Despite their 2017 struggles on the mound, the Mets remain a team built upon pitching. As such, the Mets have imported an expert to replace Terry Collins, hiring Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway to be the 21st manager in team history on Monday.
Callaway was introduced at a news conference at Citi Field, and expressed excitement about coming to New York.
"First, we're in the greatest city in the world," Callaway said. "This is one of the greatest franchises in the world. ... When I look at the New York Mets, I see a team that can contend and compete with anybody and that's what we'll work hard to do."
Callaway, 42, was the Indians' pitching coach for the past five seasons, guiding a pitching staff that led the Majors in team ERA (3.30), strikeouts (1,614), strikeouts per nine innings (10.1) and Wins Above Replacement (31.7), according to Fangraphs, in 2017 -- the latter three categories all MLB records. Indians pitchers have led the American League in strikeouts each of the past four seasons.
Following a brief playing career that ended in 2004, Callaway worked his way up the Indians' coaching ladder and became pitching coach under manager Terry Francona in '13.
"Just being around Tito," Callaway said of his experience working with Francona. "All the things that he does on a daily basis, just being around him and seeing what it takes to be a really good manager, obviously it prepares me for whatever I have to do."
Callaway's success stories included Corey Kluber -- a favorite to win his second American League Cy Young Award in five seasons this year -- Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco. Under Callaway, Indians pitchers led the Majors in curveball usage, a departure from the Mets' trend of focusing heavily on sliders under former pitching coach Dan Warthen.
"Mickey has been beyond his years or beyond his experience," Francona said during last year's World Series. "He's so good. I mean, the game doesn't go too fast for him. You look over at him in the dugout and he's got a great demeanor. I think if Mickey wants to manage, I think it's just whenever."
Born and raised in Tennessee, Callaway attended the University of Mississippi and pitched for the Rays, Angels and Rangers over parts of five seasons. The first-time manager's charge in New York will be to win with a team built around Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and other top pitchers.
"I'm going to reach out to the players, Callaway said. "I know they got the news obviously from some other source than myself, but I'm going to reach out to them, let them know how excited I am, and we're going to start this very, very important 2018 offseason. These next three months are going to be critical to what we try to do in the season and we're going to get to work right away."
Callaway's opportunity came this autumn, at a time when five teams -- the Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Tigers and Nationals -- had managerial openings. The Mets also interviewed their hitting coach Kevin Long, Astros bench coach Alex Cora (whom the Red Sox hired as manager on Sunday), White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing and Mariners bench coach Manny Acta.
Callaway was the only one of those candidates without prior ties to the organization. That did not matter for general manager Sandy Alderson, who dismissed Collins, the Mets' longest-tenured manager, earlier this month following seven seasons at the helm. Collins continues to serve in the organization as a special assistant.
It didn't take long for Callaway to impress Alderson, who instantly felt that the former pitching coach's methods matched up perfectly with what the team was looking for.
"All of us came out of [Callaway's interview] excited for the possibility that Mickey would be our manager," Alderson said. "That's a visceral reaction, not one that you can put down on a checklist, but to me that said everything. I think it was consistent throughout."
Callaway felt exactly the same way.
"When I sat in the room and listened to the words that Sandy, JP, John and Jeff were saying to me and the questions they were asking me, I knew right then we were going to be in alignment in what we wanted," Callaway said. "That's why I was so excited when I called my family after. The team itself, the pitching is something that can be some of the greatest guys on the planet. So that obviously is very exciting to me."
It is also unclear how much latitude Callaway will have to select members of his staff, including a pitching coach to replace Warthen.
"We already have a partial list, we want to make sure it's as inclusive as possible. I think Mickey and the front office will work collaboratively to find someone that he's comfortable with," Alderson said. "One of the things that we're going to do over the next few days is put together a list of potential pitching coaches.
"I think that it's important to recognize that yes, Mickey is a former pitching coach and it's important for us because that's our strength. But at the same time, Mickey will be focused entirely on the 25-man roster and the pitching coach will be very important."
Bench coach Dick Scott is unlikely to return, according to Alderson, who indicated that the futures of bullpen coach Ricky Bones and first-base coach Tom Goodwin could depend on the next manager. Third-base coach Glenn Sherlock is the only member of last year's coaching staff under contract for 2018.
The future is less clear for Long, who was considered a favorite to replace Collins. Long's contract as hitting coach is up this month, and while Alderson recently said he expects him and assistant hitting coach Pat Roesseler to remain with the Mets, those two are free to depart if they desire.