Even during the lowest points of the Mets’ up and down summer — including a slow start, a clubhouse altercation with a reporter and a season-reviving win streak — Mickey Callaway has remained upbeat.
In his second year at the helm of the Mets, he exudes a certain confidence even during difficult circumstances. For better or worse, Callaway’s demeanor has remained mostly consistent.
That positivity impressed Indians manager Terry Francona, who hired Callaway to be his pitching coach when the former Red Sox manager took over in Cleveland in 2013.
“It came across in his first interview with me, and he lived it out the day we hired him, and it was like that every day we had him,” Francona said Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field before he managed against Callaway for the first time. “He’s got endless energy.”
Francona said the two have remained friends, even though they haven’t been a shout down the dugout away since Callaway was named the Mets manager prior to the 2018 season.
They met before Tuesday night's game to catch up after Francona said he “heard kind of a racket down the hall, and I knew that voice.”
“It was fun to catch up because he hasn’t lost the ability to laugh at himself, which I think is important,” Francona said. “Again, when you’re in a market like this, if you don’t win, you’re going to get criticized or picked at. Or if things don’t go the right way, it’s obviously the wrong way.”
When Francona was hired, he said he could have made the “easy hire” by going with longtime friend Kirk Champion to be his pitching coach. Instead, Callaway “just kind of took it and ran with it.”
He flew to the Dominican Republic the day after he was hired to meet with Indians pitchers Danny Salazar and Ubaldo Jimenez, an example of his passion and excitement. Francona said he could tell from the start that Callaway had a knack for coaching.
“Looking at him, even in our first year, I’d kind of marvel,” Francona said. “I’d be like, ‘Damn, this is his first year as a Major League pitching coach.’ Because he was so confident in what he was doing.”
Callaway has drawn criticism for a number of things, including his bullpen management and how his comments occasionally contradict those of his players. But even when the Mets seemed out of the playoff picture in early July, Callaway was steadfast in acknowledging his team’s talent. Now, the Mets are right in the thick of the National League Wild Card race.
He said he learned from Francona to always stay level.
“You try to keep things as relaxed as possible,” Callaway said. “It’s the same game. The games probably do mean more. There’s going to be more pressure on the players, so you just have to keep a calm, relaxed atmosphere and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities. I think Tito probably does that better than anybody I’ve ever been around, and I think that’s very important.”