NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mickey Callaway won 11 of his first 12 games as manager of the Mets. Unfortunately, that was likely the highest point of his tenure in New York.
Callaway, who just finished his second season at the helm, was fired on Thursday, the team announced.
“I feel unfulfilled. I feel we left some games on the field that we should have won, and we didn’t fulfill what we really had as a goal, which was get to the postseason,” chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said on a 30-minute conference call with reporters. “We’re not playing October baseball, and that’s what it’s about.”
The decision came after a second-half surge ended just short of the playoffs. Callaway and the Mets could never find the consistency they needed to overcome a dismal first-half performance, filled with major bullpen problems, a coaching shakeup, an embarrassing clubhouse blowup with a reporter, and several questionable decisions by the sophomore manager.
Mickey Callaway has been relieved of his duties. #Mets
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 3, 2019
The Mets (86-76) went into the All-Star Break 10 games under .500 and had the second-worst record in the National League.
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen stuck by the 44-year-old, saying Callaway and the team could turn things around. That faith was rewarded as New York rallied to go 46-26 after the break, but it simply wasn’t enough to dig out of their massive hole.
A horrid bullpen and the manager’s highly criticized usage of those relievers cost the Mets down the stretch in crucial games, leaving them four games behind Milwaukee for the final Wild Card spot.
Continued questions about Callaway’s in-game management skills and two straight disappointing finishes ultimately doomed Callaway, who was signed through next season.
2018: FAST START FADES FASTER
New York’s all-world pitching staff and Callaway’s reputation as a pitching guru seemingly won him the job two years ago. He was hired after a successful run as the Cleveland Indians’ pitching coach. From 2013 to 2017, Callaway’s staff led the league with a 3.65 ERA and his ace, Corey Kluber, took home two AL Cy Young Awards.
New York’s former GM, Sandy Alderson, hired Callaway to be the team’s 21st skipper before the 2018 season. The Mets front office hoped the rookie manager could do for the Amazins’ young pitchers what he did in Cleveland.
“If we don’t do something special with the group we have in place, it’s going to be on the leadership. That’s going to be on me,” Callaway said heading into his first year as manager.
It seemed to work at first. The Mets roared out of the gate to that 11-1 start and Jacob deGrom delivered a season for the ages en route to the NL Cy Young Award.
Despite deGrom’s dominance, the rest of the team couldn’t keep pace and quickly fell flat in May. Callaway’s first year as manager produced a 77-85 record and a fourth-place finish in the NL East.
The manager’s worst moment came on May 9, 2018, when his team batted out of order in a loss to Cincinnati. Criticism over Callaway’s in-game managing decisions left many fans wondering if the rookie skipper should even be brought back for a second year.
2019: BIG EXPECTATIONS, BIGGER SURPRISES, SAME RESULT
Despite ultimately deciding to retain Callaway, Van Wagenen and the Wilpons decided to hire Jim Riggleman as their new bench coach for 2019. The 66-year-old Riggleman has 13 seasons of experience as a major league manager with five teams, clearly putting the pressure on Callaway to produce in his sophomore season.
Raising expectations even further, the team spent over $80 million on free agents, plus committed to more big bucks when they obtained second baseman Robinson Cano in a blockbuster trade with Seattle.
The high-priced roster got off to another hot start under Callaway, going 5-1. Amazing rookie slugger Pete Alonso carried the offense with a record-setting season and deGrom delivered a second straight Cy Young-worthy effort, but the rest of the pitching staff continued to plague the supposed pitching guru.
Callaway’s bullpen turned in a woeful 4.94 ERA in 2019, sixth-worst in baseball. Starters Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz struggled to find consistency throughout the season.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Alonso, deGrom, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto left Mets fans believing 2020 could be a championship season for the franchise. The question now is: who will lead them into that future?
Joe Girardi, the former Yankees and Marlins skipper, and Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada have been mentioned as potential replacements for Callaway.
“The goal is to have the best person, regardless of his resume,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said.
“I think we’re looking for strong leadership. We’re looking for a voice that can keep our clubhouse culture going in the right direction, can keep this team unified and that can accelerate our path here,” Van Wagenen said. “I think at the end of the day, it’s less about any shortcomings for Mickey and it’s more about the upside opportunities that we feel like some of the other potential candidates may bring to us.
“Mickey helped us get to this point. I think he helped us start this progression and I think we got better year over year with him,” the GM added. “We don’t want to take the foot off the pedal.”
The Mickey Callaway Era will likely be remembered for missed opportunities, a mismanaged bullpen, and a first-time skipper some may claim was in over his head from day one.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)