The critical perspective on the Mets has changed a great deal in the past month.
The team has gone from a bunch of underachievers to a never-say-die contender for the postseason. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen went from maker of bad deals to savvy trade-deadline innovator. Zack Wheeler was transformed from trade bait to rotation essential.
Winning is the tremendous agent of change. But has it changed anything for manager Mickey Callaway?
One thing that’s noticeably different is the calls for his removal have quieted.
Those were loud as June ebbed into July. As the Mets tumbled to 11 games under .500, he was squarely in the crosshairs. His bullpen moves were questionable and unsuccessful. He had an unprofessional clubhouse incident with Newsday beat writer Tim Healey and needed two tries to apologize, and the organization reportedly was not happy with him.
Callaway said Sunday that time was difficult “because my daughters read and were asking me if I was going to get fired,” but he also understood it.
“When things aren’t going good, I should take the fall,” he said. “That’s the role. I knew it coming in. That’s what managers do.”
In only his second year managing, Callaway said sometimes the scrutiny has helped him evolve and get better.
“I like the criticism – sometimes it helps me think out decisions,” he said. “I’ll look at stuff and go, ‘OK, maybe they have a point there,’ and I’ll try to adjust. Other times I look at it and say, ‘They have no idea what they are talking about.’ It’s part of the job here.”
With the Mets 40-50 at the start of the second half in Miami, Van Wagenen was asked about whether Callaway would finish the season, and he replied, “Absolutely.” And for the most part, even when the team didn't perform well, he has seemed to enjoy the support of the players.
During the Mets’ 21-7 run since the All-Star break, Callaway also hasn’t been singled out for any praise. “I don’t think I deserve the credit for what the team has done,” he said.
“The credit goes to the players. I’m glad to wear a bullet for them anytime, but I don’t want credit. I am not trying to do something special for myself. I am trying to do something special with a group of players, and that’s what I will hang my hat on and be proud of at the end.”
It is a little hard to tell whether Callaway’s managing has contributed to the surge. His elevation of J.D. Davis from key reserve to a lineup regular and the increased use of Seth Lugo late in games suggest it is. Of course, he is also the one who let lefty Justin Wilson face righthanded Anthony Rendon and allow a go-ahead homer in Friday’s comeback win over the Nationals. And he banked – very unsuccessfully again – on Edwin Diaz to keep the Mets within one run in Sunday’s 7-4 loss to Washington.
Barring something unforeseen, Callaway will be the Mets' manager for the remainder of 2019. His status for the 2020 season remains undetermined. How the Mets perform in the final 44 games, beginning with Tuesday night's opener of a three-game series in Atlanta, could determine that.
Does he believe the Mets must reach the postseason to earn him a chance to finish next season, the last in his three-year deal? Would he need a playoff run?
“I want this team to go as far as it can possibly go,” Callaway said. “That’s all I am focused on.”
HERE'S THE PITCH
Mound matchups for the three-game set against the Braves
Zach Wheeler 9-6, 4.20 ERA
Max Friend 13-4, 4.11 ERA
Steven Matz 7-7, 4.49 ERA
Dallas Keuchel 3-5, 4.83 ERA
Marcus Stroman 6-11, 3.20 ERA
Julio Teheran 7-7, 3.35 ERA