Column: The Mets deserve praise for deviating from their norm

New York Mets new manager Mickey Callaway gestures at the podium after he was introduced to the media, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, at CitiField in New York. Callaway comes to the Mets from the Cleveland Indians where he was a pitching coach. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

They finally did it.

The New York Mets, infamous for making the obviously wrong choice, actually did something smart this time: they went outside the organization to hire a new manager. But not just any manager, like Manny Acta, whose career managerial record is 372-518; they hired 42-year-old Mickey Callaway, former pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians.

Now, it may seem a little underwhelming at first glance. Most people have never heard of Callaway—why would you know him unless you’re an Indians fan?— and he’s never managed a game in his life. But Indians manager Terry Francona has credited Callaway for improving the Indians’ pitching over the last four years; Cleveland produced a Cy Young winner in 2014, two division winning teams in 2016 and 2017 with the best staff in baseball by era (3.30) and strikeouts (1,614) this season.

For a Mets team that posed their worst ERA (5.01) since 1962 (5.04), the timeliness of this hire is impeccable. New York has struggled to keep their young studs healthy—only Jacob deGrom finished the season unscathed. As the contracts of deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler wind down, 2018 is the last chance the Mets have to see all five pitchers in the same rotation for the first time.

If anybody is going to make that dream a reality, it’s Callaway. Ever since joining the Indians prior to 2013, he has helped develop guys like Trevor Bauer, whose FIP (a stat designed to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness at preventing HRs, HBP and BB while causing SO) has gone down from 7.05 in 2013 to 3.88 in 2017, as well as an increase in strikeouts (143 in 2014 to 196 in 2017) and an increase in ERA+ (a measurement of ERA meant to factor in opponents faced and the differences in ballparks) from 94 in 2014 to 109 in 2017, meaning he went from below league average to above league average in three years under Callaway.

Even without the stats, it’s easy to see just how intregal Cleveland’s pitching staff to their emergence as a legitimate contender over the last few years. Especially for the Mets, coming off a manager in Terry Collins whose bullpen management was probably the worst in baseball, a guy with a pitching-centric mind who knows how to keep players healthy is a crucial addition. Callaway is also one of the youngest managers in the MLB, a stark contrast from Collins who was the oldest (68).

It all makes so much sense, you wouldn’t think we’re talking about the Mets. This is a team that is still giving money to Bobby Bonilla, a team that held onto Jason Bay for far too long, and ownership that has the payroll of a mid-market team in one of the country’s biggest markets.  

The Wilpons have traditionally been set on making the safest and easiest moves at the lowest cost, but I have to give credit where credit is due. They fired the head athletic trainer after a season rash with injuries, the pitching coach after putting up the second-worst ERA in team history, and bought Syracuse’s AAA team so call-ups won’t have to fly across the country from Las Vegas all the time. They’re smart moves that make me wonder if we’re seeing a new strategy and outlook from the owners that Mets fans have so desperately been waiting for.

They got their young, energetic manager. They (sort of) cleansed their problematic staff (the status of hitting coach Kevin Long is up in the air now that he didn’t get the managerial job). Now all they need to do is sign a third baseman, a second baseman, one or two veteran starting pitchers and an outfielder this winter, and we’re looking at an entirely new Mets squad that’ll give fans something to be excited about in 2018.


Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.