Mickey Callaway & Brodie Van Wagenen - Ne'er the twain shall meet (Photo: New York Post)

Mickey Callaway: Saddle-Up, Brodie Has Your Ticket Printed

The Mets, as currently constructed, do not have the makings of a Division winner in the NL East. The solution, and hiding in plain sight – Mickey Callaway…

It’s early May and the Mets have been unable to play .600 baseball that would place them above the Phillies and Braves in the NL East. Instead, they are wallowing four games out of first place with six teams (count them) ahead of them in the Wild Card standings.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way and while the Mets were never touted to be a team that ranked with the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees, their starting pitching was designed to keep them in the forefront of the 2019 season, and perhaps even beyond.

Instead, the Mets currently rank 12th out of fifteen teams in pitching with a gaudy 4.67 ERA. Jacob deGrom will not win a Cy Young this year, Noah Syndergaard needs to pump himself up with a “That’s enough” speech to himself to pitch a game he is capable of, only to follow up with yet another pedestrian outing against the Padres.

Steve Matz, New York Mets Starting Pitcher Photo Credit: New York Daily News
Steve Matz, New York Mets Starting Pitcher Photo Credit: New York Daily News

Steven Matz goes down with a missed start and yet another possible trip to the IL with forearm troubles again, while Jason Vargas can’t get out of his own way past the fourth inning…this is a pitching staff in shambles, and there is no help on the horizon internally, leaving only a retread purchased from the outside, Wilmer Font, to start yesterday’s game in San Diego.

The Mets team hitting remains in the middle of the NL pack, but it always a challenge when your team is giving up five runs a game.

Pete Alonso is proving to be everything he was touted to be, but the undercurrent of Michael Conforto‘s less than “breakout season”, together with Brandon Nimmo‘s fall into the abyss, has left Jeff McNeil as a one-man constant in the Mets lineup.

Mets 2018 Deja Vu All Over Again…

It ain’t over til it’s over, and we’ve barely turned the calendar to May, but Mets fans are already (as they should be) wondering if this is the beginning of a short term slide, or a repeat of last season when the Mets disappeared from contention never to be heard from again?

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

The Mets are not bad, they’re just not good enough in a season where their division is up for grabs, uniquely designed for the team that can spin off a streak that ultimately separates them from the pack.

Using scapegoats to correct the problems? Sure, Mickey Callaway is first up as low picking fruit if GM Brodie Van Wagenen wants to go that way. Callaway, if you recall, was given that ominous “vote of confidence” prior to the starts of the 2019 season…

At some point, Van Wagenen will be bringing in the manager of his choice, but the timing seems a bit awkward now, even though in the short term, some Mets fans would be appeased and appreciative. Besides, it’s not that Callaway does much that is wrong, it’s more that he doesn’t do anything as a contributor to making the team better. Which brings us this crucial question – would Callaway do more if given the leeway to do so?

Mets Upheaval On The Way

Brodie Van Wagenen has made the point on more than one occasion that he works for the players, they don’t work for him. He wants a touchy-feely presence whenever he walks through the clubhouse as someone his players can talk to and voice their concerns.

All fine and dandy except that right now his players aren’t working for him or anyone else. As they say, you are what your numbers say you are – as a team and individually. Mickey Callaway, on the other hand, has a different mantra he projects, which says you will be held accountable for your performance on the field.

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

Obviously, there’s a conflict between the two, and though it hasn’t yet forced its way to the surface publicly, it’s only a matter of time before Callaway has a Terry Collins like explosion during a post-game press conference.

When that happens, the door is open for Van Wagenen to portray Callaway as “disgruntled”, forcing him to make a change “for the betterment of the team”. You know how it goes…

Who’s the Next Scapegoat?

Brodie, always looking ahead, took cover during the offseason when he hired Jim Riggleman as Mickey Callaway’s bench coach. Going internal when a manager is fired is always the least upsetting to the affected as Riggleman would be a known quantity.

Wally Backman, Manager, Long Island Ducks Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato
Wally Backman, Manager, Long Island Ducks Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

Van Wagenen also could snare Wally Backman from the independent Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks. Selfishly, Brodie would calm down a good portion of the Mets fan base, which has been lobbying for Backman every time an opening arises. But, as this column has noted, Wally Backman is an old-school in your face type person and manager, putting him in the range of Brodie’s touchy-feely best approach in the future.

Joe Girardi? Same as Backman in style but with more polish and experience. We might as well stop the game of guessing though. Brodie will select his man and that will be that.

Make no mistake, Brodie Van Wagenen, unlike his predecessor, Sandy Alderson, is a one-man gang, commonly referred to in the business world as a hands-on manager. To his credit, however, he does not shrink from taking responsibility for the personnel moves he makes.

Regrettably, many of the moves he’s made are blowing up in his face. With the lone exception of Edwin Diaz, his offseason acquisitions, including Jeurys Familia, Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie, Robinson Cano, and Jason Vargas are not producing as hoped/expected they would.

A Familiar Baseball Story

What does a General Manager do when he can’t replace non-producing players internally or through trades? His choices are limited, but he does have choices…

He can hold the line and do nothing, hoping for the best. He can make a splash with a blockbuster trade that puts the entire team on notice that no one is safe (think – trading Noah Syndergaard). Or, he can take the easy way out by firing the manager.

For Brodie Van Wagenen, door number three seems most likely…

 

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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