Buck Showalter has been at this major-league manager thing for 22 seasons now — with plenty of ups and downs to show for it — so he knows the drill.
In November, you can be your league’s Manager of the Year for the fourth time. Come July, you can be at the helm of MLB’s biggest dud, with an uncertain future.
Deservedly so, perhaps.
That will be determined come autumn, when owner Steve Cohen and whomever he designates as his top baseball man — yes, we are looking at you, David Stearns — decide whether a new regime will bring with it a new field boss.
But Showalter, 67, is not sweating it, at least not for the consumption of fans, the news media and most of all his players.
Job One: Be consistent.
“You’re got to work at it,” he told Newsday in the home dugout before Thursday night’s game against the Nationals at Citi Field. “Being consistent is a challenge. It takes a lot of discipline.”
Showalter seems to have it, at least based on his public demeanor.
On Thursday, he oversaw his usual freewheeling pregame session with reporters, then spent more than 10 minutes visiting with a Make-A-Wish Foundation guest, then grabbed a bat and headed for the field.
No, he did not use the bat to smash a water cooler or a bubble gum bucket on the way out, despite his team’s 47-54 record and $377 million payroll.
“I don’t wake up in the morning and think about how I want to be perceived or [put on] some act,” he said. “You treat people like you’d like to be treated. That golden rule works pretty good, even though it’s not always reciprocated.
“It’s also very key that I don’t read anything or listen. You come to my house, everything is on mute. [Listening to critics] doesn’t help me. My job is to manage and coach these 26 players, and anything that gets in the way of it, I don’t do it.”
Even though they are far younger than him, Showalter is dealing with grown men in a big-boy business, so this is not about sugar-coating reality.
Everyone in the clubhouse knows the Mets have been a huge disappointment, that some of them will be traded by Tuesday and that 2024 and beyond is a mystery.
“I know what the job description is,” Showalter said. “Nobody’s got to tell me how we’re doing. There’s a scoreboard and standings. It’s real simple.”
Cohen has said Showalter’s job is safe at least through this season, so once the trade deadline dust settles, he is going to have two months’ worth of games to navigate as the Mets try to finish with some dignity.
He will need to lean on his experience in dealing with players across more than three decades.
“It’s about being frank and honest,” he said. “It’s hard, though. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of outside influence. You have to stay focused on what your job is.
“I always try to put myself in their shoes. What are they thinking? I call them arteries of decisions. Things happen and then you go, OK, who does it affect?
“What kills players is the unknown. It’s any time you can say, ‘Here’s what’s going on, here’s what I know,’ even though you may not be happy about it. If you’re not truthful or frank with somebody, they’ll never forgive you. But if you’re upfront with them they may not be happy initially, but it always seems to work out.”
Showalter said on several occasions that treating people well does not guarantee being treated well in return. But he said that never should be the motivation.
“You never do something to be reciprocated,” he said. “You do it because it’s right . . . If you think you’re going to get it reciprocated all the time, you’re kidding yourself.”
After visiting with the Make-A-Wish guest and his family and friends, Showalter said, “Those are things that you realize how lucky you are to be able to do stuff like that and impact somebody’s life.”
Then he went back to trying to impact his players, something that seemed to come easily in 2022, much less so in 2023. He still tries to keep the same approach.
“It’s a lot of work, a lot of discipline,” he said. “None of us are getting out of this alive, so I try to treat people like I’d like to be treated as a human being.”
The scoreboard and standings will handle the rest of the story.