Here’s the thing: I was new at this job once. And allow me to say: It was not pretty. Being a sports columnist was the only thing I ever wanted to do, the only dream I ever pursued, the only job I ever wanted, and then, one day, amazingly, I was one.
I would reprint a few of those early leads for you, but I fear the offer extended to me here almost 16 years ago might be rescinded. It wasn’t that they weren’t good, it was that they were enough to make you want to renounce English in favor of a language less grisly on the ears.
I am forever grateful I wasn’t fired 16 minutes into the job. And I am forever mindful how essential it is to allow people to grow into a job. If you’re a boss and you hire someone, it really is the least you can do; it’s why I was especially annoyed at what WFAN did to Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott. I happen to like that show, but even if you don’t, it has to have a little time to breathe and grow.
Which brings us to Mickey Callaway.
Or, as I’ve taken to calling him, Calladoo.
Because right now, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Mets have their very own version of Ben McAdoo in Callaway, whose first three months as Mets manager, save for two weeks, have been hard to watch in almost every way.
Both were first-time bosses when they were hired, whose appeal was their past proficiency on one side of the sport — McAdoo on offense, Callaway on pitching. Both had curious public debuts — McAdoo with his Talking Heads press-conference suit, Callaway with his odd declaration that he and his staff would “care more about the players than anyone ever has before.”
Both had some early speed, too: McAdoo, hard as it may be to remember, did lead the Giants to an 11-5 record and the playoffs in his first year on the job, and by now there isn’t a single reference to the 2018 Mets, public or private, that doesn’t include the notation “11-1.”
And both, almost in a flash, moved from that early magic to looking overmatched (at first) in the job and then, ultimately, overwhelmed. Their teams — both saddled with preseason expectations — quickly became not just bad but unwatchable, replete with head-scratching decisions and cliques of vast underachievement.
And that was before either of them opened their mouths.
Quick, without looking, which of the two uttered this gem: “Everything is fixable. We need to do ‘simple’ better. You may think I’m a little out there, but I think we have a little run in us.”
I know. It could go either way. Calladoo.
(For the record, it was McAdoo, whose meetings with the press could be as comfortable as watching “The Hangover” with your mother. But even he had the good sense to never say, “New York is tough on players. It’s tough on everybody. If they were in Cleveland or somewhere else, maybe they wouldn’t feel that pressure.”)
McAdoo did get 12 games deep into a second season, and that’s working for the famously patient Mara/Tisch partnership who would rather wear Eagles gear to games than terminate someone without giving them a long look. Though there are some Mets fans who wouldn’t lose five seconds of sleep if Callaway didn’t return with the team to New York this week, it’s hard to imagine Sandy Alderson pushing that panic button.
For one, that would be as good as typing out his own resignation speech, because Callaway is Alderson’s guy. But for another, hard as the Mets are to watch, as poorly managed as they are in so many realms … it really would be grossly unfair to pull this plug before the season is even halfway over.
Still … it’s getting late early, as a manager who once lasted all of 16 games into a season once said. Of course, by then, Yogi Berra was already a member of the Hall of Fame.
Calladoo has a little work left to get there.
Until young Mr. Soto came to their rescue the other night, it sure looked as if the Nationals play like the Yankees against the Mets and play like the Mets against the Yankees.
Terry Collins led the Mets to a World Series and two straight playoff appearances, yet it may well be that his most popular day as manager was Tuesday, 8 ¹/₂ months after he stopped being the manager, thanks to a viral video. Such is life in the jackpot.
Now is as good a time as any to pre-order “A Franchise on the Rise,” a terrific read about the Yankees in their pre-dynasty years written by my pal Dom Amore. I like to think I’m a student of baseball history; Dom makes me feel like one of the Sweathogs by comparison. It lands July 3.
Sadly, Tiger Woods is just the latest aging athlete to find out the hard way that stuff doesn’t work quite as well at 42 as it did at 22. Happens to all of us. It’s just that most of us get to make that concession speech to three friends in a sauna or a saloon, not in front of the world.
Whack Back at Vac
Roland Chapdelaine: Since the Mets’ season seems doomed, MLB should use them as an experiment for their proposed extra innings scenario: Let the Mets start every inning with a runner on second. In the unlikely event someone gets a base hit, the runner will probably trip over third base and break his leg anyway.
Vac: Even lousy baseball teams can’t take away our sense of humor as a city, dammit. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Richard Siegelman: Do the proud golfers who shot 7- to 10-over par now wish traffic had kept them from their tee times at the U.S. Open?
Vac: If a few of them would bother to talk before dashing to their courtesy cars, I’d ask!
@DaveBismo: Come on, @MikeVacc. The Islanders won 19 straight playoff series, and they’re not the best dynasty in the last 50 years?!? Or even the 2nd best?!? Love your column, but that’s just plain wrong.
@MikeVacc: I fear I may have to turn in my beloved Chico Resch sweater for that oversight.
Dave Blezow: To me if you can count the Bulls all as one dynasty it’s hard to beat. But beyond that it’s the Isles hands down. And third would be LeBron’s current personal streak of 24 straight series wins in the Eastern Conference.
Vac: Of course, this guy will be forced to turn in his Nick Fotiu sweater for saying nice things about the Islanders as a Rangers fan.
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