Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, Syracuse, NY 3/26/2019 (Photo: Steve Contursi, Reflections On Baseball)

Brodie Van Wagenen Makes It Clear To Callaway – We Decide, You Don’t

On Monday night, Mets GM, Brodie Van Wagenen made it clear to Mickey Callaway that some things are “organization decisions”…

Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets highly charged General Manager, did something unusual and telling regarding the Mets decision-making process when he revealed in a press conference following Monday night’s Mets win over the Phillies that he, not Mets manager, Mickey Callaway, is calling the shots regarding the usage of All-Star closer Edwin Diaz.

Some Background…

To explain the significance, there was a critical point in Monday’s game when the Mets held a slim one-run lead with the Phillies batting in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and the bases loaded. Jeurys Familia had been unable to find the plate, and it was clear he needed to be taken out.

Mickey Callaway, New York Mets Manager (Photo: New York Post)
Mickey Callaway, New York Mets Manager (Photo: New York Post)

Edwin Diaz had been up two or three times (wasting energy and pitches), prior to and while Familia was self-combusting. The baseball “head”, and Callaway has one, says this is the turning point of the game. Bring in the best you have (Diaz), record an out, and then make the decision whether or not to send Diaz back for a four-out save in the ninth inning.

Not to be. Callaway called for Robert Gsellman, who promptly issued another walk, tying the game which the Mets eventually won in extra-innings with Diaz recording the one-inning save by striking out the heart of the Phillies batting order. (Video)

Van Wagenen: How Deep Do These Orders Go?

So much for the play-by-play. The real story is what followed the game when Van Wagenen revealed that it’s a Mets “organizational decision” not to use Edwin Diaz for more than one inning or three outs. Callaway, who preceded Van Wagenen to the microphones, had been forcefully grilled by the media, who wanted to know, “Why not Diaz with the game on the line?”.

To his credit, Van Wagenen took the responsibility in saying (effectively) – Sorry, but this is the way it’s going to be. Callaway followed his orders and this time there were sugarplums dancing in everyone’s head as the Mets beat Bryce Harper and the Phillies in their own ballpark to move to 10-6 on the season.

But what’s interesting and what we all want to know is how deep this “organization decisions” thing goes. Does Mickey Callaway consult with Van Wagenen or his designee before he fills out the lineup card for tonight’s game?

How about the move with Brandon Nimmo, batting him eighth in the order and not in his normal lead-off position. Was that an “organization decision”? Or, what about the time when Jeff McNeil gets a seat on the bench following a game in which he had three hits ina Mets win? Who made that decision?

Mickey Callaway: I’ll Be Your Huckleberry

Look, Mickey Callaway has a three-year guaranteed contract signed by Fred Wilpon through 2020 with an option for 2021. What its value is (and Lord knows I looked), it’s certainly more money than he dreamed he could possibly make when he was a pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians.

Dost though protest too much? Probably not, but at the same time, these orders from above have to be eating at him. At the same time, though, Callaway does not write the checks paying Diaz his salary, nor is he directly responsible for protecting the investment the Mets have in Diaz’s future.

One thing is for sure. Those two black legal binders Callaway took to his interviews with the Mets before earning the job – the ones he had spent years cultivating managerial ideas – they’re long gone or at least buried in a closet at Callaway’s home, only to be re-opened when he gets his next job as a manager.

It’s the way of the baseball world today. Dave Roberts, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who took his team to the World Series last year, was constantly harangued about his “choice” of lineups, even though the Analytics Gurus were working the background pulling the strings.

Who Took The Bomp From The Baseball Bompshebompshebomp?

Mickey Callaway is the “man on duty”, in the dugout surrounded by his players and coaching confidants. In theory, he develops a “feel” for each game the Mets play. He overhears comments and outbursts from players along the way. As a former pitching coach, he “sees” what opposing pitchers are doing on any given night.

Wally Backman and Terry Collins 2012, Photo Credit: Reuters
Wally Backman and Terry Collins 2012, Photo Credit: Reuters

In short, he is or should be the “pulse” of the game as it unfolds. Billy Martin, Buck Showalter, Bobby Cox, Terry Collins (right), and a string of others managed by the seat of their pants successfully – for years. Their “gut”, together with years of experience covering a myriad of circumstances dictated the moves they made, dependant on a given situation.

Regrettably, that part of baseball is disappearing in favor of the “law of averages”, calculated to within one-hundredth of one percent, by computers never touched by a human hand except to hit the “Enter” key. Spit it out, grab it, rush it to the dugout…

Brodie Van Wagenen – A Man With Kazunas

Brodie Van Wagenen is a man consumed with his job, which right away takes him to another level beyond what the Mets were used to over the last few years.

Van Wagenen, if he were running a “normal” business, would be known as a micro-manager, involved in every facet of his company.

He’s on trial at the moment, and no one is right to make yes or no judgments about his job performance now or in the foreseeable future.

Still, there is good reason to at least ask the question – did Brodie Van Wagenen, due to a pre-conceived plan regarding the usage of Edwin Diaz, forget the fact that games played in April count the same as those played in September – when it is likely the ban will be lifted?

The Mets, with their victory, made the question a “push” for the moment. But this is definitely a story to be labeled as TBD…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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