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Callaway's 'sorry' won't show up in the standings

Manager Mickey Callaway of the Mets looks from

Manager Mickey Callaway of the Mets looks from the dugout after a pitching change during the 10th inning against the Giants at Citi Field on Tuesday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s great that Mickey Callaway said he was sorry to Noah Syndergaard, and the Mets as a group, for hastily taking him out of a game that rapidly spiraled out of control after his departure in Tuesday night’s gruesome 9-3 loss to the Giants in 10 innings.

But mea culpas don’t show up in the win-loss column. And there are no analytics to account for apologies. The Mets — and Callaway, for that matter — are getting to the point where they badly need wins. That’s twice now in three games that Callaway has yanked the team’s top starters from near-victories that turned into dumpster fires as soon as they left.

For these Mets, who plunged four games below .500 (28-32) and 5 1/2 games behind the Phillies, the margin for error — even in early June — is shrinking. They can’t keep flushing games started by Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom (he was the other pulled Saturday) for this team to have any shot at a legitimate rebound.

The crazy thing is that leaving Syndergaard in was the easier of the two calls here. The Mets had a 3-2 lead, with two outs and a runner at first base in the seventh inning. Syndergaard was at 103 pitches, right around his ceiling before last week’s 116-pitch effort in L.A., but not in a danger zone.

Callaway knew his bullpen was fried after the West Coast trip, and if he decided to stick with Syndergaard, nobody would have faulted him for it. Noah still had bullets left, and better to save Seth Lugo for three outs leading to Edwin Diaz.

But Callaway came out, signaled for the double-switch, and just like that, Syndergaard was done. Noah protested — you could see him say “Let me finish it” on the broadcast — but to no avail. Then Lugo promptly served up a single followed by the tying double to Brandon Belt.

Long after Robert Gsellman’s five-run meltdown sealed it in the 10th, Callaway rounded up the Mets for his apology, then bluntly did the same with the media.

“I’d like to have that one back,” Callaway said.

That doesn’t happen often with managers, and the fact that Callaway chose to admit the mistake is honorable. But the game is already lost, and now the Mets have to focus on getting their season back before that slips away, too. Callaway explained that he feared the Giants running on the notoriously slow Syndergaard, and Lugo was a slightly better matchup, but it all went for naught.

The only thing Callaway could maybe get back was his players’ respect, and that’s what he tried to do following the game. From what we could tell, it worked for a night. Let’s see what happens.

“We’re all humans, we’re all eligible to make mistakes,” Syndergaard said. “I think the most important part is to be able to learn from it, and move on. A man that is knowledgeable about the mistakes he makes is something that sparks more respect in our eyes. I commend him for that.”

It’s a nice sentiment. But all of this forgiveness has to translate into wins in a hurry or Callaway’s “foreseeable future” just got a lot shorter. It was only two weeks ago that Brodie Van Wagenen gave that tenuous vote of confidence, but the indication late Tuesday night was that Callaway still had the clubhouse in his corner.

"I thought that was a really classy act,” Pete Alonso said. “Noah pitched his heart out there. I thought that was a really classy thing by Mickey. He wore it, he apologized and now we move forward."

Saying that Callaway did a poor job managing Tuesday is not a slight against his character. But  from a baseball sense, if the Mets are truly a contending team, we can’t keep chalking this stuff up to growing pains. If Callaway says he needs to ride the rotation, then ride the rotation. We won’t fault him for that. It’s long past the time for these players to step up, as there are too many underachievers clogging the roster. That has to improve, as much as Callaway’s game-calling skills.  

Syndergaard described this as a “stinger” of a loss, but talked about how the Mets still have 100-something games left (actually 102). When asked if this was the kind of ugly defeat that could snowball into Callaway’s firing, Noah shook his head.

“No, I think as a whole, we’re standing strong,” Sydnergaard said. “No offense, but we’re not going to let the media separate us. We’re going to stand together as a team, including our coaching staff, as a whole. Tomorrow’s a new day.”

A chance for Callaway to redeem himself.  No more saying sorry.

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