There’s a theory going around that one reason the Mets didn’t fire the very fireable Mickey Callaway on Monday is he provides cover for general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and chief operating officer Jeff Wlipon — i.e., that if Callaway is gone and the team continues to struggle, people will focus their attention on the front office’s mistakes.
I rejected that theory even before I heard Van Wagenen address the media on Monday afternoon with Wilpon standing nearby in front of a poster of the 1995 Mets yearbook.
If Van Wagenen has proved anything since Wilpon plucked him from the relatively anonymous and super lucrative life of a player agent, it’s that he isn’t afraid of the spotlight. Quite the opposite.
See Van Wagenen walking around the field during batting practice at Citi Field. Watch him glad-handing players, leaping into the stands to sign autographs, graciously showing his Mets credential to a security guard who asked him for identification before the April 4 home opener. All of which actually happened.
This is not a man who is shrinking from anything.
It also may be a man who will turn out to be no better at his job than Callaway is at his. But one of them deserves more time.
“The accountability that will ultimately fall on this team, I want it placed on my shoulders,” Van Wagenen said.
So why should Mets fans believe Van Wagenen is the one to lead them to the promised land?
“I think that’s probably a better question for the Mets fans,” Van Wagenen said.
So here’s your chance, Mets fans: Do you have faith in Brodie Van Wagenen based on his body of work so far? (Don’t @ me, but you can @ him, because he’s on Twitter.)
@GMBVW’s body of work includes the trade for Robinson Cano (batting .245, benched Monday for not hustling) and Edwin Diaz (closer who can only throw one inning at a time). The trades for J.D. Davis (good hitter, still looking for a position) and Keon Broxton (cut last week with a .143 batting average). The free-agent signings of Jeurys Familia (5.60 ERA), Justin Wilson (injured list, left pitching elbow), Jed Lowrie (injured, hasn’t played yet) and Wilson Ramos (negative 0.4 WAR through Sunday).
The rest of the body includes the commitments to Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil (A-plus moves), the signing of former client Jacob deGrom to a contract extension (a no-brainer) and a complete overhaul of the front office.
It is at that office, and not the manager’s office, that Van Wagenen wants you to point fingers.
And, by implication, to send your bouquets if the Mets happen to turn this season around.
“At the end of the day, this is our team,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re proud of it, we believe in it and we’re going to make every effort in our control to improve on it.”
As an example, Van Wagenen mentioned Monday’s call-up of journeyman lefthander Hector Santiago, who was only added because Seth Lugo went on the injured list with right shoulder tendinitis. That was actually a net negative.
Van Wagenen made the announcement minutes after he stunned the room of reporters by revealing that Yoenis Cespedes suffered a broken ankle in an accident at his ranch. Once our jaws were off the floor, the topic eventually turned to Callaway’s future.
Callaway got a vote of confidence that, notably, did not extend for the entire rest of the season, but just “the foreseeable future,” in Van Wagenen’s words. Then the Mets, who appeared to be hastening Callaway’s departure by getting swept by the Marlins over the weekend, went out and beat the Nationals, 5-3, to snap a five-game losing streak. It’s a start.
Hours earlier, as he left the stage, Van Wagenen shook Callaway’s hand. Then he headed over to join Wilpon in front of that 1995 Mets yearbook poster. Symbolism alert: In 1995, a strike-shortened season, the Mets went 69-75.