PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – As part of his offseason professional soul-searching, a process of gathering information and feedback that he hopes makes him a better manager, Mickey Callaway has had several long talks with Jim Riggleman, the Mets’ new bench coach who has managed five teams.
In one, Callaway was explaining some of the in-game moves he made in 2018 – often the subject of criticism and second-guessing, though he always had an explanation and stuck to it – when Riggleman offered a piece of advice that has become a pillar of Callaway’s managerial philosophy entering year two.
Don’t think so hard.
“He stopped me four minutes into my explanation and said, ‘See how long it took you to explain that?’ ” Callaway said. “You’re never going to be able to explain everything. He said, ‘Don’t overthink it.’ I think going into the season, I’m going to make sure I’m more cognizant of that this year.”
Riggleman had a point, too. He merely articulated what Callaway says he already knew.
“I was already thinking it when I was explaining it to him. I was like, man, this is taking a long time to explain, you know?” Callaway said. “So, we’re on the same page, we’ve had great conversations so far. He’s such a knowledgeable baseball guy. I can’t wait to get in the dugout with him and kind of go back and forth on what we should and shouldn’t do.”
Callaway’s comments, the first of his second spring training, came Wednesday in a room adjacent to the Mets’ clubhouse at First Data Field, after hours of one-on-one meetings with most of the Mets’ 41 pitchers and catchers.
Last season didn’t go as well for the Mets generally and Callaway specifically as they hoped, and Callaway used this occasion to reflect on what went wrong and address, sort of, how he’ll do a better job this time.
The simple fact that he has done all this before – that he’s not a rookie anymore – might help. Callaway said he expects experience “to go a long way.”
“I absolutely learned a ton and I experienced a ton. That’s probably the most valuable thing, just going through it,” Callaway said. “Going through the ups and down as a manager. I’ve been through the ups and down as a player – mostly downs when I was playing – been through a lot of ups as a pitching coach, very few downs. And last year I got a lot of experience on both in a totally different role.”
In addition to Riggleman, Callaway sought feedback from his coaching staff, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and “people that are no longer in the organization.” Among his biggest takeaways from those conversations, Callaway said, were that individuals react differently to the bad times, so he has to tailor his interactions to each person.
To that end, communication is critical, Callaway said. That is especially true when it comes to playing time and the Mets’ lineup, which has a bunch of moving parts, particularly in the crowded infield.
“My biggest job is to communicate with the players,” Callaway said. “And if I have to go communicate with them about the lineup . . . I don’t understand the frame of mind they’re coming in, it’s going to be harder to do. And I think I have a little more information about that this year because of things we went through last year.”
Now Callaway – and the Mets – just have to actually be better. The manager hopes that keeping it simple will help.
“At times [in 2018] I had some time to stew over things and maybe just tried to make it a little more complicated than it really is,” Callaway said. “And I think at this point in my career and who we have in that room, we can play a little bit more traditional baseball than I was trying to think about last year.”