On Sunday in St. Louis, the Cubs made official their expected breakup with Joe Maddon, whose five-year reign helped give them their first title in 108 years.
Around the same time in Pittsburgh, the Pirates cut loose Clint Hurdle after nine seasons, a tenure that included three straight playoff appearances, a Manager of the Year trophy (2013), then a steady decline.
Over in Flushing? Crickets.
Brodie Van Wagenen, who by our count has spoken on the record maybe four times since the All-Star break, avoided any contact with the media on the season’s final day despite the speculation swirling around the status of his embattled manager, Mickey Callaway.
“We’re not making any manager news today,” was how a Mets official explained Van Wagenen's lack of availability before and after Game No. 162.
The silence did the speaking for Van Wagenen.
Although the manager’s fate has been in question since late May and the Mets’ second-half playoff push came up short, the front office has deftly avoided any public comment on Callaway’s future. And if the Mets’ stirring rebound — punctuated by Dom Smith’s walk-off three-run homer in the 11th inning of Sunday’s 7-6 victory over the Braves — swayed the front office to keep Callaway, why let him twist in the wind for so long?
While Callaway still has a season left on his three-year deal, that’s typically the sweet spot for cashing out on a manager, and it’s fair to say he hasn’t done enough to convince Van Wagenen that he’s worth keeping for 2020. We’re also fairly certain the Mets didn’t need the season’s final weekend to arrive at that conclusion. When their playoff Hail Mary officially fell incomplete Wednesday, that likely closed Callaway’s backdoor to 2020, but Van Wagenen and the Wilpons kept it business as usual before Sunday’s finale without any word on his future.
“I don’t have any anxiety,” Callaway said. “I’m proud of what we did this year. I’m proud of how hard I worked and I left everything on the field.”
Earlier in the week, Callaway professed that he is “the right guy to lead that team in there” and planned to wake up Monday thinking the same when he climbs into his car for the 19-hour drive to his Florida home. That means he won’t participate in the Mets’ meetings this week or be around for the season-wrap news conference tentatively scheduled for no earlier than Wednesday at Citi Field.
“As far as me, we haven’t discussed anything in depth,” Callaway said. “Right now, I have a contract for next year and I’m going to go home and prepare for next year.”
The Mets are on the hook for roughly $800,000 next season with Callaway, but staying status quo doesn’t seem like an appealing option. Bringing on Jim Riggleman as bench coach did virtually zero to improve Callaway’s in-game strategy, and we can’t discern what this manager’s actual strengths are, other than not getting in the way when the Mets finally clicked after the All-Star break.
Jacob deGrom put together a pair of Cy Young seasons under Callaway, but when asked Sunday about the manager’s impact on the Mets as a whole, the team’s ace mostly deferred to his teammates’ perseverance in fighting back to contention.
“These guys know what they need to do, and they go out there and they get ready every day,” deGrom said. “Everybody in this room has acted professional, acted the same way, whether we were 11 games back or while we were in this little bit of a playoff race that fell short.”
DeGrom also noted how “relaxed” these Mets were during their resurgence, and if Callaway was able to foster a productive work environment, we’ll give him that much. But the Mets have to know they need more, and there are upgrades available.
In our view, Maddon would be a good fit, both for his dugout acumen and ability to handle a major media market, which is a big plus in Flushing. He’d have to come down considerably in price — Maddon earned $6 million from the Cubs this season — but during this month’s visit to Citi, he almost sounded as if he were campaigning for the job.
Would Joe Girardi choose to manage in the Yankees’ shadow? How about Buck Showalter? Another former Yankee — Astros bench coach Joe Espada — reportedly has been linked to the Mets, likely due to Van Wagenen’s close relationship with Houston manager A.J. Hinch, but another first-timer feels risky.
Even now that the season is over, the Mets are waiting to deliver their verdict on Callaway. Apparently, they’re the only ones who think there’s something left to discuss.