Whether or not it’s fair the Mets fired Mickey Callaway on Thursday is irrelevant. As Clint Eastwood would say in a movie, fairness has nothing to do with it.
Only question should be this: Who will the Mets hire next?
If they hire a manager that Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and the Wilpons control, then firing Callaway makes this pointless.
Joe Girardi should be the only choice for this job. If he does not want the job, then the Mets should go after Buck Showalter, Mike Scioscia, Ron Washington or Bruce Bochy as the next manager. Guys learning on the job should not apply, even though they will get more consideration than the established, successful managers, which would be a joke.
The Mets wasted great seasons from Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso this season. Hard to celebrate deGrom’s Cy Young season and Alonso breaking the Major League record of most home runs as a rookie and breaking single-season franchise-high for home runs when the Mets missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
It wasn’t fun watching the Milwaukee Brewers choke a 3-1 lead against the Washington Nationals in the wild-card game on Tuesday night when Josh Hader couldn’t close it out and Trent Grisham bobbled the ball that had the Nationals score three runs in the eighth inning. That error played a role in the Nationals winning the game.
Imagine deGrom pitching that game against the Nationals. The Mets lost a wild-card spot to the Brewers. I give the Mets a 95 percent chance to beat the Nationals because deGrom can go eight or even nine to win that game. Milwaukee tried to bullpen its way to a victory until Hader lost it in the eighth. It shows the value of a great starter here since he can go as deep as he can to win it.
Just seeing what could have been makes this season disappointing, and that’s why Callaway lost his job in the end. His mismanaging cost the Mets games where they missed the playoffs. One of them turned out to be the game against the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 15, which he decided to take Steven Matz out of the game with the Mets leading 2-1 despite cruising along with 79 pitches. He used Seth Lugo in the seventh inning to protect the lead, which looks good, but he blew it as the Braves scored five runs in that inning en route to a 6-4 victory. It did not make sense to take out a starter who the team couldn’t even hit. Why change something when it’s not broken?
Callaway struggled to have a feel for the game when it came to not knowing when to take a starter or reliever out or not. Maybe he could have gotten better with experience, but the Mets felt they could not try it again for the third season.
Based on that premise, it would behoove the Mets to hire Girardi.
If they hire Astros bench coach Joe Espada, MLB Network analyst Mark DeRosa or Cubs bench Mark Loretta or whoever that the Wilpons and Van Wagenen control, then what was the purpose of firing Callaway? Those guys would be on a learning curve, and the Mets been there and done that with Callaway. It wouldn’t be fair for deGrom, Alonso, Jeff McNeil and many other guys on the Mets roster to be saddled with a manager learning on the job.
Yes, we saw managers such as Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli flourishing in his first year at the job, but the Mets can’t take that risk. In Baldelli’s case, no one knew the Twins would contend, so he had no pressure. The Mets don’t have that room for error. Not when a team is absent in the playoffs three years and counting.
For anyone that talks about Aaron Boone doing well as a Yankees manager, let me ask you this: Does he really manage? Anyone can manage a team and look good with the Yankees roster that created a proper culture over the years, not to mention working with a $210 million payroll. I couldn’t screw it up, and neither could you. The Mets don’t have that luxury since they don’t have veterans that can police themselves and young players on the team.
I get it. General managers and managers collaborate more than ever, and that has become the norm where managers really don’t manage. But the Mets can’t go there. They don’t have the infrastructure to make this work. What they need is a manager that knows how it’s done.
Girardi makes sense in so many ways. He is a great tactician in a sense he knows how to manage a bullpen, and that’s an important trait in managing a game. It was something Callaway failed to grasp, and it’s doubtful a manager learning on the job can do that. The former Yankees manager knows how to maximize the most of his roster. His work means 10 more wins, and that becomes the difference of being a playoff team and a nonparticipant.
In a division that features the talented Atlanta Braves, pitching-rich Washington Nationals and offensive-laded Philadelphia Phillies team, the Mets can’t afford to hire a manager learning on the job. If they are not sold on Girardi or an accomplished manager, they were better off keeping Callaway and hope he got better.
The Mets expressed disappointment in missing the postseason as their reasoning to fire Callaway. The Wilpons and Van Wagnen have every right to feel that way, but this would be a dog-and-pony show if they don’t back it up with their actions by not hiring an established manager.
Girardi can be high maintenance, but guess what? So are successful managers. He earned that right with his accomplishments as a manager.
The Mets can’t be cheap now with their manager. The owner and general manager shouldn’t be worrying about who they are comfortable with. With a starting rotation, lineup and bullpen, the Mets can win with the right manager.
After a wasted opportunity to play in October this year, the Mets can’t screw this up.
Or else firing Callaway would be a mistake.