Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The New York Mets are 10-1. That’s right, you can’t stop me, because it’s never happened before in the team’s history. They’re aggressive, they’re gritty and they’re making all the right moves. This Mets team is just different.
I have always been a proponent of the idea managers are vitally important to teams. A lot of people think managers don’t actually have any bearing on wins and losses. But I had to watch Terry Collins for about four more years than I should have had to, so I think I know a thing or two about watching a manager make all the wrong moves in what ends up being a devastating loss. Collins was notorious for his bullpen mismanagement.
But it’s not just the in-game management. Mickey Callaway has not only made all the right moves, but he’s fostered a winning culture, the likes of which I haven’t seen from the Mets in years. The 2015 World Series run was great, but it had little to do with Collins—the combination of acquiring Yoenis Cespedes, a Nationals team bogged down by injuries and Daniel Murphy breaking out in the NLDS was the perfect storm. Of course, it never worked out.
This year is different. It’s obvious. And it’s started with Callaway.
The most noticeable difference with the Mets this year is their aggressiveness on the basepaths. I wish I had stats and defensive metrics to cite, but you don’t even need to see the comparison of numbers. The Mets have never been the fastest team or the smartest baserunning team. It took Callaway the duration of Spring Training to change this. Says Todd Frazier:
Todd Frazier on the Mets' aggressive baserunning: "We're huge on going first to third. We're not the fastest team, but once we get going, we'll find a way to get home."
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 7, 2018
That’s Callaway right there. That’s his intelligence and craftiness showing—who would have thought a team featuring Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez in their starting lineup would be good at running the bases? Yet here we are.
Of course, there’s also the way he manages the bullpen. Putting Jacob Rhame, tasked with getting his first career save, in a high-stress situation Sunday night against the Nationals just shows the confidence Callaway has in his pitchers. He trusted Rhame, who gave up 14 hits and six earned runs in 10.2 innings of work in Spring Training, to get out of the jam despite having no experience in that situation before.
The move paid off, and closer Jeurys Familia is more than impressed with the way Callaway handles his bullpen.
“He’s been doing great work. You can see the difference. He uses the guys, knows what he’s doing and he’s working,” he said after getting the save in a 3-2 win in Washington Saturday.
“You can see the difference.” The difference is the wins; the confidence; the spunk. The Mets have the most come-from-behind wins in Major League Baseball (six), have won eight in a row for the first time since April 2016 and have swept a road trip of at least six games for the first time in 27 years. That doesn’t just come from “making the right in-game moves.” That comes from clubhouse confidence.
The Mets are a Major League-best, and franchise-record, 10-1.
They have won eight in a row for the first time since April 2016.
They have an MLB-best six comeback victories.
They just swept a road trip of at least six games for the first time in 27 years.
They're coming home.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 12, 2018
The exciting clubhouse culture has allowed friendships to blossom in unlikely places. Cespedes and Todd Frazier have developed a strong bond dating back to Spring Training, and it’s had a tremendous influence on the club as a whole. That’s the kind of tone Callaway set before the Mets even played a game of baseball, and it’s exactly what he’s getting.
Now, who knows how long this will last. Travis d’Arnaud has a partial tear in his UCL and might need Tommy John, and Kevin Plawecki got nailed in the hand in Wednesday’s game (he should be fine), so the injury bug is trying its hardest to bite at its most familiar target. But losing d’Arnaud isn’t even a big blow. And Michael Conforto, who wasn’t even supposed to be here until May, is batting .313 with a home run in five games.
I have a lot of reasons to be excited, and it’s all thanks to Callaway. I’m not saying we should elect him to the Hall of Fame yet, but maybe we should start making room for his plaque, just in case.