Mickey Callaway lit up the room today.
Hopefully not in the same way Art Howe lit it up in 2002, but you could tell he was very excited about becoming the Mets 21st manager in their history.
But more importantly, there were no promises, no manifestos. He didn’t tell us he would fix Matt Harvey in 15 minutes, nor did he declare he didn’t come here to kiss Joe Girardi’s ring.
Instead you got one declaration from the Mets new hire. He is going to treat the players better than they have been treated before.
“We are going to care more about the players than anyone ever has before,” Callaway said. “We’re going to know they are human beings and individuals, and this is going to be a group that feels that every day we come to the clubhouse, and that is going to be our main concern.”
Just from that, you can tell he’s going to be a player’s manager and you won’t expect anything less from a man who was named after Mickey Mantle and his brother bears Casey Stengel’s moniker.
Callaway also promised the team would be worked very hard, which is refreshing due to the country club attitude that festered this past season and the poor conditioning, which contributed to so many injuries in 2017.
Yet, these are just words and next year, you will have to see what he would do when Yoenis Cespedes decides to Cadillac it in the outfield or when Harvey goes on a bender because his model girlfriend decided to trade him in for a better brand.
It’s going to happen and Callaway will be tested. In Cleveland, as pitching coach, he was only responsible for the performance of his staff. He could be their best friend and confidant, as Terry Francona ultimately had to be the heavy.
But now, that’s Callaway’s job and as manager, he will need to make the tough decision. More importantly, it’s how he responds to the criticism of his moves that will determine if he’s going to be a success here.
General manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets punted on a second round of interviews, since Callaway wowed them in his first sit down. The Mets wanted him and he wanted the Mets. Now we have a honeymoon.
Next year, though, Callaway will only have one cure for what ails the Mets: Winning.
You hope Callaway knows what he’s getting himself into. He’s not going to get a honeymoon here. This is a team one year off the playoffs and two from the World Series. And the fan base has nothing to distract them right now. With the football, basketball, and hockey teams in the toilet, the fans will be counting down the days to pitchers and catchers and want to see wins starting Mar. 29.
And it doesn’t help that a team a borough away looks like it’s ready for another long run of greatness.
This isn’t Cleveland, where win or lose, the fans are appreciative of the effort. (They have to watch the Browns for goodness sake.) New York is a result orientated town.
None of this is in his control and by all accounts, the new skipper is a pretty smart guy. That’s why today, you didn’t get any manifestos or guarantees. Only a promise to work with the players Alderson gives him and have them prepared to play each and every day.
Maybe that’s what the Mets need right now and all the fans can ask for after an awful season.
Instead of tough talk or bravado, they get a hard-working Tennessean, who brings something different to New York.