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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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Mistakes Were Made

So much sorrow at Citizens Bank Park Monday, implicit and otherwise. Mickey Callaway was sorry after he wasn’t. Jason Vargas was sorry there was a distraction to the very fine people on both sides. Brodie Van Wagenen was sorry if anybody was under the impression that he’s telecommuting to the dugout. The rest of the Mets saved their sorry for the field. The final score — Philadelphia 13 New York 7 — had remorsefulness written all over it.

As Oscar and Felix once told each other in rapid succession on The Odd Couple, you can stuff your sorries in a sack, Metsies.

We could be sorry we’ve watched the Mets year by year, game by game, but the onion determining why we continue to remain true to the orange and blue is wrapped in far too many layers for quick and easy analysis. We are only fleetingly sorry we do this. We are Mets fans. We don’t give up even after we give up.

Which differs from how Callaway ordered his expression of regrets to the public through the media pertaining to his incident with Tim Healey of Newsday. I won’t call it an altercation, because based on everything I’ve been able to glean, Healey of “see you tomorrow, Mickey” ironic infamy (and who may be sorry he’s no longer covering the Marlins for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel), didn’t do let alone hint at any altercating. The most sympathetic interpretation I can rustle up on the manager’s behalf is that Mickey was in a dark mood from the grim loss on Sunday and the determined interrogation he barely withstood regarding his decision to keep Edwin Diaz under lock and key until 23rd outs are recorded, never mind that the 23rd out Sunday was growing and eventually grew lethally elusive.

Long seasons. Close quarters. Myriad frustrations. Process a bland sentiment in a volatile moment and blow up at an innocent party. Let’s say this sort of thing can happen. Let’s say the manager then takes a deep breath, takes the reporter aside and either asks “what’s up?” or cuts straight to “my bad”. If that’s how it goes, it’s over and the story reverts to lousy bullpen management (not to mention construction) instead of the manager losing his mind and one of his starting pitchers corrosively stepping in with a notion toward elevating the abuse from verbal to physical.

And that’s the sympathetic interpretation. The Mets tend to lose sympathy like they lose ballgames: often. Despite the presumably sincere statement of regret the Mets issued — and despite nature’s nobleman Jeff Wilpon calling Healey Sunday night to unruffle feathers — Callaway couldn’t spit out the idea on Monday afternoon that he was at fault. Again, a public “my bad” from the public figure who brought the story upon himself files this maelstrom away into our mental archives before it’s 36 hours old. It would be pulled out as the latest example of “oh my god” the next time the Mets got all Mets, but we’d be on to the next on-field adventure/misadventure as soon as possible. Damage control is supposed to control damage.

Mickey extended it instead, making his Monday presser about what a “tough competitor” he is and how, you know, “Billy Martin punched a reporter one time, it’s just part of this game.” No, I don’t think so, Mick. Billy was an outlier. Billy did his punching in bars that he frequented regularly as a rule. Billy was considered a very troubled man. Also, Billy won a lot, for what that’s worth.

You know who else did some winning as a manager in New York? Gil Hodges, fifty years ago, an occasion the Mets are celebrating this weekend. Gil Hodges, as tough a competitor as big league baseball has ever known, got his messages across quietly and firmly. He remains revered to this day by everyone who came into contact with him, players and writers included. So if you want to model your behavior on someone who proceeded you in your chosen profession, sir, try No. 14. Nobody expects anybody to be Gil Hodges, but we could all do worse than to try to be at least a little like Gil Hodges.

Gil believed in second chances and so, in his way, does Callaway, because a couple of hours after dancing around the presumed talking point of the day, he gathered the beat reporters around him a second time (something that essentially never happens) and rolled out a little more detectable contrition. While preparing the Mets for their 13-7 defeat to the Phillies, the manager “got some feedback” from sources that got his attention and let it be known that for cursing out the guy who told him he’d see him tomorrow, “I’m definitely sorry.”

Reporters have to be thick-skinned no matter where they do their reporting. A baseball clubhouse probably builds the skin that much thicker. These writers have to write accurately about a team that loses more than it wins, delineating further the failures and successes that their readers already understand happened. Then they have to face the players whose miscues they’ve detailed. There is a dance therein that everybody accepts. If the reporter is fair, the team members should be decent in return. The manager twice acting as if that wasn’t of particular import — first in cursing out Healey and then in not clearly admitting that’s not the way he or anybody in his shoes should conduct interpersonal relations — was rightly an issue. Mickey took a third swing and connected.

Vargas isn’t likely to jump into the box again where this contretemps is concerned. Why he decided to inject himself in the midst of Callaway v. Guy Who Said He’d See Him Tomorrow is unclear. Anybody who covered the Mets accurately in 2018 had to have written that Vargas was not a good pitcher, so maybe he’s preternaturally wary of anybody brandishing a microphone or notebook. If he is, he’s hidden it well from the rest of us. I’ve watched Vargas take questions after immensely awful starts and admired that he stood there and participated calmly and coolly when every question was basically, “Why were you so bad?”

It should be pointed out here that, as with repeated inquiries delving into bullpen misuse, these questions get asked over and over in order to divine answers that fully communicate a portrait of the game that’s just been played and the team that’s played it. We, the fans, are the consumers for this news. I watch the postgame scrums that surround the manager and the players and sometimes I roll my eyes a bit at the fourth iteration of the same line of inquiry, but I also understand why it’s done. I understand that if you don’t get an answer capable of scratching the surface, you have to try to get the your subject to scratch a little deeper. Once more, this is the dance. If nobody was interested in why Callaway made that move or why Vargas threw that pitch, nobody would be hired to find out and relate it.

Vargas didn’t pitch on Sunday, but he decided, for whatever reason, to make a preliminary move on Healey. Benefit of the doubt would lean on the long season/tough loss/cramped clubhouse equation described above. That’s harder to do with Vargas because, outside of the band-of-brothers notion that an attack on one is an attack on all (though Healey didn’t attack anybody, not even with words), it wasn’t his…I was gonna say “fight,” but it wasn’t a fight, not until Vargas feinted toward making it into one.

It would be nice to report that Vargas, as one of the senior men on the roster, offered a thoughtful second-day mea culpa. Nothing fancy, just something along the lines of “I overreacted in the heat of the moment, I shouldn’t have done that, I should know better, I’m sorry about that.” If he’s really harboring a grudge about something somebody wrote (which I don’t know is the case), he can take it up with the party of the other part one-on-one.

The pitcher’s chosen response to his threatening Healey that he might “knock you the fuck out, bro,” turned out to be that the entire episode was “an unfortunate distraction” and that was “really all there is to it”. That and a $10,000 fine, same as levied by the Mets against Callaway. Perhaps that was apologia enough for Vargas’s tastes.

Distraction dissipated, the clearheaded Mets hit the field and the field, like the Phillies lineup, hit back. Dismal defense, even by those defenders playing their actual positions, was in abundance. Steven Matz and his successors withdrew from the resistance. The Mets hit four solo homers and they lost by six, anyway. Edwin Diaz was not needed. Robinson Cano, who joined him in the same trade engineered by the new and ambitious general manager, went hitless.

What could have helped the Mets? Probably not that less new but still ambitious general manager issuing instructions to the manager while the game was in progress, since there’s no evidence Brodie Van Wagenen harbors tangibly more strategic baseball expertise than Mickey Callaway. Also, by regulation, general managers don’t tell managers what to do during games. Most teams understand this.

Ah, but the Mets, we were reminded during the course of Monday night, march to the beat of their own drummer. Mike Puma reported in the Post that not being in uniform doesn’t necessarily stop Van Wagenen from making moves with the lineup card. Remember that game a few weeks back in Arizona, the one Jacob deGrom was removed from after a hip spasm but before it seemed there was an indisputable reason to take him out? And deGrom was obviously annoyed by Callaway’s call?

That wasn’t Callaway’s call, according to Puma (and other reporters who confirmed the story). That was Brodie finding channels to go through from home — because you can’t directly text or phone uniformed personnel — and telling Mickey to take Jake out ASAP thus taking the collaborative nature of the organization to a whole other level. Jake was taken out ASAP. Callaway fell on the decision grenade that night, but what else was he gonna do? A manager has to seem in control. Even this manager. Even in the age we live in where we shake our head during our umpteenth viewing of Moneyball at Philip Seymour Hoffman not heeding Brad Pitt’s analytically sound direction to play Hatteberg over Peña. You can meet all you want before and after the game. You can trade Peña to the Tigers. You can dismiss the manager. But as long as the manager is there, you gotta let the manager manage the game.

Van Wagenen reportedly didn’t. Presented with this latest 2019 Mets twist, Mickey denied anything was awry that night in Phoenix and Brodie sidestepped questions about it after Monday’s game, but this does feel like what happens with the New York Mets…which we know about because there are reporters looking into it because there are fans who want to know.

We also want to know that the 37-42 Mets are winning or, barring that statistical unlikelihood, have a chance to soon begin winning. It’s hard, however, to find any accurate reporting that would confirm that desire can be met.

33 comments to Mistakes Were Made

  • Greg Mitchell

    One of your more brilliant posts, thanks.

    Well, at least Pounders-mania is offer as he reverts to his mean, and I do mean mean. So: Pounders pounded. Cano cannot. The only Rosario who can move well is Rosario. The only Brodie who ever made good decisions was John. Mickey is more Rourke than Mantle, Rivers or Lolich.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Argh, I need to look over my comments better before hitting button. So Poundersmania is “over” not “offer.” The only Rosario who moves well is obviously Dawson. Sorry.

    • Daniel Hall

      Pounders getting pounded only shows that he can be this team’s closer…

  • SkillSets

    Pounders has to wear number 50. .50 Half-pounder. In tribute to other large wearer of #50 Sid Fernandez. Unless Ricky Bones took 25 again. If 25 is free Pounders should get it. .25 Quarter Pounder.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    While the Mickey Callaway firing is inevitable, and probably coming sooner rather than later, I don’t see a Joe Girardi type taking over. He wouldn’t take any crap from Brodie or the Wilpons. Also, Robinson Cano is a UPOS. The U stands for useless. I leave it to the readers of this blog to figure out what the remaining letters stand for.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Soon begin winning? Let’s count the ways that’s not on the horizon:
    1) Cano popping out to center with the bases loaded in the second, on his way to leaving seven on base in an Oh for 5 performance;
    2) Cano styling to flip a throw way off balance when he had time to stop, plant, turn and throw for the out;
    3) Cano flailing and olay-ing a pair of throws on steals;
    4) Ramos making those pathetic throws on high pitches which are supposed to be the best for tossing out would-be base stealers (which we NEVER DO anyways);
    5) Matz INEXPLICABLY trying for third on Harper’s arm (the only thing about Harper’s game which has been particularly notable over the years) with NO ONE out and Alonzo on deck;
    6) Matz folding his feet underneath his legs on the above ill-advised play, thereby not contacting the base until his knee reached it when his foot would have beat the tag;
    7) Matz’s shitty pitching;
    8) A line drive sailing over the head of McNeil in right field, where he has no business playing;
    9) This just after a very catchable line drive fell a couple feet in front of Smith in left field, where he has no business playing;
    10) A sure double, turned into a sure triple on a poor angle taken by Conforto in centerfield, where he has……;
    11) A bullpen which gave up 6 more runs;
    12) Two more plays which would have been made by any other shortstop, besides Rosario;
    13) Oh, and (sorry for my chronology, but with everything else, I forgot)a completely pathetic throw by Matz to first and then an equally Lucas Duda-like throw from Alonzo to home.
    Yeah, I don’t see us winning much in the foreseeable future.
    Oh, and lest I forget:
    CANO MUST GO!!

  • Greg Mitchell

    You could–perhaps have–make the argument that the Mets were below average at EVERY position last night (and some others). Alonso: Will be fine but not quite there yet (6 errors so far). Cano: done, plus weak styling throws. Rosario: worst in majors. Frazier/Davis: Frazier average, Davis below. Ramos: horrid to date. Smith: trying but not there yet. McNeil: ditto. Conforto: okay in right, not in center.

  • mikeL

    mickcanobrodie must go.

    ^^ nice recap of those many, maddening ways pete. sad but true.

    meantime i’ll dream of a total re-build that includes ownership too!

  • FanSince69

    Vargas always seemed to stare at reporters in a strange way–even before this incident.

    When you mix that with his normally laid-back persona, and now this weird explosion over basically nothing, this guy seems like a bonafide psychopath.

  • Gil

    The Wilpons fired Collins and hired a pitching coach from the American League.

    They then hired a businessman whose baseball experience was limited to negotiating contracts.

    What could go wrong?

    I will beg to differ on the handling of the Calloway / Vargas bru ha ha. Nobody with the exception of the men in that room knew about intent. But what the Mets know is that their Skipper took exception. He’s the leader. If he feels that someone in that room who does not work for the Mets insults him in the clubhouse in front of his guys then Mickey has every right in the world to lace the guy with MF’ers and whatever foul language he chose. Vargas has the right to back up his skipper. And Brody, who is making a habit of having his skipper take bullets he doesn’t deserve, fines him and slow walks him back out for a second apology of what both he and vargas clearly did not want to make nor felt they should. Brody has to double down and get his guys backs and let the media know the Mets won’t be pushed around or slighted.
    The only thing missing from this abysmal handling of this situation was Brody doing the interview in front of a gender-neutral bathroom, which if we aren’t going to behave as men’s men, I seriously think they should install. As new school and soft as possible. And the result…. your team goes out and gets its ass handed to it and Mickey takes a few more underserved bullets.

    5:40 mark. Men being men when that was still cool. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n04-SegFeNU You come at the skipper you get a player escort outside. Old School. Hard-nosed. Tough.

    • “See you tomorrow.” What an insult. If that sets Callaway off, there’s the so-called softness in evidence.

      • Gil

        Has anyone heard from the reporter? Was he interrogated on the nature of his comments? Of course not.

        You can say a lot of things that look innocuous on paper but with the right look and delivery are, without a doubt, antagonistic remarks.

        Mickey hasn’t had many good days with the reporters of late. “See you tomorrow, Mickey” could have easily been meant as “We’ll be feasting on your ass again tomorrow.”

        And low and behold, they were.

    • Jason Fry

      Hey, other member of management checking in from vacation.

      “The only thing missing from this abysmal handling of this situation was Brody doing the interview in front of a gender-neutral bathroom, which if we aren’t going to behave as men’s men, I seriously think they should install.”

      This isn’t what we do here, in the blog posts or the comments. We’re all frustrated, goodness knows, but please avoid such stuff in the future.

      Thanks.

  • Excerpt from Lennon’s story:

    Mickey came out of his office, dressed, and I thought he was leaving for the day, so I said, ‘See you tomorrow, Mickey,’ ” Healey said. “And then he said, ‘Don’t be a smart-ass.”

    Healey said he was told by other reporters that Callaway continued to curse at him. Healey said he did not hear that because he was “10 feet away at that point.”

    Healey said Callaway then went into another room, and when the manager returned after a few minutes, he picked up where he left off.

    “I couldn’t confidently tell you exactly what he said, but he said, ‘You know we’re going to be in a bad mood after a loss,’ or something like that. And I tried to tell him, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just saying I’ll see you tomorrow. And then he said, ‘Get this guy out of here,’ and that got the attention of Jason Vargas.”

    According to Healey, Vargas was getting dressed at his locker, which was about 15 feet away in the cramped visitors’ clubhouse, and Healey noticed the pitcher had been staring at him for what seemed like roughly 45 seconds. Healey said he was just standing there, “wondering why Mickey was blowing up,” when he saw Vargas. He recalled asking him if everything was OK or if there was something he wanted to say.

    That’s when Vargas threatened him.

    “He said, ‘I’ll knock you out right here’ and then took a couple of steps toward me,” Healey said. “Some people said charged — charged is super-strong.”

    Mets media relations manager Ethan Wilson got between Healey and Vargas while other players, Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Gomez among them, moved in to make sure the pitcher remained at a distance. Healey said he walked away at that stage.

    “I was shocked, and at the same time trying to tell Vargas or Callaway or Ethan, ‘Hey, I didn’t mean anything by it,’ which might have been interpreted as aggression on my part. I was in no way trying to be aggressive or antagonistic or anything. At that point in the day, I want to talk to Diaz and then leave, you know?

    “What’s the point in me trying to pick a fight?”

  • Pete In Iowa

    Look, I understand how and why many are interested and caught up in the hassles in the Mets locker room on Sunday. And it’s all good.
    Me? I could care less.
    The team is losing. A lot. And with horrendously bad play.
    I ain’t gettin’ any younger. Wins and losses are all that matter to me. 1986 was a looooong time ago.

  • Ryan

    “We could be sorry we’ve watched the Mets year by year, game by game, but the onion determining why we continue to remain true to the orange and blue is wrapped in far too many layers for quick and easy analysis. We are only fleetingly sorry we do this. We are Mets fans. We don’t give up even after we give up.”

    I’m getting there. We’ve reached the point where it feels whatever… this [gestures at 2009-19 Mets] is, is more Mets than the Mets that came before. If I lived somewhere with another team I didn’t loathe, I’d be gone already.

  • eric1973

    I think the folks who are soft are the reporters who are demanding Mickey apologize.

    Just forget it and get on with it.

    Is Billy Martin now considered soft because the littlest thing set him off? I don’t think so.

    • The reporters didn’t demand anything. Common decency would say if you blow up at somebody, you say “sorry about that” and move on.

      Billy Martin, may he rest in peace, was a volatile alcoholic. Good luck conducting business in a workspace dominated by somebody like that (or La Russa), romantic figure though he cut at his peak.

  • K. Lastima

    Every time Cano’s name appears in the starting line-up, let alone in the 3-hole, the message from ownership/management to Mets fans is summed up by this visual presentation: https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-39_1ui1noq8/WUak-vVwGgI/AAAAAAAApkk/uTTV4sWaOrQ3N-PIRRgflfhxWDh_VQIPgCLcBGAs/s400/mr%2Bmet%2Bmiddle%2Bfinger%2Bt%2Bshirt.jpg

  • Greg Mitchell

    Cano batting third again tonight. Brodie hoping, praying, desperate to justify one of worst trades ever.

  • Gil

    Apologies on the bathroom bit, boys. I thought I was in my baseball guys safe space. Will refrain from such things going forward.

    Nice to see newsday defending their guy.

    I’m taking a page from the Mets and will self impose a ten day comment suspension.

    For clarity, my anger is with the Wilpons. My love is for your collective writing. No comment on instructing your readers / commenters on what they can say.

  • Lenny65

    Yet another embarrassing Mets moment. I still for the life of me cannot figure out what Mickey was thinking re: Lugo, as anyone with eyes could plainly see he had zilch that day. It was a bizarre decision that merited questions, period. If he can’t handle the heat perhaps he should go coach in Lynchburg or Albany or someplace where no one cares.

  • eric1973

    Can’t be mad at a guy named Gil…..
    at least not this week, anyway.

  • K. Lastma

    See you tomorrow Mickey?

  • Berdj Joseph Rassam

    The offense is average, the pitching below-average. Need to start with fixing the pitching. Should take years to resolve.

  • Orange and blue through and through

    You know,sooner or later, you’re going to need another onion.

  • open the gates

    I owe Mickey Callaway and Brodie Van Wagenen a debt of gratitude. Seriously. Because until now, I thought they were both basically nice guys who were in way over their heads, and I felt guilty about wanting both of them canned. Now I realize that they’re both world class jerks who are in way over their heads, so the guilt is gone. Thanks guys. No thanks due the Wilpons, whose jerkiness was evident from the beginning, as was their in-over-their-headness.

    My onion is about ready to be sauteed.