Since the Mets dropped that three-game weekend series in Miami to the Marlins last month many in the local sports media have been calling for Mets manager Mickey Callaway’s dismissal.
Every baseball fan knows the axiom that it’s easier to fire the manager than 25 players when a team isn’t performing up to expectations. The question is whether those expectations are realistic in the first place. Yes, new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said they were the team to beat in the National League East, but the reality is that both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies have more talented rosters.
Two months ago in my 2019 Mets preview article I wrote that the goal for the team should be to finish over .500, and that still seems to be a distinct possibility. Therefore I see no reason to fire Callaway. Besides, who is realistically available at this juncture in the season if Mets’ brass wanted to replace him?
Callaway, like all baseball managers, has made numerous decisions that can be debated. A week ago he issued a mea culpa for removing starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard in the seventh inning with two outs and a San Francisco Giants runner on first base with the Mets perilously hanging onto a tenuous 3-2 lead. The Mets bullpen failed to do its job and the result was a bitter 9-3 loss in extra innings.
Syndergaard looked shaky in both the fifth and sixth innings, including issuing a walk to the Giants pitcher, Madison Bumgarner. He was visibly angry when his first baseman, Pete Alonso, couldn’t handle third baseman Todd Frazier’s low throw on a deep high bouncer that was hit to him by the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval. It’s unprofessional to show up your teammates that way and you can be sure Callaway was aware.
To his credit, Callaway never embarrasses his players. When sportswriters were asking him why he wasn’t allowing Mets ace Jacob deGrom to use Tomas Nido as his personal catcher he was ridiculed for saying that when the Mets are in the playoffs Wilson Ramos will be the starting catcher. He came clean a few days later when I asked him if the out-of-favor catcher would feel resentful and whether that can cause dissension on a team. “I’ve seen it in the past and I won’t allow it to happen here,” he forthrightly stated.
Callaway will gladly answer every media member’s queries whether he or she is from a “big outlet” and he’ll call you by name.
He’s a class act in my book.
Mets reliever Jeurys Familia has had a rough season based on his statistics, but when I have watched him in action it seems that his sinker and fastball are still moving quite well and that he has often been the victim of an error such as when his catcher Tomas Nido threw the ball into rightfield on a dribbler hit by an Arizona Diamondbacks batter during the disappointing last road trip or he hasn’t been getting the call from an umpire on a borderline pitch that leads to a walk instead of a strikeout.
I asked Familia in the Mets clubhouse when the team returned home last Tuesday if it is hard to maintain his composure on the mound when things are not going well such as what happened with Nido’s miscue. “That’s baseball. You have to be a professional and accept that is part of the game,” he replied. Familia did pitch better against the Giants and Rockies during the last homestand. Noah Syndergaard can learn a thing or two from Familia.
Mets reserve infielder/outfielder JD Davis is new to the team and despite being from Elk Grove, Calif., was certainly not blasÈ about this week’s Subway Series with the Yankees. “I am really looking forward to it. I heard that it’s a playoff-like atmosphere.”
The Mets VP of alumni relations, Jay Horwitz, has done a terrific job in bringing former Mets players to Citi Field, many of whom had never set foot inside of it. That was the case this past Friday night when a member of the 1962 Mets, 90-year-old Frank Thomas, met with the media.
Thomas remains one of the best hitters in Mets history as he belted 34 home runs in 1962 — more than either Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris hit for the Yankees that year. Thomas, who is as sharp as ever, beamed when I mentioned that piece of trivia to him.
Despite being a terrific hitter the hard-nosed Thomas is still best remembered for his 1965 altercation with then-Philadelphia Phillies teammate Richie Allen. Reports at the time said there were racial overtones in their dispute. The Phillies released Thomas immediately after the incident.
The passage of nearly 54 years has not made Thomas philosophical. “Why does the media still ask me about it? They are always looking for trouble! I didn’t do anything wrong!” he said loudly when I asked him about the incident. When he cooled down a bit a few minutes later he said that he and Allen haven’t crossed paths or spoken in all of the ensuing years.
Thomas, who grew up in Pittsburgh and still resides there, said that he still tries to follow baseball, especially his hometown Pirates, one of the many teams he played for in his career. “I don’t go to the games at PNC Park anymore, however, because the Pirates took my parking space away!” he groused. Pirates owner Robert Nutting should do right and make sure that Thomas gets his parking privileges back.
According to a number of sources, former Mets pitcher Nelson Figueroa had a meltdown at the SNY studios a couple of weeks ago over his increasingly marginalized use which caused him to be dismissed by the Mets’ cable home.
I won’t argue with SNY’s decision but Figueroa, a Brooklyn native and Brandeis College alum, provided excellent postgame analyses. I have known him since he was a minor league pitcher in the Mets organization and he’s always been a total gentleman. I feel confident that what happened at SNY on that fateful day was a complete aberration. Here’s hoping that he’ll get a second chance somewhere to continue his broadcasting career.
Yes, Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier should have spoken with the media following his disastrous fielding night in a game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago. Still, it was just one bad game, albeit against a high-profile opponent. It seemed as if Frazier was excoriated a bit harsher than deserved.