:
“What can the players expect? We’re going to care more about the players than anyone ever has before. We’re going to know that they’re human beings and individuals. And this is going to be a group that feels that every day that we come to the clubhouse. And that’s going to be our main concern, is to show them that we know this game is difficult and we care about you as a player, a human being and about your personal life.”
I mean, you guys… I’m all aboard the Callaway Hype Train.
The Offseason and Christmas came early to Queens, Y’all. Let us rejoice and #LGM! I’m asking Santa for an Offensive Weapon this Christmas!