The last resort for a major league manager is that dreaded and rarely successful team meeting that is called when a struggling team hits bottom. Mickey Callaway hit the panic button following a Friday night loss to the Chicago Cubs. Luckily, a fly on the wall was present…
Usually, big league managers use their coaching staff in private meetings as a forum for venting when things go south. Occasionally, and this was particularly true of Mickey Callaway’s predecessor, Terry Collins, the media is chosen as a gathering place to vent frustration.
Rarely, however, does a manager call a meeting of his players to sound a warning bell. And it’s even more unusual for a rookie manager with two months on the job to take such a risky step. Mickey Callaway did, though, and with these Mets, it’s questionable if the risk was worth the possible rewards.
For a manager to hold a team meeting in the clubhouse, the player’s territory is a risky business, to begin with. The trouble is, of course, most ballparks don’t come equipped with a conference room large enough to hold 25 players plus coaches.
Off to a bad start already, Callaway, it can be imagined, looked around the room to find several players in the midst of getting dressed, two or three others gulping down the remains of a sandwich taken from the postgame spread. Others are struggling to find the mute button on their cell phone or finishing a half-written text to their wife, and two others standing near the door having failed to make a quick getaway, but sure to be the first ones out the door the second this charade is over.
Still, Callaway tries to collect his thoughts. The main problem he faces, though, is how to deliver a positive spanking to his unruly children. He’s rehearsed the speech for at least a couple of days, and he knows he wants to spark the team without dousing the fire with gasoline or drowning it with water.
He knows too that of the 25 men assembled in the room, he is addressing a small handful, while the others are forced to sit there and take it because they have done nothing wrong, and are still giving it their all. So, Callaway finds Jacob deGrom, giving him a wink that says, “This has nothing to do with you.”
But he called this meeting, and he has to go through with it, even though his brain is still telling Callaway that maybe he should have summoned that “handful” into his office one at a time for a good talking to.
Without naming names, Callaway begins by telling the team it is playing sloppy baseball and we’re not gonna take it anymore. For emphasis, he points to the missed cutoff man leading to runs scored by the opposition. A muffled cough can be heard coming from the direction of Michael Conforto‘s locker.
Callaway then launches into a “discussion” about injuries, a misnomer, though, because he’s the only one talking. Not realizing that the players he is speaking of are on the DL already and not with the team, Callaway plods forward anyway with a direct hit on Yoenis Cespedes, and the need for this highly paid player to make an appearance in the Mets lineup, sooner rather than later.
Cespedes being Cespedes does not retaliate because he is either gloating or brooding somewhere at an unknown location, and hasn’t spoken one word to the media since the day he went on the DL. So, that’s a dead end for Callaway.
Concluding the meeting as all meetings of any kind do, Callaway then asks if anyone in the room has anything to say, speak now. No one in the room moves, except for one smart-ass in the room who snickers under his breath, “David, where art thou?”.
“Okay then, let’s go out there and win one today”, Callaway is heard saying as the card game resumes and the music is turned back on.
Fittingly, the jury came back with a decision on Callaway’s revered communication skills, and this time it took the Mets fourteen innings and eight pitchers to lose again to the Cubs on Saturday. It was another wasted effort by deGrom, who went seven innings surrendering only one run and throwing a mind-boggling 86 of his 116 pitches for strikes.
I know, I know. It’s only one game. But has anyone noticed these games keep adding up, and the team has yet to respond to what they see happening? Professional ballplayers do not need anyone to tell them they suck. Conforto knows he sucks, and he was correctly called out for his loss of consciousness in missing that cutoff man.
But Conforto is not a dog. Callaway does know who the dogs are, though. And just as he was putting his team on notice, he should look in the mirror and put himself on notice as well. That is if anyone in the front office cared.
These Mets are as dismal as a team can get. And as one reader suggested in a comment the other day, the Mets need to make a statement. And maybe the best place to start is by releasing Jose Reyes and following that up a day later by releasing Jose Bautista.
You get tired of hearing me say it and I get tired of writing it, but the Mets need to shake this thing up. Now, not tomorrow.