As expected, the Mets officially fired Mickey Callaway after two seasons. His run was rough, but the Mets did literally improve. So who’s next in line for the job? And what team–with what expectations–will they be inheriting?
The Mets fired Mickey Callaway after two tumultuous seasons. It was the anticipated end to Callaway’s Mets stay, with many around baseball expecting Callaway would be relieved of his duties if the Mets missed the playoffs. That they were in the running until late in the 2019 season and finished the sixth-best team in a five-team playoff system wasn’t enough. Callaway concluded his Mets managerial career two games over .500 while working for two different front offices.
Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News reported bench coach Jim Riggleman was also released.
Callaway’s tenure started brightly: the 2018 Mets raced out to a 10-1 start that included series sweeps over division opponents the Phillies, Nationals, and Marlins. New York spent all of April 2018—Callaway’s first month at the helm—atop the NL East.
By May 2nd, the Mets had fallen out of first place and would only lead the division again for a few early-season fragments in 2019. When GM Brodie Van Wagenen took over for Sandy Alderson to start the 2019 season, rumors of an end to Callaway’s turn picked up almost immediately. They intensified and weakened throughout the year, though an eventual firing hung around like an inevitability, looming over in-season staff shakeups, media feuds, and a thrown chair.
The New York Post’s Mike Puma, citing an unnamed Mets pitcher and another Mets player, noted that Callaway was “generally well-liked,” by players but didn’t follow through on promises to be more hands-on and to directly communicate with his squad. The clubhouse also apparently began to believe that “Callaway was a prop for the front office.”
Though more winning might have granted Callaway at least the length of his contract (one more season), the requirements for an on-the-way-out about-face had already been set high in recent Mets managerial history. Callaway’s predecessor, Terry Collins, looked to be in his last season in charge of the scorecard in 2015 before New York’s surprising run to division and league pennants. It was evident that Callaway needed a playoff berth at a bare minimum, and on July 24th, with the Mets 13 games out of first, eight games back of the second Wild Card and in 13th place of the 15-team National League, they were effectively non-contenders.
What followed was a 15-1 run that brought the Mets to within a half-game of a Wild Card spot and transformed what was expected to be an August and September of going through the motions into exciting, postseason-chasing baseball. When they came up short, despite ending the season 10 games over .500 after falling as much as 11 games under, it was all over for Callaway but for an official announcement.
The Mets will now begin looking for a new manager, though it’s unclear what the guiding ethos will be behind their search. Depending on the requirements of the BVW front office, New York could pursue an analytics-driven skipper, a loaded resume, a first-timer, a clubhouse guy, a photogenic puppet, or any number of managerial archetypes, tropes, and stereotypes that persist for head coaches in 2019.
Certainly, the names floating around fit almost any executive strategy: Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon are well-known but likely pricey names. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted earlier today to keep an eye on a Carlos Beltran reunion (a personal favorite). Bronx to Bushville’s own Dan Federico indicated there may be interest in former Met Tim Bogar, currently the Washington Nationals’ first base coach. Girardi is the presumptive front-runner for the job.
Whoever does take the job next inherits a team that just won 86 games with the NL’s likely two-time Cy Young winner and the likely Rookie of the Year on staff. The team is simultaneously young and veteran-laden across the roster, but the farm system is barren, while depth and the bullpen remain ongoing issues.
The Mets fancy themselves a youthful squad, but Van Wagenen doesn’t seem particularly interested in waiting around for better days. His desperation for results—indeed, the only guarantee of job security when your time in charge starts with a future-altering blockbuster—make the Mets gig potentially the best win-now opening of the winter.
It’s difficult to say if the Mets are an 86-win team on the way up or if they hit their win-total peak this season. Regardless, a new manager will see them through whatever comes next.
Khurram Kalim is a senior writer for Bronx to Bushville.