Buck Showalter on managing the Mets: 'It's about winning baseball games'
Buck Showalter ended his introductory Zoom news conference on Tuesday by saying, "Let’s Go Mets. Let’s Go."
There’s no doubt the new Mets manager wants to hit the ground running after three seasons out of the dugout. But with the MLB lockout in full force, Showalter is forbidden to talk to — or even about — his new players.
So there were no questions or answers about Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom or Pete Alonso or any of the other locked-out Mets. MLB does not want its management folk to utter the names of players during the lockout, which is silly but is also less important than the fact that Showalter cannot reach out to and introduce himself to the Mets players he is going to manage whenever the lockout ends.
At least every team is in the same boat, Showalter pointed out, and the Mets do have some work to do because they have only one coach under contract in pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.
Showalter said he talked to Hefner for more than an hour on the phone on Monday and is looking forward to more such conversations. Once a complete coaching staff is hired, Showalter can spend hours on the phone with them, too.
Showalter, 65, was hired by the Mets over the weekend and signed a three-year deal. He has 20 years of experience in the dugout, beginning with the Yankees in 1992 and ending with the Orioles in 2018. He is a three-time Manager of the Year.
"There's no magic sprinkle dust," Showalter said. "It's about winning baseball games."
Universally acknowledged as a brilliant baseball mind, Showalter apparently had to overcome a well-earned perception that he is a control freak in order to get the job. Managers nowadays are expected to collaborate with the front office and the analytics staff and the performance staff, and because there were no players to talk about on Tuesday, Showalter spent a lot of time talking up his love of data and collaboration.
In a phrasing that was probably the most memorable of the hour-long news conference, Showalter declared himself "spongeful" when it comes to accepting and using data.
"I have always been very spongeful with information, to a fault," he said. "And just like everybody else, I don't have a corner on it. There's a lot of smart people in this game. But if you think that I'm going to let somebody beat us by having better analytical information or because someone on the staff doesn't understand it and I’m not going to talk about it, we'll show you."
Later, Showalter said: "I think collaboration is a great word. It's not a new word in the language. The great organizations almost in any sport have a real connectivity between the general manager, the field staff and ownership. It's something I know it's not going to be a challenge here."
Even later, though, Showalter said he s sees his job as being "about what do the players need from me? Without naming names, because I know the situation we’re in with that, it’s trying to bring what a player needs and trying to evaluate what they need . . . and that's the end game. The game is about the players. It's about creating an environment that makes their skills come to the top and being proactive with things before you have to react to them. To have your finger on the pulse of things in there. And it's about who the players want to be. Who do we want to be? What do we want to be about?"
Of course, all Mets fans are asking Showalter to be about is getting to and winning a World Series, something he didn’t do in his first four stops. They aren’t as interested in how the sausage gets made. Showalter said the chance to win a World Series – or maybe more than one – is one of the reasons why he wanted this job.
"You’d like that always to be the end game," he said. "It's not something that is going to define my life. But I’ll tell you this – it does wake me up every day now . . obviously, winning the World Series is why when [the Mets] asked me, ‘Why would I want to do this again?’ That's the quick answer. To be the last team standing."