NEW YORK -- In about two weeks, Buck Showalter intends to travel to Port St. Lucie, Fla., and set up camp. Due to Major League Baseball’s lockout regulations, the new Mets manager isn’t yet allowed to introduce himself to the players on his roster, let alone work with them. He’s hoping for a quick resolution.
“I think I’m just going to go down and wait until a player shows up -- one that I can really talk to,” Showalter said Monday, on a conference call to discuss the team’s coaching staff.
The reality is that both Showalter and general manager Billy Eppler have plenty to keep them busy for the balance of the lockout. Currently, Showalter is drawing up contingency plans for every possible Spring Training start date -- how workouts might change, for example, if the spring schedule lasts four weeks, or five weeks, or six. He intends to be fully prepared before arriving in Florida, where he will at least be able to interact with staff members and other team personnel. Eventually, even if Major League Spring Training is delayed, Showalter will be allowed to manage Mets prospects who aren’t members of the MLB Players Association.
Then there is Eppler, who has had little down time since the Mets hired him in mid-November. Immediately upon taking the job, Eppler began negotiating with free agents, resulting in a stream of signings later that month. He moved from there to the managerial search that yielded Showalter’s hire, then to a staff search culminating in the hires of bench coach Glenn Sherlock, hitting coach Eric Chavez, base coaches Joey Cora and Wayne Kirby and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson.
With that work done, Eppler can finally begin the process of connecting with other employees in baseball operations, from his analytics team to his scouts and more.
“From the moment I walked in the door, it was hitting the ground sprinting,” Eppler said. “Now, it’s time for me to really connect … because there’s a lot of ideas people have, and there’s a lot of initiatives we want to implement as we move forward. I won’t be bored, I’ll put it to you like that.”
Added Showalter: “It’s obvious that Billy and I share a lot of hopes and dreams for the Mets.”
Given all that, both men will return to their previous frenzied levels of activity as soon as the lockout ends. Eppler will reengage free agents on potential deals and teams on possible trades, while Showalter will connect with all of his players.
Until then, prep work will have to do. The 65-year-old Showalter, Eppler joked, is “getting good on Zoom,” capable now of putting customized backgrounds behind him. Both men are finalizing their housing situations in Port St. Lucie, where neither has spent much time previously in their careers. Because Eppler has three children, Showalter said, he intends to pass on a larger home so that his boss can have it.
Unspoken was the reality that the stadium will eventually become a second home for both.
“I’m going to probably head down about [Feb.] 6th or 7th,” Showalter said, “and just pray that somebody walks through the door quickly thereafter.”