Should Mickey Callaway come back next season as Mets manager?
But this isn’t really about Mickey Callaway. This is about Brodie Van Wagenen.
Brodie Van Wagenen’s tenure as Mets general manager has been marked by big swings and misses (proclaiming the Mets the team to beat in the NL East, the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano trade, the Jed Lowrie and Jeurys Familia signings) and big swings and hits (starting 2019 with Pete Alonso in the majors, not trading away Jeff McNeil or Jacob deGrom, trading for J.D. Davis, having free donuts delivered to the press box before many games).
But what Van Wagenen hasn’t had to do yet is hire a manager. He inherited Callaway, who was Sandy Alderson’s choice to replace Terry Collins before the 2018 season.
Callaway has one year left on his contract. He is 160-161 after Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Marlins. That’s OK.
There’s a TV commercial out now that says, “Just OK is not OK.” Perhaps you’ve seen it. Perhaps Van Wagenen has seen it. He should make it his motto for 2020.
At best, Callaway is OK. At best. The Mets should strive to be better than that. Van Wagenen has to convince the Wilpons to eat the last year of Callaway’s contract and then find the best available manager to lead this intriguing team next season.
Is it Joe Maddon? Is it Joe Girardi? Is it another established manager who has a first name other than Joe? Is it the next Dave Roberts or Alex Cora or Aaron Boone (i.e. a rookie manager who can actually handle the job in a big market without two years of training wheels)?
Yes. Yes to all of the above. Well, not to all, because you can only have one manager at a time. But this is Van Wagenen’s time to show he’s a thoughtful executive who can sell a successful veteran manager or a hot managing prospect that the Mets are a team on the rise and Citi Field is the place to be.
Funny thing is, Van Wagenen doesn’t have to fudge too much to sell the Mets on-field talent. At 83-76, they are in a better position today than they were when Van Wagenen was handed the keys to the franchise after a 77-85 season.
They have deGrom, a possible back-to-back NL Cy Young award winner. They have Alonso, the likely NL Rookie of the Year with 51 home runs and a wondrous, authentic baseball personality. They have McNeil, the quirky squirrel with the magic bat. And they have Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario and Davis and Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz and Seth Lugo. That’s a good talent base.
What they don’t have is a manager who can get the most out of that talent. Yes, Callaway is mostly a front man for Van Wagenen and the analytics department and not a truly autonomous decision-maker, but that’s true of most managers these days.
The best organizations (Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, to name three) don’t pretend their managers are the ones making all the calls. The best managers in this era learn to put their egos aside, but also figure out how not to look like front-office puppets to the players (even if that’s all they really are). It’s a tricky thing to balance. It’s also one of the many things Callaway has not mastered in two years on the job.
Unless Van Wagenen wants to shed the suit and put on a uniform and sit in the dugout himself — now wouldn’t that be fun? — he has to find the right person to pilot the Mets to the 10 extra wins or so that will make them one of the NL’s five playoff teams.
Ten wins. That’s all it would have taken for the Mets to be planning for October instead of February.
A good manager may not be worth 10 wins. But a mediocre one definitely isn’t.
“Do we have more to accomplish? Way more,” Callaway said on Thursday. “And I’d like that to be under my watch.”
Sorry, Mickey. That’s just not OK.