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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Case of Mistaken Identity

If the Mets were a sitcom — and who is to say they aren’t? — the presence of Mickey Callaway would be explained away in the third act.

RICCO: I gotta tell ya, Mickey…you’re not a very good manager.
CALLAWAY: I’ve always been before.
RICCO: Before? This is your first managerial job.
CALLAWAY: I’ve been managing for years. Why, I’ve managed a whole string of ’em.
RICCO: A whole string of what?
CALLAWAY: Bakeries. We call more than one “a string of ’em” on account of the string we use to tie the boxes. That’s bakery humor.
RICCO: This isn’t a bakery! This is a baseball team!
CALLAWAY: It is? Well, I’ll be darned. You know, I was wondering where you kept the flour.
RICCO: Excuse me, but WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?
CALLAWAY: Say, I know what happened — you wanted my brother DICKIE Callaway. HE’S the baseball guy. Real good at it, from what I can tell. I’ll bet he can make those “pitching changes” and “double switches” everybody keeps asking me about like it’s second nature.
RICCO: So you don’t know anything about baseball?
CALLAWAY: Does it look like I know anything about baseball?
RICCO: Oh dear. I better call Omar. And J.P. And Jeff. Definitely Jeff.
CALLAWAY: Hey, there’s the flour! You sit down and relax, John, and I’ll fix ya up some crullers. I’ll bake a batch big enough for ALL the GMs. Now where do you keep the oven?
RICCO: And it’s not even the All-Star break.

On the chance that the Mets aren’t a sitcom, and that there is no Dickie Callaway ready to emerge from the wings, then I have no idea what Mickey Callaway is doing managing them. Nor does Callaway have any kind of a clue.

When you’ve lived with a team a long time, you try to be reasonable toward each of its components. You try to have a memory and keep in mind that this guy who sucks right now maybe didn’t suck so much before and maybe he won’t suck in the moment. You cut slack accordingly. Jeurys Familia has a big slice of slack from me for all he did to win the Mets a pennant and push them toward the playoffs again, but he’s pretty much nibbled through it. I no longer have a lot of faith that Familia won’t suck (whether it’s from wear or tear or both) and when he does, my memories of the 96 saves that embellished two golden seasons and the several celebrations that ensued upon his final pitches fog over. He’s the guy who sucks right now. When he doesn’t, which he didn’t on Tuesday night in nailing down five outs to help enable a rare Citi Field Mets win, I am pleasantly surprised.

But he’s still kind of the guy who sucks right now, which is why I didn’t want to see him come right back out there for the ninth inning on Wednesday night to protect a two-run lead that immediately felt endangered by his mandated participation in the proceedings. Zack Wheeler had been so good against the Pirates for seven scoreless innings and, more relevantly, Tim Peterson had been sharp for nine economical pitches in relief of a faltering Robert Gsellman one night after five zippy deliveries the night before. Peterson was already in, and he’s been in the zone in a way no emerging setup man has been since perhaps Jeurys Familia in 2014. Familia, on the other hand, threw 28 pitches the night before, barked at a baserunner who had done nothing wrong and has aged plenty over the past four years.

Except Peterson is just some rookie and Familia is an established closer, and when you have an old, set-in-his-ways manager who has always hewed closely to roles…no, wait a second, that’s not Mickey Callaway, at least not the Mickey Callaway who was sold to us as an avatar of new age situational progressivism specifically where the bullpen was concerned. This Callaway wouldn’t just default to his closer because he was the closer. He’d go with who made the most sense in the right spot, giving his club and his pitcher the best chance to succeed.

Peterson made the most sense in the ninth inning Wednesday night. He went with Familia. Familia went downhill immediately, as did any chance the pitcher and the club would succeed. Nobody in a Mets uniform demonstrated much concern. No catcher, no infielder, no pitching coach, no manager. No reliever was visibly nudged to get loose ASAP. Maybe concern boiled beneath the surface, but nobody availed themselves of a mound visit (the Mets had some left) to lend the closer a hand. They just let him keep pitching and creating baserunners.

Then, suddenly, Anthony Swarzak got up and, almost just as suddenly, Anthony Swarzak was in the game. Nobody fast-forwarded to skip over the boring warming process. They got him in there just before it was too late. A couple of instants later, it was too late. The stilted two-pitcher process that permitted four Pittsburgh runs required 25 pitches in all. The eventual result approached our rainy shoreline with the relentlessness of Superstorm Sandy. You could see it in the forecast. You knew it was coming. You braced for the worst.

There went the trees.

When the moderately paced torture was over, the Mets were behind, 5-3, en route to a wholly unnecessary loss in a wholly unfathomable season. The manager tried to help us fathom it postgame by kindly Metsplaining, “Yeah, so how it works in baseball…” It doesn’t really matter what he said thereafter (it wasn’t anything useful). It was the most condescending managerial tutorial regarding fundamentals since Mr. Burns informed Darryl Strawberry he was pinch-hitting Homer Simpson for him in a righty-lefty matchup because, “It’s what smart managers to do win ballgames.”

I could cut Familia slack until very recently because he’d earned it. I hope he comes around and elicits a few decent trade offers; I’ll always appreciate the Familia of 2015 and 2016. Swarzak hasn’t earned any slack, at least not with the Mets, yet he was thrown into a bases-loaded, nobody out maelstrom. Swarzak has come off as a bit snippy when peppered around his locker in less than ideal (a.k.a. losing) circumstances, but if he was being asked questions after getting key outs, maybe that would translate as “boy, that guy sure has a winning edge to him.” Either way, Swarzak wasn’t signed for his personality, whatever it is. He was signed to get key outs.

Callaway’s good will was all based on talk and theory. In theory, he was gonna be a great manager. In theory, he was gonna make a great difference. Oh, he’s made a difference, all right. Whatever the metrics are on managerial impact, you can’t watch this team on a going basis and not infer they are a reflection of a first-time manager who had no idea what he was getting himself into and has yet to come up with one.

Listen to him talk, we told ourselves between October and March. He sure sounds good. Or sounded good. He sounded good before there was a season. Every night I tell myself he sounded good before the game. Honestly, he sounds great whenever I hear him interviewed in the early evening. At that point, nothing has gone wrong yet, and he’s affable as all get out. Then, after another game/loss, the vibe shifts to just get out.

And it’s not even the All-Star break.

Now that we have confirmed the Mets are being their worst selves, come hang out with some writers and fans who talk about them anyway. We’ll be at Two Boots Midtown East — 337 Lexington Avenue, between 39th and 40th Streets in Manhattan — tonight at 7. Jon Springer (“Once Upon A Team”), Dave Jordan (“Fastball John”) and I will talk about our team, our books and one of our idols, Rusty Staub. Two Boots proprietor Phil Hartman is offering up, as ever, some sublime pizza, including the Le Grand Orange, created specially for this occasion. OFF NIGHT FOR METS FANS, as we’re calling it, is more likely to be fun than any given Mets game in the Mickey Callaway era. So is somebody accidentally stepping on your foot, but this will be better than that, too. Hope to see you there.

24 comments to Case of Mistaken Identity

  • Seth

    The Mets are not a sitcom, they are a Greek tragedy.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Terry never learned you can’t pitch Familia on successive nights if he gone’s more than an inning the night before so Callaway, in that sense, is no different. Also, Terry never learned that Blevins is not really a “lefty specialists” so, again. On the other hand, Calloway has earned no slack based on a couple of past seasons. If anything, you wish the 11-1 start had not happened so he’d be gone by now.

  • Curt

    I want to give Calloway some slack because it’s his first year but he’s just been bad. The most special moment of the game came after we’d already los, er, fallen behind. Two outs and on-deck is a relief pitcher who maybe did and maybe did not know how to lift a bat off his shoulder (he did, amazingly, surprised he didn’t have a no swing rule imposed on him). So you pitch to a batter? Who of course got a hit. The only thing better would have been a home run.

    So I’m trying to figure this out – the season is lost so there’s no sense in canning him now, right? But if he doesn’t learn something and look a whole lot more, er, competent by September why bring him back?

    Most damning of all for me is this. I never felt that a Collins team performed, over a season, below its talent level. I never felt that a Collins team didn’t play hard. Now every game I’ve seen is from TV and TV isn’t in the stands so you don’t get that kind of a feel for it but I don’t see a team playing hard.

  • LeClerc

    The Callaway Calamity.

    Last night’s top of the ninth was worst-managed half inning I have ever witnessed by a Mets skipper.

    Cohen, Darling, me in my living room, and everyone in attendance at Citi Field saw Familia striding in from the bullpen as an ominous occurrence.

    Callaway’s post-game remarks were an insult to every intelligent baseball fan.

    I hope he realizes he’s now on a very short leash.

  • Chip Armonaitis

    Someone should tell Calloway that when you do your job poorly (and win-loss record in not a subjective measure but an objective one) one should not be condescending when asked why are making the decisions you make. Mickey this is not Cleveland. This is not the pitching coach position. This is a managerial job in NY. If you think you are being treated bad now, continue being a jerk in the press conferences, and will really find out what happens when NY turns on you.

  • K. Lastima

    Oh Mickey, you’re so blind
    You’re so blind you blow my mind
    Hey Mickey!
    Hey Mickey!

    Oh Mickey, you’re so blind
    You’re so blind you blow my mind,
    Hey Mickey!
    Hey Mickey!

    Oh Mickey, what a pity you don’t understand
    The ‘pen’s a total mess ’cause you don’t have a plan
    Oh Mickey, you’re so dense, can’t you understand?
    It’s dopes like you Mickey
    Oh, what you do Mickey, do Mickey
    Just go away, Mickey

    (Apologies to Toni Basil)

  • Steve D

    DeGrom and Syndergaard may be going, but it seems Tim Tebow is coming.

    As for Joe Girardi, the Mets are just too stupid to hire him so I am not going to mention it again. Callaway is the perfect front man for this organization.

  • mikeL

    calloway to self during an emergency:
    “don’t do something, just stand there”

    agree LeClerk:
    that top of ninth took the cake.

    many times have second-guessed after the fact but this … as familia was loading the bases the camera shots of calloway reminded me both of bobby v the day he snuck back into the game cleverly disguised with the stashe and glasses and murph deploying his cloaking device.
    like he was trying to disappear in plain sight.
    like he knew he had no place in that dugout.

    i predict he will resign, but maybe that’s just what passes for
    hope as this awful season unravels…

  • Guy Kipp

    I couldn’t help but notice Amed Rosario NOT laying out for an eminently fieldable ground ball up the middle in the last inning, but instead standing upright and waving at it halfheartedly as it bounded into center field.

    Surely, Rosario couldn’t have been tired, since the 22-year-old was already accorded several days of rest in the last week so the Mets could shoehorn the lifeless carcass of Jose Reyes into the lineup instead.

  • mikeL

    perhaps he copped that move from jose?

  • Left Coast Jerry

    When Fred and Jeff heard Mickey the bakery manager use the term “rolling in dough,” they hired him immediately. Greg, thank you for solving the mystery of his employment.

  • Dave

    Ok, someone might as well represent the opposition, might as well be me. Some observations:

    – It’s the bullpen coach’s job to let the manager know if a pitcher is ready or not. Presuming that happened as per normal procedures.

    – We have seen Swarzak pitch after warming up for more time. And he sucked then too.

    – Last year everyone was calling for the heads of Terry Collins and Ray Ramirez (each of whom apparently had a WaR+ of -15). Prayers answered. No visible change of fortune.

    – At 11-1, Callaway was a genius, but has lost lots of IQ points since.

    – Guys who are widely considered good managers tend to have an important skill, and that’s a roster of good players to manage.

    Now I’m not saying that Callaway is flawless, but he sure isn’t the one out there throwing meatballs down the middle of the plate or popping up on the first pitch with runners in scoring position. This is a bad team folks. There is no manager who can change that.

  • JoeyC

    Managers can’t make rookie mistakes because their decisions involve strategy and the fundamentals, basic job qualifications. Mickey CallaWayOverHisHead must have seen at least one pitching coach slowly walk his big gut to the mound to buy a reliever time to warm up. He has to have seen the manager come out slowly afterwards and wait till the umpire arrived to signal the new pitcher. He’s not even engaged or clever enough to employ a strategy John McGraw probably invented. Forget the six mound visits: this is where you use your visits. Sometimes we Met fans harp on these little things, but this intellectual laziness deprived a cold reliever a few minutes more time. Some pitching coach. We condemn these little mistakes because they create bigger errors that lose ball games. That cluster can also change the franchise. Each bonehead move puts us closer to saying goodbye to deGrom or Syndergaard. Moving deGrom’s $7.5 million salary off the books for a group of minor leaguers who earn nothing gets more attractive to the Wilpons every day. That will hurt worse than June 15, 1977, because we old timers have seen this before, we know how it turns out, and we know our loyalty means nothing.

    Someone please spend this off day explaining the double switch to this guy, too.

  • Guy Kipp

    I can’t wait until the teardown begins, so we can be sold a bill of goods that the Mets now “have a plan” — one that involves unloading their few quality resources for the next Vic Black and the next Dilson Herrera.

  • sturock

    What Dave said. Callaway is obviously no genius, but look what he’s got to work with.

    On the other hand, he just fails so often at the most simple Manager 101 tasks. Double-switching. Pitching changes. Playing guys at their proper positions. Giving the right lineup card to the umpire.

    And he has an equally inexperienced bench coach who gives him no help with any of these things.

    How much longer can this be allowed to continue?

  • Bill Slocum

    I have faith Mickey will lose his job before season’s end. It’s the only silver lining left. However personable and composed he manages to be, he’s been exposed as a pitching coach in over his head, and the Triumvirate of Triumph will need a body to throw out to the press. So aloha. My interest now is who will replace him, and start building what’s left into a 2020 contender. Girardi? DeFrancesco? (gulp) Backman?

  • Seth

    Do you really think so? Not many managers get fired mid-season. I don’t know the Mets to be the kind of org that makes bold moves like that — they did with Jerry Manuel, but even that firing was drawn-out and… weird.

  • Bill Slocum

    AS I see it, Seth, the Mets have fired managers mid-season before, and this season is shaping up to be an unholy mess that will require some kind of human sacrifice once the shock of Sandy’s stepping down recedes and the plummet in the standings continue.

    If the team was to get back on its feet from here, and claw itself up to five games of .500 by late August, it would help Mickey. But with the schedule in front of the Mets, with the injuries, and especially Mickey so far, I have no faith that will happen.

  • eric1973

    There’s a thing called being a “baseball guy,” and to me, Callaway appears to be more of an “office guy” who would be more comfortable wearing a suit in the dugout than wearing a baseball uniform.

    At least with the condescension, he showed some fire, albeit against the press, rather than the team, opponents, or umpires.

    He always came across as a BS artist to me, anyhow, but injuries have killed this team, and the talented starting pitching has been much better lately, so……

  • mikeL

    yes BS but with an overconfident lack of understanding of his audience.
    he big-smiled his whole love-the-players bit at first presser but was that ever the big problem in terry’s clubhouse?
    (again the little league coach references are relevant)
    much was said about his advanced understanding of modern metrics but does he understand the basics – or use his eyes to see the game in front of him?
    and for a pitching coach what does he bring that ‘pen management challenged TC didn’t already botch?
    i’m surprised he managed to hoodwink so many front office baseball guys…maybe they’ve gotten so used to believing their own BS/spin that they made easy marks.

    yes, this team needs a sacrifice, if only for us fans who have gotten little love from this on-field regime.

    • Orange and blue through and through

      MikeL, Mickey Callaway has no feel for the game in general, and certainly not the National league, specifically. He was hired because, as a first time manager, he came with a low price tag. A fact the putrid Wilpons certainly realized.

      It’s altogether fiting that our manager’s name is a derivative of the word “callow.” If you look up the definition of the word “callow”, it means “immature, adolescent, naive, green, inexperienced, untried and unsophisticated.” As detective Fish used to say on Barney Miller, “my very words to Bernice.”

  • eric1973

    Sorry, mikeL, but the ‘sacrifice’ has been taken out of the game as well.