Pivotal Year for Callaway?

Mickey Callaway is coming off his first season as a major league manager after succeeding Terry Collins who retired at the end of the 2017 season. In his first 12 games, the Mets set a franchise record for the best start in club history going 11-1 but the season didn’t turn out well after that. The Mets finished in fourth place in the NL East, ending their season with a 77-85 record. Calloway does have some experience playing and coaching in the major leagues. Selected in the 7th round in the 1996 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he debuted in 1999 with the Devil Rays and was then traded to the Angels before the 2002 season and would finish his playing career in 2004 with the Texas Rangers. Although his career stats weren’t impressive, a 4-11 record with a 6.27 ERA, he became the Cleveland Indians pitching coach prior to 2013 season. The Indians were defeated by the Chicago Cubs in game 7 of the 2016 world series and manager Terry Francona said, ”Callaway was the reason they went to the world series.” Callaway helped produce a CY Young award winner in Corey Kluber in 2014. He also helped the Indians pitching staff leads the majors in both ERA (3.30) and strikeouts (1,614) in 2017. It was also the fourth consecutive season they lead the American League in strikeouts.

The 2018 season wasn’t a good one for the Mets due to injuries and the lack of offense. The team had a total ranking of 29th in the league with a .234 batting average. They ranked 21st with a .312 OBP and 26th with a .389 SLG. Mets pitching ranked 16th in the league with a 4.07 ERA, eighth in strikeouts with 1,446 and 14th in opponents batting average (.246). The Mets bullpen had 59 save opportunities and blew 18 of them for a save percentage of 69.49% for a tenth place ranking in the league. There’s not really much Callaway can do when his team offense isn’t producing and the injury bug striking the Mets again in 2018.

The Mets had a total of 23 players on the IL in 2018. The number of days for those players combined totaled 1,738 days. Key players in the IL were Noah Syndergaard, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares, and Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets added to their coaching staff with new hitting coach Chilli Davis and new bench coach Jim Riggleman. Davis recently served as a hitting coach for the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs over the last seven seasons. Davis played in the majors from 1981 till 1999 for the Giants, Angels, Twins, Royals, and Yankees over the course of his career. Hitting for a career batting average of .274 and with 350 home runs. He was also a three-time all-star and three time World Series champion. With zero managerial experience on Callaway’s coaching staff, the Mets hired Jim Riggleman as bench coach. Riggleman has some major league experience managing having skippered 1,630 games throughout thirteen seasons for the Padres, Cubs, Nationals, Mariners, and Reds. Riggleman was the bench coach for the Reds last year and became their interim manager after the Reds fired Brayan Price after a 3-15 start. He was also there for Callaway’s Mets mix up for batting out of order on a May 9th game against the Reds. The handwritten lineup card given to the umpires was different from the printed card in the Mets dugout. Although it was Callaway’s first season being a manager, there wasn’t much more he could have done with the roster he had, especially with all the injuries and lack of depth on the roster.

Brodie Van Wagenen has put him in a good position for 2019 season. Adding a lifetime .304 hitter in Robinson Cano, an All-Star catcher in Wilson Ramos, powerhouse closer Edwin Diaz and veteran relievers Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan. More offensive depth was added with Jed Lowrie, Keon Broxton, J.D. Davis and Rajai Davis.

Callaway and the Mets look to be in a good position to contend this year. There is credible depth just in case the injuries start happening again, a solid bullpen to protect the lead in late innings and proven hitters now in the lineup. If Calloway can work his magic as he did in Cleveland, his starting pitching should be top five in baseball this year. Overall he has a better team than last year, Chili Davis working with the young hitters, helping them understand to make contact and not worry about hitting a homer every time. Jim Riggleman is an experienced baseball mind to help in decision making.

Calloway also has a bit of a problem in the starting first baseman job, with Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith both performing well in spring training. Smith might have to see time in the outfield to get both young players in the lineup.

This could be a do or die year for Calloway as Van Wagenen has given him the pieces to contend and, if he can’t, I don’t believe we will see him managing the Mets in 2020. Also, Van Wagenen is the new sheriff in town and Callaway was Sandy Alderson’s guy, not Van Wagenen’s. This year Calloway needs to prove to the Mets, their fans and Van Wagenen that he can manage in New York.

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