Mancuso: J.D. Davis “Mickey Never Caved In”

This observer will be the first to admit that Mickey Callaway was not the proper choice to assume managerial responsibilities of the Mets two years ago. Sandy Alderson and the Wilpon ownership bypassed better candidates that knew more about managing and had knowledge of the organization.

Chip Hale, for example, was the perfect fit. Managerial experience and former coach under Terry Collins, Hale expressed interest in the job and the Washington Nationals took him  as their bench coach.

So, when Mickey Callaway was let go today, no surprise, you tend to reevaluate that process of two years ago. The Mets hired a pitching guru from the Cleveland Indians with no managerial experience.

They bypassed Hale and other qualified candidates. Mickey was the choice of Sandy Alderson and the Mets were going in the right and another direction in this new era of analytics. 

And Mickey Callaway went with the plan. Two years later the Mets failed to make the postseason under Mickey again despite finishing 10-games over .500, 86 wins, and a turnaround from a disastrous first half.

Two years later and here we go again. The Mets begin the process of going in another direction and hopefully the right one. But, as said here Sunday, as Callaway went home to Florida and the Mets packed their bags, Mickey deserved another year.

The chemistry was right in the clubhouse and in the end that accounts  for something. Yes, some of the game situation moves made from that dugout were questioned with the use of Edwin Diaz and the bullpen. And some pushing of the buttons that make you look good or bad and that did not go well with Mets fans.

Perhaps, as many accounts say, moves that did not go over well with the rookie general manager and others in the Mets hierarchy. 

And  the media who cover this team, on a daily basis, never gave Mickey a chance. They questioned his every move, the comments after another tough loss. But many did not give him credit for keeping the guys together in that room known as the clubhouse where things go on behind closed doors that the average fan and media has no knowledge of what is being said.

The Edwin Diaz situation. Was that Mickey’s doing? Blame analytics and higher ups, no names mentioned, that according to a source were calling the shots. You determine who and why when the manager is hired for that role.

But this comes down to being under the radar as a baseball manager in New York, and goes way before the success of Joe Torre and Joe Girardi across town in the Bronx who had teams that were built to win all the time.

Fans want their team to win, the Mets base in particular, who finally saw the results after the All-Star break. The players responded. Yes, it’s the players and not the manager on the roster that made things happen. But something was said in that clubhouse before the all-star break and that Mets went from  11 games under. 500 and were once again the real deal.

Something was said in that clubhouse and they responded. The second half was meaningful as they fell short three games from that second wild card.

And lots of that turnaround and credit should go to Mickey Callaway. He became a manager, a motivator, the pitching coach chosen two years ago who learned on the job.

Overall, a good job, though in the end the postseason never game. Take into account what Callaway said during his final meeting with the media Sunday after the Mets season finale win over the division winning Braves.

After the dramatic 11-inning walk off home run win, from the youngster Dominc Smith, the now former manager said he hates watching the postseason as an observer.

Thing is the Mets made progress with a young core in the lineup and getting around that pitching which was always a strength.  And Mickey Callaway assisted that young core of Smith, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis, leading the Mets to that new direction. 

And Pete Alonso, the real core of this, who Callaway saw as the potential star that could guide this lineup in 2019 and beyond, the eventual National League Rookie Of The Year and record setter with 53 home runs.

CEO Jeff Wilpon and the GM Brodie Van Wagenen after their organizational meetings in New York flew down to Florida and gave Callaway his walking papers face-to-face.

Hours later, and reached by NYSportsday at his home in Elk Grove, California, J.D. Davis said about Callaway:

He kept the group together and driven in the right direction. We could have easily caved or given up in the hole we dug ourselves into. But he always believed in us and constantly expressed it to us. He never panicked and always wanted insight from us. He was always approachable and interacted with us well throughout the season. I wish him the best. I know he will pop up with another team in the next couple of years.”

Was Mickey Callaway perfect? Perhaps not, but he was a players type of manager and you can’t ask for more than that. In the end, missing the playoffs and a 163-161 record in two years was not the right direction.

He did not cave in when reportedly his GM threw a chair in his office after another tough loss. He may have not handled the apology correct after that incident with a Mets beat writer in Chicago after another tough loss and that remained a continuing topic of discussion.

And Mickey Callaway never caved in when the Mets were swept and just about done after consecutive sweeps from the Cubs and Braves that temporarily put an end to the Mets postseason surge.

All along, and from the beginning when Van Wagenen was hired, there was always the assumption that he would want his appointed manager.

Well now, Brodie Van Wagenen will have that opportunity. Will the next manager be better than Mickey Callaway? Time will tell whether  it be Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter, or the many names that are available with managerial experience. 

What we do know now, again not a shock, the Mets have decided to go in another direction again with a manager and Mickey Callaway deserved better than this.

And all you have to do is ask the players that worked for him. They responded to their manager, had the chemistry, and have to do it all over again with another leader in 2020. 

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso


About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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