After management backs Mickey, Mets step up

Van Wagenen throws organization's support behind skipper before Mets snap losing streak

May 21st, 2019

NEW YORK -- As Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen took the podium Monday, most of the highest-ranking members of the Mets’ baseball operations hierarchy -- chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, multiple assistant GMs, and more -- filed into the team’s press conference room behind him. Manager Mickey Callaway stood there also, arms crossed, as Van Wagenen gave him the organization’s backing but not necessarily its fullest, long-term support.

Van Wagenen reiterated that Callaway, whose job has reportedly been at stake for weeks, will be the Mets’ manager “for the foreseeable future.” The GM did not, however, define in practical terms what that phrase means, nor did he guarantee Callaway’s standing for the rest of this season -- let alone the rest of a contract that runs through 2020.

“There is support from every part of this organization that we believe Mickey is going to be our manager as we go forward,” Van Wagenen said. “That expectation wouldn’t change from going forward to the next season, and hopefully to winning games and winning championships.”

Given at least that tepid blessing, Callaway pulled the right levers Monday in a 5-3 win over the Nationals at Citi Field. Wilmer Font gave the Mets four adequate innings, five Mets relievers held the Nats mostly silent after that, and and both homered to snap New York’s five-game losing streak.

Perhaps no one needed the victory more than Callaway. Before the game, the manager met with Van Wagenen and the Mets’ entire staff of uniformed personnel “to make clear to the coaches, make clear to Mickey, and make sure the players understood that I, the front office and the entire ownership group” supported him, according to the GM.

“Mickey’s our manager now,” Van Wagenen continued. “Mickey’s our manager going forward. And we are going to provide the same support we have for him throughout the offseason, as we have to this point. We’ll continue that effort with full steam ahead.”

Given the rumors surrounding Callaway’s job status for the better part of two weeks, those were the words Van Wagenen needed to say. The unspoken implication in guaranteeing nothing beyond “the foreseeable future,” however, was that continued losing could cost Callaway his job. Since replacing Terry Collins as manager before the 2018 season, Callaway has led the Mets to a 97-110 record. The team not only missed the playoffs last year, but entered Monday’s play in third place, 6.5 games back of the Phillies.

Before the Mets’ last homestand, Wilpon called a closed-door meeting with Van Wagenen and Callaway to brainstorm ways to improve -- particularly this month, with the Mets in the midst of a 15-game stretch against exclusively sub-.500 teams. The Mets went 3-5 over the first half of that run, before Monday’s series-opening win against the Nationals.

“I know there was stuff swirling around, but I didn’t really see the concern,” Alonso said. “I understand that it’s New York and there’s a lot of speculation, but I love playing for Mick. Other guys in the clubhouse do, too. If his job was in jeopardy, that would be awful because all of us love playing for skip.”

For days, the Mets have said similar things about Callaway. Monday, they finally offered support with their play. Rosario and Alonso each hit solo homers in the first inning, and Todd Frazier and Carlos Gomez added RBI hits off Patrick Corbin in the third. Told mere hours before the game that he would start, Font held the Nationals scoreless until Anthony Rendon homered to lead off the fourth inning, vindicating the Mets’ decision to start him despite a rocky loss last week in Washington.

Callaway’s bullpen machinations -- two innings from Drew Gagnon, a multi-inning hold from Jeurys Familia, a save from Edwin Diaz and more -- also worked, allowing the manager to depart Citi Field with a rare sense of relief.

“I never felt that I wasn't supported at any time, and we've always had unbelievable dialogue about how we can do things better,” Callaway said. “We realize that we have to do things better. We have to start winning games. And that's what our focus has been at all times.”