The New York Mets are in the midst of a midseason free fall, having lost seven of their last 11 games and falling nine games out of first place in the National League East.
Tensions and frustrations have been building up in the Mets clubhouse for several weeks. Sunday night, the well finally ran over after the team squandered a potential victory on the road against the Chicago Cubs. The Mets held a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning when Seth Lugo surrendered a three-run home run to Javier Baez, which ultimately decided the game as the Mets lost, 5-3.
Lugo was up to 41 pitches in that inning before giving up the go-ahead home run on his 42nd pitch. Hence, manager Mickey Callaway was rightly questioned on his decision to leave Lugo in the game, instead of turning to Robert Gsellman, or Edwin Diaz to finish the 8th inning.
Callaway has remained steadfast in his preference to not use Diaz in a situation that requires him to record four outs, or more in one appearance. Nevertheless, Callaway’s lack of initiative and inability to make a move as Lugo labored through a crucial 8th inning led to yet another back-breaking loss for the fledgling Mets.
Unfortunately, the meltdown did not stop once the game was over. Tim Healey, a Mets beat reporter for Newsday, caught the wrath of Callaway and starting pitcher Jason Vargas, as the media gathered in the clubhouse after the game.
“According to multiple reporters, the fireworks began when Newsday beat writer Tim Healey told Callaway he would “see you tomorrow, Mickey” following the manager’s postgame news conference. Yahoo Sports reported that Callaway responded by yelling at Healey: “Don’t be a smarta–, motherf—er.”
The second-year manager initially walked away and then returned and confronted Healey again, accusing him of “antagonizing” people, according to NorthJersey.com.
Vargas then stared down Healey and reportedly mentioned fighting the reporter, telling him: “I’ll knock you the f— out, bro.” Vargas then tried to charge Healey but was restrained by starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Carlos Gomez.
Callaway then told a Mets media relations official to “get this motherf—er out of here. We don’t need that bulls— here.” Vargas chimed in: “He’ll be back tomorrow, but get him the f— out of here today!”
This incident was obviously completely over the line and embarrassing for the Mets organization, which later issued an apology to Healey for what occurred.
“The Mets sincerely regret the incident that took place with one of our beat writers following today’s game in the clubhouse,” the team said in a statement. “We do not condone this type of behavior from any employee. The organization has reached out an apologized to this reporter and will have further discussions internally with all involved parties.”
Needless to say, this is not how many Mets fans anticipated the 2019 season going up to this point. There were several reasons to be optimistic about this team heading into the season, including the acquisitions of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, as well as signing the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom to a five-year contract extension. Even as the season got underway there were more pleasant surprises for Mets fans; they came in the form of Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, two young players who were quickly transforming into stars before our very eyes.
That excitement, however, came to a screeching halt in the form of a three-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Miami Marlins back in late May. The Mets became the first team in Major League Baseball to have been swept by the Marlins in 2019.
It was at that point that many around Flushing, both media and fans alike, began to question Callaway’s future. As the team continued to flounder through the end of May, and into June, there were changes made, but Callaway was not the one who took the fall. Instead, the Mets fired pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez, while subsequently naming Phil Regan the interim pitching coach and Ricky Bones the interim bullpen coach.
The question must be asked, though: At what point does Mickey Callaway lose his job for his role in the Mets’ slow demise this season?
What happened in the clubhouse on Sunday might have brought us and, more importantly, the Mets ownership group, to that point. It has become abundantly clear that Callaway has lost control of his locker room and lost touch with his team in general. A small example of this is demonstrated by the contrast in comments between Callaway and Lugo regarding his 8th inning appearance on Sunday.
Callaway was asked what he thought of Lugo’s performance, to which he replied with the following:
“I thought he had good stuff,” Callaway said of Lugo. “He would’ve gotten through it, he just didn’t execute one pitch.”
Lugo did not agree with his manager’s assessment, as shown by his response to the same question.
“I wasn’t executing any pitch,” Lugo said. “There were probably two or three pitches I was happy with (out of 42).”
Of course, not all of the Mets’ struggles can be pinned on the manager. Injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard have harmed them, and other key players such as Cano, Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares are having subpar seasons. The Mets bullpen has also been an unmitigated disaster this season, ranking 27th in MLB in ERA (5.23), as well as leading the sport with 17 blown saves.
However, the talent is still there. deGrom, Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler are a strong trio in the team’s starting rotation. The aforementioned Alonso and McNeil are absolute hitting machines and could be producing even more if the remainder of the lineup around them is able to turn things around.
The Mets should be one of the most prominent franchises in baseball. They should be one of baseball’s “must watch” big-market draws on a daily basis. The Subway Series that the Mets play against their crosstown rival New York Yankees should be a marquee matchup that baseball fans everywhere look forward to. Unfortunately, the Mets are none of these things. Instead, the team has become the laughing stock of Major League Baseball due to its embarrassing actions both on and off the field and, sadly, it has been that way for far too long.
It is clear that a change in leadership is desperately needed at Citi Field, and Sunday’s humiliating incident may have given the Mets the excuse they have been looking for to make that change.