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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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Thataway for Callaway

It’s October of 2017. Mickey Callaway, Cleveland Indians pitching coach and universally regarded hot managerial prospect, has been scooped up by the New York Mets to serve as the franchise’s first new skipper since Terry Collins took over seven years before. He’ll be a breath of fresh air, we were told. He’s analytically savvy, we were told. He communicates brilliantly, we surmised.

It’s April of 2018. Mickey Callaway has the Mets at 11-1, 12-2. The Mets have never been 11-1 or 12-2. This guy really does know what he’s doing, it was fair of us to say.

It’s September of 2019. Mickey Callaway has brought the Mets home on an incredibly strong second half. They won 46 of their final 71 games. They contended for the playoffs. They nurtured several key players who came up to stay under Callaway. We as Mets fans finished the season far more excited about starting the next season than we were when the Mets finished their last season before Callaway.

It’s October of 2019. Mickey Callaway has been “relieved of his duties,” as a press release that praises him for his “consistent work ethic and dedication” puts it. The hot start of 2018 and the sizzling second half of 2019 are not specifically mentioned. Nor, out of politeness and human resources protocol, are the chunks of Callaway’s tenure that can’t be cherry-picked and held at a favorable angle to make them look sharp.

Mickey Callaway’s Mets of 2018 and 2019 won a couple more games than they lost overall. They featured the consensus best pitcher in the National League across that two-year span and the most momentous rookie season the franchise has ever seen in the second year. They also encompassed a ballclub that evinced enthusiasm in every way that seemed to matter. “Never say die” wasn’t merely a cliché with Callaway’s teams. They refused to give up even when their fans gave up on them multiple times.

Ownership, management, whoever makes the decisions gave up on Callaway. We gave up on Callaway. We acknowledge the positive results around Callaway while not losing sight that even with a composite record above .500, the overall picture never seemed particularly positive. Mickey could be positive. He projected a relentlessly positive attitude, which is probably more important than we realize. He also endured difficulties with the nuts-and-bolts aspects of managing baseball games, which was probably more important than those who signed off on his hiring in October of 2017 realized. He was a disaster explaining ballgames. Also important. You manage people, you manage games, you manage expectations. You gotta do all of it pretty well to manage a third season when neither of your first two seasons yielded the fully desired results. Great moments, great segments, yes, but without promise that what was lacking was going to be filled in adequately to advance.

As a human being, I’m sorry to see Mickey Callaway relieved of his duties. As a human being, I’m sorry to see most people relieved of their duties. As a Mets fan, I appreciate the good parts but can’t shake the overwhelming effect of the less good parts. Nether could those making the decisions.

In October of 2019, the Mets are again looking for a manager. Good luck to all of us again.

31 comments to Thataway for Callaway

  • Inside Pitcher


  • You’re the Johnny Lightening of Metly writing :)

  • chuck

    Early noise has Maddon, Girardi and Showalter under consideration. Showalter, I doubt. Girardi, oh please, no. Maddon, I have to believe going to Anaheim.

    Hey Greg, apply for the job. You know more about this organization than anyone I can imagine.

  • Dave

    Eh. We won’t have a side by side comparison of Callaway and his successor because the new manager’s hiring will take place shortly before personnel moves happen, so the 2020 roster won’t be the same as the 2019 roster. And it also feels a little odd that we end the season feeling optimistic only to see the manager fired days later.

    I think we’re seeing fewer decisions coming from the dugout, made by a baseball lifer, and more in an office suite by a slickly dressed executive with an MBA from an elite school. So while Mickey wasn’t brilliant, I’m not sold that the next guy changes our fortunes much. Mickey didn’t trade our best prospects for the second comings of Carlos Baerga and Braden Looper. Mickey didn’t sign Familia for $30M worth of a role he never did well in, ever (at his best, good closer, terrible when not earning a save).

    Time, as it always does, will tell.

  • eric1973

    Couldn’t take that ‘happy talk’ any longer. You cannot be so happy after every loss (well, except for that one in Chicago). We have a really good team, and it should have been better the first half.

    Luis Rojas is actually Luis Alou, and he is Felipe’s son, so good bloodlines there. I would love to see Showalter, but it will probably be some no-name who will gladly take all of Brodie’s calls in the dugout.

    At least we are firing a guy who was managing a good team on the rise, rather than one that is terrible.

    It was his own fault, in the end.

  • 9th String Catcher

    I’m surprisingly torn on this one. I mean, he was an exhausting, mistake-prone guy. I think his overall affect on the team was negligible at best, and disastrous at it’s worst. But I do wonder if he was starting to get the hang of it. And, while I advocated for Girardi a while back, I hope it’s not going to sour the joie de vie of the team. These guys gave their all for 162 games – hopefully the clubhouse, and the performances by extension, aren’t going to suffer from it.

    But I am happy not to have to hear him drone on about the guys “grindin’ it out”.

  • LeClerc

    Here’s a team with a roster that includes: Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, McNeil, Alonso, J.D. Davis, Dom Smith, DeGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Lugo, Gsellman, and Wilson. Playoff caliber players.

    They need a playoff caliber skipper.

  • mikeL

    well now’s the time to be careful what i (and multitudes) wished for.

    mickey was in a tough spot working under the wilpons and the agent van GM. and for that, and in spite of his obvious shortcomiings my feelings are mixed today.

    under him the mets players never gave up and save some personal catcher issues, the team maintained a very unified public front as the bullpen (and mickey’s in-game decisions) cost so very many wins.

    here’s hoping his successor can keep the good vibes going in the clubhouse and on the field – and that we don’t come to miss whatever the ‘it’ was that mickey’s presence fostered.

    damn, this would have all been much easier had the mets just split that weekend in those atrocious white unis!

    • 9th String Catcher

      Yeah, that’s the problem I’m having. They did have a pretty phenomenal 2nd half with almost no bullpen and starters that almost never go past 7 innings. I hope Bromaster Flash knows what he’s doing. I mean, if we end up with Matt Methany or David Price, it will be a disaster.

  • open the gates

    Yeah, also torn feelings here. I think Mickey was in over his head purely regarding logistics and in-game decisions. On the other hand, he was saddled with perhaps the worst bullpen I ever remember the Mets having (and that’s really saying something) in an era where bullpens are really important. And, with one exception, he seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. I wish him luck wherever he goes, and frankly, if he doesn’t catch on elsewhere as a manager, the Mets could do worse than installing him as the pitching coach they’ll probably need next year.

    As for his replacement, here’s an in-house suggestion. There’s this minor league manager who won a championship for them this year in Brooklyn. Guy named Edgardo Alfonso. The name might ring a bell.

  • Steve D

    In the past, I have strongly advised hiring Joe Girardi and I still do. Even more important…please, please don’t hire Maddon. Last year, in the middle of a pennant race, he sent his closer Strop to bat with the bases loaded in the 10th inning, after he had already thrown 1 2/3 innings. He promptly hit into a double play and pulled his hammy. The worst managerial decision I have ever witnessed.

  • eric1973

    Very strange how none of the players stepped up to defend Mickey toward the end of the season. Blabbermouths like Alonso, JD Davis, and Todd Frasier, who would appear at the opening of an envelope, did not take a single second to say that this is a great leader, and I would run through a wall for him.

    He let Cano get away with not hustling, until when he finally benched him, Cano said that it had nothing to do with a lack of hustle. Even Mickey gave that as only the third reason.

    Thor continually undermined him, while hurting his own cause as well, saying that his relationship with the Wilpons and Brodie was very good, and nary a mention of the manager.

    Ultimately, he stuck with Diaz and Familia a month longer than he should have, losing an extraordinary amount of extra games, due to his stubborness. For a former pitching coach, he badly misread the talents of Seth Lugo.

    The day he was hired, I said he was a phony who appeared more comfortable behind a desk than in a locker room. After you shook his hand, you had to count your fingers.

    Still, I have no ill will towards him, and I hope he gets one of the 6 jobs available. He probably will, as his record was over .500, and not many managers can say that.

  • open the gates

    By the way, Greg, as opposed to your very nuanced take on the Callaway firing, USA Today ran an opinion piece that Mickey was fired despite 86 wins because the Mets brass now has a “World Series Or Die” mentality and has become a reincarnation of the George Steinbrenner Yankees. Now I’m not a big fan of the Wilpons, but anyone who has followed this team even slightly knows how ridiculous that assertion is. Not all 86 win campaigns are created equal. Mickey had to go.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Though hardly seen as a paragon of managerial strategy, one quote from Willie Randolph has always stuck with me: “When you have your boot on the opponents’ throat, you gotta press down.” Sadly, Willie’s strategies didn’t always do that. Neither did Mickey’s. Time to look forward and build for what should be a fascinating 2020.

    • 9th String Catcher

      Excellent point. We haven’t had a real shut-down manager since Davey Johnson. Would love to see someone manage with the killer instinct.

      • open the gates

        One other thing about Davey is that he wasn’t afraid to stand up to the brass if he disagreed with them. At the end of ’83, Cashen and Co. would have been fine going the next couple of years with Seaver, Torrez, Craig Swan etc in the rotation, and leaving Gooden and Darling to “develop” another few years. Davey fought them on that successfully. He fought to bring up guys like Dykstra and Backman. Whoever comes in, he needs to be willing to go head to head with the wonks on personnel decisions. And not take in game phone calls from the GM.

  • 9th String Catcher

    The Washington horror show was a perfect example. They had the team dead to rights and let them back in by bringing in a parade of terrible relief.

  • Daniel Hall

    That Rene Rivera at-bat in the sixth with three on, two outs, a struggling Syndergaard on deck, and a multitude of options in September ultimately proves that this guy didn’t have the faintest whiff what he was doing; the (about) last major oopsie in two years full of them. Yeah, people being relieved of their duty is not pretty. But some people should not have been put in charge of big red buttons to begin with.

    My only regret is that the Mets cartoonish GM hasn’t been shown the same door in one scoop.

    • 9th string catcher

      Thanks for the reminder, Daniel. He was pretty incompetent wth in game decisions, even to the very end. And someone else noted how none of the players seemed to protest the move.

  • eric1973

    Well….. Under Sandy and the 3 headed monster, they all thought Pete Alonso was not of major league caliber. Brodie did.

    Brodie acquired JD Davis, who was simply phenomenal. He also acquired Edwin Diaz, who appeared to be a great acquisition, though it also included the ransom to free Robinson Cano, which led to the intermittent play of McNeil at the beginning. So a plus and a minus, even though the results are horrible so far.

    He also got Justin Wilson, who was pretty good when he came back from injury. He also changed pitching coaches, which happened to work wonders.

    He signed Ramos, which appeared to be a net positive. And he traded Very Vargas, to sink the Phillies. Excellent move.

    And finally, he fired Mickey and Riggsy, so he cannot be all bad. Let’s see what he comes up with this offseason. I gotta believe.

    • 9th string catcher

      I worry that Brody is all about name brands (Stroman, Familia, Diaz, Ramos) and not pure player evaluation. He’s gotten rid of a lot of young talent, and at some point you can’t trade or sign all of your needs. Indeed, the highest performers this year were players developed through the Mets system. For every JD Davis move, you have Keon Broxton, Walker Locket, the D’Arnoud debacle and taking on the psychotic Cano contract which no one in their right mind would have done straight up let alone giving up budding stars.

      They gave Mickey two years. I would give Brody the same amount of time to show his competency level.

      • Daniel Hall

        He has already wrecked the Mets’ payroll budget for five years, and you really want to give him a chance to tack on another five? :-P

  • eric1973

    Really Bad Brodie move was signing Familia for the 30 mil. Familia was already through when we got rid of him the first time. A very lazy move.

    He put all his chips on Diaz in that trade, that part of it being a good idea at the time, and remember, he also dumped Jay Bruce’s bad contract, and Swarzak, in that trade.

  • Eric

    Wandering off topic, but I just want to thank you (Greg) and Jason for another season of enriching my experience as a Mets fan with this blog.

  • Mike

    I think Callaway was an excellent manager.The first year we had injuries and this year we had a relief and closer problem. Yet he held team together and we had a great 2nd half. If a well known Manager made some “small errors” with calls you would think nothing of them. I think he will be a great manager one day.

  • Thanks for this piece that nicely sums up the end of the Callaway era. I’m not happy to see him go, but I wouldn’t be happy to have him stay. I do wonder how much of an impact his attitude (relentlessly positive) had on this bunch of young, enthusiastic players in the second half. As for the first half, yeah, a more experienced manager probably would have given us a few more wins, but when major league relief pitchers don’t do their jobs (en masse), it’s hard to put that on the manager (maybe the pitching coach should have gone sooner). And when major league hitters don’t generate runs, well, they’re not doing their jobs too well either.

    With that, I really hope they can hire someone to manage in 2020 that doesn’t cause too much head scratching and speculating about why it might be a good decision (“well, he sold thousands of hot dogs, and always had an eye on the game, giving him a unique perspective” etc.).

  • greensleeves

    And of Mickey’s right hand–Riggleman? No wiggle room.

  • mikeL

    i’ll just add : i usually enjoy the mlb post-season in general on those years when the mets aren’t there (ie. most of them).
    this year i’m less engaged than usual for the obvious reason that the mets really * should * have been there this year…still hoping/believing until mathematical elimination – which of course typically comes much earlier, itself well after any hopes for contention have faded.

    seasons like this typically preceed winning campaigns…so Brodie: don’t mess this up!

    thank you and LGM!

  • mikeL

    …tampa bay are my surrogate mets. standing strong againt the AL first seed, and with travis behind the plate. driving in a run and tagging altuve on an amazing bang/bang/bang play without his arm breaking off in the process.
    and for bvw another what if?
    imagine a catching tandem where the better defensive catcher can hit too? that might have been good for 2-4 add’l wins…
    with mickey gone i hope brodie’s thinking about the questionable moves *he’s* made – and learning from them.