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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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All the Way with Callaway

Well, I’m stoked for Mickey Callaway. I was prepared to be stoked to varying degrees for Joe McEwing, Manny Acta, Alex Cora or Kevin Long had any of them been named the next manager of the New York Mets, but I’m probably a little extra excited about Callaway getting the job. Judging from his introductory press conference, Callaway’s a lot extra excited about getting the job. His enthusiasm is infectious, and not in the way you worried what would happen had Ray Ramirez treated the infection.

There was no reason not to welcome any of those whose names were bandied about as serious candidates. None of them had proven they couldn’t be trusted managing the Mets and, besides, there are few marquee managerial brands anymore, no broad contemporary menu of Billys, Whiteys and Weavers to lust after. Theoretically, anybody given the chance could have made the most of it. Callaway’s hiring, however, has proven a negative the least — that is, we really have no reason not to trust him. Not only hasn’t he managed, few of us were familiar with him. He hadn’t played for the Mets or coached for the Mets. We had no storehouse of vague impressions to fall back on, no easy references to that time in 2000 or 2005 or 2010 or 2015 when he did or didn’t do this or that. In context, Callaway’s tabula was as rasa as it got.

Except for word on the street, which was as positive as could be imagined. Everybody loves Mickey Callaway. They love him in Cleveland. They love him wherever baseball people gather to offer endorsements. When they don’t like you in this game, they whisper unattributed. When they think you’re awesome, they put their name to it. The industry signed off en masse on Callaway.

The Mets interviewed him and became convinced everybody wasn’t pulling a fast one on them, signing the former Indians pitching coach and prospective managerial prodigy to helm our team through the rest of this decade and into the next. As such, he looms as an outsize figure in our daily lives as fans. We may never meet him, but he’ll be with us if we’re with the Mets. We’ll see and hear him on pre- and postgame shows. Our eyes will follow him from the dugout to the mound and back. His strategy will indirectly dictate our mood. Before we know it, we’ll be all “Mickey this” and “Mickey that,” just as we threw around “Terry” and, before him, “Jerry”. Managers manage, we react. Mickey may not be experienced, but we know how this works.

We also know that many managers will never look better than on the day their hiring is announced. I tracked down some quotes from some other days in Mets history like Monday, fall days when satisfied general managers heartily endorsed their brand new field managers.

• Joe Frazier “has shown us over the years he can handle men,” according to Joe McDonald in 1975. “He has shown us he can win.”

• George Bamberger “has a deep, abiding knowledge about baseball,” per Frank Cashen in 1981 “and he can communicate it simply and directly. He has an easy but firm manner. He knows what he’s doing.”

• Among myriad qualities considered critical to managing the Mets, Jeff Torborg “knew how to win,” Al Harazin testified in 1991.

• “I truly believe he is exactly the type of person and personality to lead this organization right now” was Steve Phillps’s 2002 assessment of Art Howe. (Add Fred Wilpon’s incandescent “lit up a room” reference to taste.)

A little foreboding there, but to be fair, you wouldn’t expect “eh, we’ll see” to be the company line between grips and grins…though that was pretty much Sandy Alderson’s take seven years ago when he handed the managerial reins to Terry Collins. Different guy, different times (which applies to every manager and every season). For what it’s worth, Alderson didn’t seem merely resigned to Mickey Callaway. He seemed stoked — or as stoked as Sandy gets in public. He pointed to Mickey’s “professional competence” and “personal excellence,” praising Callaway as a “hard worker,” “collaborative,” “patient but decisive,” and “structural but adaptable”. I’m not sure if this fella is a baseball manager or one of those smart fridges that knows when it’s supposed to order more milk.

By all accounts, Mickey knows how to stock a pitching staff and how to keep it running at the proper temperature. A former pitcher and pitching coach as manager? Revolutionary! Granted, Bamberger was a former pitcher and pitching coach who managed (he was better at the latter in Milwaukee than he was in New York), but it’s still something of a novelty. Keith Hernandez has reinforced the ancient notion night after night that pitchers aren’t really baseball players and barely qualify as human beings. Callaway appears poised to upend that notion. Apparently his personal touch will extend past the rotation and the bullpen. He’s ready to embrace an entire roster of Mets.

In Tennessee tones reminiscent of R.A. Dickey and Tim McCarver, Memphis-born Mickey stressed “care” and “love” regarding how he will relate to his charges. Never mind home runs; HR might now stand for human resources in the Mets clubhouse. The 21st manager the franchise has known may be its first truly 21st-century manager in terms of approach. Analytics are a given. Communications are a priority. Age differences have been collapsed. Mickey is 42. He may be way older than Amed Rosario, but he’s way younger than Terry Collins, plus way determined that the Mets will outstrive their competitors. Nobody won’t believe he doesn’t know from what he speaks when it comes to a winning background. During five years as Indians pitching coach, he helped Terry Francona guide the Tribe into the playoffs three times. They almost won the World Series in 2016. They almost knocked off the Yankees in 2017. Perhaps Callaway has been saving successful completion of those vital tasks for us.

Oh, he already loves us. Mets fans, he told the assembled media at Citi Field, are “the best fans in the world”. The Mets are “one of the greatest baseball organizations in the world”. He’s anointed New York “the greatest city in the world” (deal with it, Cleveland). And while he’s chosen to wear Jerry Koosman’s 36, he paid homage to No. 37, Casey Stengel, for good and personal reason. His brother was named for his earliest predecessor, our first skipper. It’s as if the Callaways were planning for this moment all along. Mickey himself was named after Casey’s center fielder from his previous posting, but we won’t hold that parental impulse against him. We had Willie and the Duke toward the end of their playing careers. We have Mickey beginning something altogether new. May it be Amazin’, Amazin’, Amazin’ for him and for us.

24 comments to All the Way with Callaway

  • Fred Hutchinson did pretty well.

  • Eric

    Doubling down on the staff of aces.

  • Curt

    You touched on my first thought toward the end.

    Good baseball name.

    Such encompasses the entirety of my knowledge of Mickey Calloway. It’s not quite as poetic as Casey but if you’re named Mickey you should be either a baseball player or a boxer.

    Or a member of the Irish mob.

  • UpstateNYMetfan

    We’ve now got a Mickey to add to our Terry, Jerry, Willie, Bobby, Davey, Yogi, and Casey. And lets throw some “Salty” in there too. Regardless of the results, it does seem appropriately ‘Metsian’ to have an “ee” guy to lead the way. I stand with Greg on this one; there’s no reasonable way to construe this negatively. Let’s go, Mickey and the Metsies!

  • Dave

    Curt – based on my grandfather’s, uh, resume, if Mickey is in the Irish mob, that’s not his real name. Grandpa’s birth certificate said George. He was known professionally (if you will) as Mickey.

    We’re up to our ears in feel-good. We don’t get there too often, so let’s enjoy it. As it always does, time will tell, but Callaway seems like a good choice for this time and place in Mets history. First Mets manager younger than me, while 2 members of the presumed starting lineup are younger than my kid. Time doesn’t just tell, it also marches on.

    • Left Coast Jerry

      First Mets manager younger than my kids. The first one younger than me was Bobby Valentine. Rosario is only 5 years older than my oldest granddaughter. Life goes on, and I’m on board with Mickey.

      • DAK442

        I felt old when Tim Wakefield retired (or, I guess, no one wanted him anymore) and I suddenly became older than every major leaguer. This is another indicator of time marching on – I’m older than the Mets manager for the first time ever.

        I’m enthused for this young’un. Better a tyro than some retread. Manny Acta, seriously?

  • chuck

    So is his brother’s name Charles Dillon Callaway? Just curious to see is the parents were specific.

  • Carlos B

    The Mets just slipped us a Mickey. We can all sleep well at night now — at least up until the moment the season starts.

    Let’s Go Mets!!

  • K. Lastima

    There is no reason not to feel good about this hire, and at least we’ll now have a manager that can express his thoughts in coherent sentences rather than sounding like Elmer Fudd.

    Let’s Go Mets!!!

  • Will in Central NJ

    This outside-the-box hiring is very encouraging. Truth be told, when I first heard his name, the picture that popped into my mind was that of former Expo Ron Calloway, a 2005 Spring Training invitee to Port St. Lucie.

    Anyway, we’ll all take time to get to know Mickey Callaway as 2018 arrives and the season’s curtain is raised. Good luck Mickey! Let’s go Mets!

  • SkillSets

    Only Willie Mays can be incandescent, as in the famed History of the Mets VHS from spring 1986 that I still have.

  • (Off-topic)

    Injustice League: Curtis Granderson removed from the Dodgers’ World Series roster, in favor of Brandon McCarthy.

    • Eric

      Turner versus Beltran and McHugh.

      Tough break for Granderson but it’s not unexpected. At least he’s played in the World Series before. It’d be worse if he was left off the active roster as a long-term veteran on the doorstep of his 1st World Series.

  • Eric

    Turner’s game-winning HR in WS game 1 was a frustrating twist. The Mets have a glaring hole at 3B and Turner promptly turned into a clutch-hitting MVP-caliber 3rd baseman upon being let go from the Mets. And of course, there’s MVP-caliber Murphy in DC, who’s better at 3B than 2B.

    I expect that if/when Flores and TJ Rivera go to another team, they’ll promptly transform into elite hitters, too.

    • Yeah, I’m beginning to think this sort of suffering is part of being a Met’s fan. I sat through a feature on NPR today that focused on Turner and everything he did to become the great player he is today, w/ all the details of adjusting his swing, etc. Why can’t one of the guys on the Met’s roster “adjust” their swing? They make it sound so easy. Of course they had to mention that he was let go of by the Mets in 2014 (just to rub it in). It’s not like we need talent at 3rd base, or a reliable hitter, etc….

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Somebody had to do it.

  • K. Lastima

    31 years ago tonight:

    Even if Buckner fielded it clean, the inning would have continued with Knight on 3rd and Mookie on 1st because there’s no way that Stanley was beating Mookie to the bag for the toss from Buckner. I think HoJo was on deck, interesting “what if” but I’m glad we’ll never know what if.

  • eric1973

    Hey, just watched that Mookie/Buckner clip, and Seaver’s got a big fat closeup right there at the beginning of it. Funny thing is, I do not recall anyone making a big deal of Seaver being in the other dugout —– at SHEA—- during the WS. Thinking of that now, it is quite unbelievable, shocking, and a very big deal, even though he was inactive. And it was only 13 years after 1973. In our youth, that was an eternity, but now, it is just a blip away from 2005.

  • Speaking of managers…

    Gentlemen, I say ye Joe Girardi.

    • Eric

      If Callaway is shopping for an experienced 2nd-in-command bench coach who maybe would like to stay in town and stay active in ML baseball while decompressing from the manager’s hot seat for a year or two, Girardi could be that man.

  • 9th string catcher

    I think Girardi is a very accomplished and capable manager. One of the most talented in MLB. But oh my god, I couldn’t live with all that micro-managing/6 relievers per game/annoying press conference baggage that comes with it. Like chewing tin foil.

    It’s amazing – very successful manager, almost never missed the playoffs in 10 years, brought a team from afterthought almost to the World Series and the guy gets fired. They must HATE him in Yankeeland.

    • chuck

      I guess “annoying press conference baggage” is more printable.

      Let him go manage as far away from here as possible. I’ll look forward to hating on the next poor schmuck.