The manager is always an easy target when a team has been in the kind of free fall the Mets have been in since they started the season 11-1 and briefly looked like a rocket to the moon. But it is hard to look at the team Mickey Callaway has
The manager is always an easy target when a team has been in the kind of free fall the Mets have been in since they started the season 11-1 and briefly looked like a rocket to the moon. But it is hard to look at the team Mickey Callaway has right now and blame the rookie manager on their side of New York City for where the Mets are and the way they've played for the past two months.
You want to start somewhere in understanding why the Yankees' rookie manager, Aaron Boone, is where he is and why Callaway is where he is? Start here: Boone has five guys who have hit more home runs than Callaway's top homer guys, Brandon Nimmo and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Nimmo hit his 12th on Monday night against the Rockies, when the Mets scored as many runs in one game -- 12 -- as they recently scored over their first eight games in June. It's why Monday night made Mets fans feel as if their team were suddenly scoring like the Golden State Warriors.
There are plenty of reasons for Mets fans to feel as if all their heads are about to explode, as they continue to watch too many guys who seem older than stickball at a time when flashy young hitters seem to rule the world everywhere else. There was the game not so long ago when they were so desperate to find somebody who could get a hit they batted 37-year old Jose Bautista third against the Braves -- despite the fact that Atlanta had just released him after he batted .156 in 11 games with the Braves.
Has Callaway made mistakes? They all do. But is he the guy to blame because 11-1 was followed by a 20-37 stretch? Come on. Too often this season Callaway has tried to compete with a batting order that looked as if it belonged in a Queens softball league.
Yoenis Cespedes has a right quad injury that shows no signs of healing completely anytime soon. He wasn't just supposed to be the Mets' biggest and most important hitter this season. Cespedes is one of the best they have ever had, and the biggest offensive reason they made it to the World Series in 2015. This year, he has played 37 games, hit eight home runs and batted .255.
The next-biggest stick for Callaway was supposed to be Jay Bruce, who has back and hip issues and was scratched from the lineup on Monday night in Denver. Going into that game, Bruce was hitting .212 with three home runs and an OPS of .613, which if you're looking for a analytical comparison, is the area code in Ottawa.
Michael Conforto, who was hitting like a star last year until his season ended last August with a bad left shoulder injury, got three hits against the Rockies in that 12-3 victory Monday. Those hits raised Conforto's average to .225. He was the guy who was going to pick up at least some of the slack for Cespedes and Bruce. So far it has been Nimmo instead, who got four hits against Colorado and raised his average to .287, and actually has become a flashy, young hitter that Mets fans want to watch.
Callaway's No. 3 hitter on Monday night was 32-year-old Todd Frazier, currently hitting .224. The cleanup hitter was Wilmer Flores. The right fielder was Bautista, who is hitting .183.
There was a day not long ago when the Yankees were at Citi Field. The Mets had lost the night before and were about to lose that night, before beating the Yanks, 2-0, on Sunday Night Baseball, at a time when two runs for them felt like a fireworks display over Flushing Bay.
"I honestly feel that when we come out of this -- and we will come out of this -- that we're going to be stronger for what we've been going through," Callaway said in his office. "I'm talking about in August and September. We've just got to find a way to score some runs and get healthy and not fall completely out of things before that."
Callaway knows what everybody knows: His team has no chance if Cespedes doesn't get healthy; if Bruce's back and hip and bat don't get healthy, and soon. The Mets absolutely did show some stick on Monday night, and they showed some fight in coming back on the road against the D-backs on Sunday. But in this home run time in baseball, a time when the Yankees have a strong kid like Gleyber Torres hitting home runs the way he does from the No. 9 hole, the Mets' biggest offensive triumph this season, well, was Finding Nimmo. It is why Callaway's team scoring 12 in Denver felt as shocking as them starting 11-1.
And somehow, with everything that has happened, the Mets woke up on Tuesday morning just six games behind the Nationals -- who will end up winning the National League East -- in the loss column. Now we wait to see if they can ever get Cespedes back and consistently score runs and make anyone believe they can somehow climb out of that 20-37 sinkhole before the reckoning of the non-waiver Trade Deadline, when a decision will be made about dealing Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard and starting all over again.
"Nobody else cares about your problems," Callaway said.
Sometimes it seems as if the only place where the Mets lead the league is in problems. Manager isn't one of them.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com and the New York Daily News and is a best-selling author.