Mickey Callaway is doing the right thing for the Mets, it just doesn't feel like it right now because they're losing more than they're winning.
The Mets are 3-9 since starting the season 15-6. Yet, team insiders say Callaway is saying, behaving and doing the same things with his players in May that he was doing during all of April.
Regardless of wins, losses, streaks, or struggles, he has continued to press a team-first mindset, which most recently was on display when the organization DFA'd Matt Harvey and skipped Jacob deGrom in the rotation.
I heard in April when the Mets were winnings, as well as this past week when the Mets were losing at Citi Field, that Callaway is consistent in telling his players that success is borne out of preparation and opportunity. There are a lot of factors that determine whether a team wins or loses, he'll say. However, if this roster works hard to be prepared and create opportunities, they should always be in position to win more than they lose...
So, what does this say about the team's most recent 12 games? Are they not prepared? I doubt that very much, given the coaching staff and veterans on the team. Instead, they're not creating opportunities, which in large part is because key players are not doing their jobs in the right spots.
Interestingly, the team is striking out less during their recent slide, while hitting home runs at a similar rate as they did earlier in the season. They're also getting on base at a similar clip.
The stark difference between when they were winning more than losing, as opposed to now when they're losing more than they're winning, is that -- as a team -- they're drawing fewer walks, not getting as lucky on balls in play, and they seem totally incapable of hitting left-handed pitching (especially at Citi Field).
To make matters worse, while Amed Rosario and Adrian Gonzalez are actually trending in the right direction, the team's foundational talent is doing very little to bring them home.
For instance, when the Mets were winning earlier in the season, Yoenis Cespedes had been driving in turning-point runs by hitting exceptionally well in 'close and late,' 'clutch,' and 'high-leverage situations,' even though he had a disappointing overall batting average. During the last 12 games, though, while he's batting a better .385 with six RBI, he has stopped being effective in big spots.
The biggest dip goes to Asdrubal Cabrera, who hit .349 and slugged .590 through the team's first 21 games. Since then, he's batting .267 and striking out at least once each game.
Similarly, while Michael Conforto slugged just .327 when the team was hot, he's slugging an even weaker .281 while they're not. Todd Frazier is also getting less important and powerful hits, and Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares have significantly cooled off, which has weakened the bench and overall depth for Callaway to dip in to...
In case you're wondering, Jay Bruce has had zero impact on the lineup no matter how the team is performing. For reference, he hit .222 when the Mets were 15-6 and he's hitting .292 as they've gone 3-9. Also, he has averaged the same rate of home runs and strikeouts regardless of their record.
It also doesn't help that the pitcher and catcher are automatic outs in the lineup. Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki may not have been Mike Piazza, but -- at the very least -- they provided more of a physical threat in the batting order than Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
The point is, perhaps the Mets are prepared, perhaps they're doing their best to create opportunities, but perhaps they're just not creating enough opportunities -- and when they do, they're not taking advantage. In this case, is Callaway at fault or is it his players that are dropping the ball? Or, is it both?
In regards to Callaway's in-game work, it's simply too early in the season to judge whether he is making too many right and wrong decisions. I think, on the whole, he's making mostly evidence-based, smart choices that are often based on recent trends. It seems to be that his players are not completing the deal.
Frankly, to say whether any manager is more right than wrong is never fair because it is often just an emotional reaction or (at best) results-oriented thinking. Instead, it's best to judge the process being used and whether the manager is making smart choices given everything going on in those moments. And, again, for the most part, I see Callaway making intelligent decisions.
Along those lines, I remember Willie Randolph lecturing a newspaper reporter during 2008 after he was asked whether he made the wrong decision during a game. Randolph understandably lost his cool and ranted for several minutes about how anyone that has ever played baseball for a living would know these are unfair questions.
Why? According to Willie, there are countless times when he and every manager to ever wear a uniform have made right choices, but they're viewed as the wrong choice when the player doesn't execute. Conversely, a foolish or wrong choice can end up being the right choice if a player gets lucky or the ball bounces an inch to its left as opposed to its right.
"Guys, just because it didn't work out the way we wanted doesn't mean it was the wrong decision at the time, it just means it didn't work out," he said, after which he rolled his eyes, smiled and shook his head.
In the end, while culture and managerial decisions matter, talent and execution will always matter more. I'm sure Callaway can be proactive and rest players, switch up the bullpen roles and batting order, or put a different emphasis on specific matchups and moments. But, overall, I see Callaway choosing the smarter option more times than not, and I hear people say he's saying the right things before and after games. If this is true, the key to turning this season around may have less to do with where he positions people or puts them in the lineup and everything to do with how those guys perform when there...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!