Remember, back in spring training and especially in mid-April, it wouldn’t have been outrageous to forecast the Mets as one of the teams destined to enjoy a late-September clubhouse champagne-fest.
Instead, while his fellow rookie managers Aaron Boone and Alex Cora prepare for October with the Yankees and Red Sox, respectively, Mickey Callaway will depart Sunday with the Citi Field clubhouse as dry as Nevada.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be at this point, and that’s very, very disappointing,” the Mets’ first-year skipper told The Post on Thursday before the Mets defeated the Braves, 4-1, at Citi Field. “It’s tough to see all these celebrations and teams clinching. It gives you a queasy feeling inside that you’re not one of them.
“But I’m very proud of the way our team has gone about their business the whole season. It would’ve been very easy to have turmoil in the clubhouse, in the dugout, on the field, guys not running balls out, and we just haven’t seen that.”
Let’s not fall into the Mets-centric trap of generating extreme optimism over small samples produced in a low-pressure vacuum. If you want assurances that the Mets will post a winning record next year, will build on their second-half success, turn elsewhere.
Let’s lean instead on facts. And the fact is that at the halfway juncture, this Mets season appeared to be as searing a dumpster fire as any in this franchise’s glorious history of disasters. And it’s going to finish as a mere disappointment. Consequently, Callaway, with two years left on his contract, has transformed his status from “Might as well get a fresh start with a new front office and manager” to “The new front office will have to make a good case to jettison him.”
Thursday’s win gave the Mets the best National League East record since July 1, their 43-36 mark topping the 42-36 posted by the Braves, who of course already consumed one round of champagne by securing the division.
A good half season results from positive developments. Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz teamed with the soon-to-be-crowned Jacob deGrom to form the stellar starting rotation that the Mets had envisioned for so long. Michael Conforto proved he just needed time to recover from his harrowing left shoulder injury. Brandon Nimmo arrived, Jeff McNeil tantalized and Amed Rosario, like Callaway himself, offered hope as he slowly progressed.
“I think what’s it done is, it made me realize that all the things I valued coming into the season, that if you implement them, no matter how good or bad things are going, that being steady and understanding that you have to be consistent on a daily basis, that it does pay off,” Callaway said. “I think it has. I think our whole team has improved. I think our guys have gotten better. And we’ve been playing like that as of late.”
He added, “It would’ve been easy and everybody, every human being would’ve wanted to lose their cool at times with some of the things we went through, but I’m glad that I had the mentors I had and the people I’ve had to help educate me that consistency and even keel is the way to go.” Among those mentors, he said, are his fellow managers Bud Black, Terry Francona, Mike Scioscia and Buck Showalter, all of whom he played or coached under, and his father, Mike Callaway.
We can debate in perpetuity how much credit Callaway deserves for what has transpired, and like any rookie, room for improvement remains across the board. Yet if such an upward curve hadn’t occurred, if the Mets had completed their journey to 65-97 (their projected record on June 30), he sure as heck would get and deserve blame.
Besides, the rope won’t be long. As Callaway said, “There’s going to be doubt [about his future] if we get off to a bad start next year.”
He has earned himself a winter of peace, however. If there’ll be no champagne to wash out of his uniform, there won’t be any dumpster-fires ashes either. In the Mets’ universe, that counts for something.
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