For reasons stated here and elsewhere, the New York Mets have not shined in the way management has responded to the need for bringing in new faces and talented players to the degree Mets fans would like. But the organization did make one move destined to make up for all that…
While Mets players trickle into Spring Training at Port St. Lucie to begin their contractual season of work, there’s one man in the organization who, I would be surprised to learn, has had no more than Thanksgiving and Christmas off since his hiring as the manager of the Mets on October 22, 2017.
That man, of course, is Mickey Callaway who came out of nowhere to land the job vacated by Terry Collins. Unseasoned and untested even at the lowest levels of baseball, Callaway will have the day-to-day job of taking the Mets beyond the disillusionment that has settled in the with the fanbase of loyal fans the Mets are fortunate to have.
Callaway is a different sort, though. And he reminds me of another Midwesterner, this time from the state of Minnesota who descended on New York City with a headful of ideas just waiting for the chance to seed and bloom those ideas into fruition. Bob Dylan translated those ideas into a catalog of unparalleled and far-reaching songs, leading Baby Boomers through a decade of change in the 1960’s. Callaway is charged with driving Mets fans throughout the remainder of this decade.
Mickey Callaway has a headful of ideas, too. And as in the case of Dylan, they’ll be coming fast and furious. How’s this for openers?
Did you hear that? Mickey Calloway is determined to walk Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Matt Harvey, and all others including position players, though their routine from the moment they arrive at the ballpark to the time they leave. In the same article, Callaway talks about other adjustments, but that’s not where I’m going with this.
Which is, Mickey Callaway has set the gold standard for communication skills required of a manager in the big leagues today with a high-minded, but hopefully a well-received plan of action for the Mets this season.
And that’s because there is a fine line between what Callaway is trying to accomplish with the Mets – which by the way is probably exactly what the team needs – and coming across as the old style “Field General” manager who drew comparisons with the military and how that entity is run.
Ralph Houk and Billy Martin, both former and very successful managers of the Yankees, made no exceptions to their number one rule that it’s my way or the doorway. Houk, in fact, carried on with his association with his military career and was known as “The Major.”
Baseball is in a new era now in which players, by and large, do not take orders. Instead, they consider suggestions, a big difference. Managers, hitting coaches, pitching coaches, and the like make “proposals” to a player. Maybe you should try this instead of what you are doing, or perhaps you should hold your hands a little higher or lower…
Whatever the case may be, though, the player does not comprehend this as an order in the same way, for instance, Ralph Houk told Yogi Berra, “Your catching days are over, you’re my right fielder,” and his future Hall of Famer complied without a whisper. Now, we have Andrew McCutchen spending an entire season down in the dumps, and talking about it because the Pirates believed he had digressed as a center fielder.
Today, a player is more likely to take the “suggestion” back into the video room scouring through at-bats of his testing the new theory versus what he’s always done, and then, if satisfied, reporting back to the requestor, “Okay, let’s give it a try.”
The good news emanating from the Mets camp, so far at least, is that a number of players are responding well to the new approach to everything from Callaway. Here’s Zack Wheeler as an example:
Mickey Callaway has already proven he is anxious and willing to take the brunt of how the Mets season develops. His headful of ideas will not stop flowing, and some changes will lead to other changes. But in the end, it all depends on the choir he is preaching to, the 25 men who report for work over the course of a six-month and 162 game season.
Confidence exudes the man as seen in his opening Spring Training press conference:
So far, so good, though, and if the Mets season ends the way it has begun, a new reason for excitement will be generated, and Mets fans will have reason to rejoice.
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Reflections On Baseball