MIAMI — Outplayed by many, even against the plucky, low-budget Miami Marlins, the Mets are still playing hard and winning about half of their recent games. And that has a positive impact on Buck Showalter, who is still the manager.
If Buck goes out, he goes out knowing he did what he could.
Showalter won his fourth Manager of the Year award during his first season in Queens. And this year, he kept his team in contention after an unprecedented fire sale gutted an already and visibly short team.
No one knows what Showalter’s chances of returning are, not even Buck. That’s up to new Mets president of baseball David Stearns — as it should be. And Stearns isn’t there yet.
We’ve already gone over all the reasons why Stearns is the right person for this organization’s most important job. But for those who haven’t memorized my columns (yes, I imagine there are a few of you), let’s recount the reasons why Stearns will be the new leader:
- He managed to take the small market Brewers (30th out of 30 markets) to the playoffs four straight seasons.
- He has an excellent personal reputation, and members of the Mets organization remember him as a “nice young guy” while working for the team he grew up rooting for as Omar Minaya’s intern .
- Things are not going well in Queens.
Now back to Buck.
The odds seem to be stacked against Showalter, and I get it. There are two clear strikes. It doesn’t matter that this disaster was not his fault, or certainly his fault, he was the pilot.
The other factor that might not work in his favor is that there is a new manager. And just like in real life, one of the keys to getting and keeping a major league manager’s job is whether the boss knows and likes you. Just look around the league, you’ll notice some nice guys who get along great with their bosses but have arguably overseen even bigger disasters, some even with obvious clubhouse problems, who have already been said they would come back.
Stearns should of course get that call, not only because his history suggests good judgment, but also because the manager will be his man in the clubhouse. It’s only natural that Stearns would want his own man, and while there’s no known history between Showalter and Stearns, good or bad, people are already guessing that they’re not compatible (these are just guesses from untested matchmakers, of course).
Of course, if Stearns can somehow lure Craig Counsell – the savant Brewers manager and future free agent – to New York, I understand. He and Stearns formed a winning combo at Brew City. But many believe Counsell could take a year off to spend time with his family. Barring a surprise, I suggest letting Showalter handle the final year of his three-year, $11.25 million contract.
Giving Showalter another year could mean Counsell would be an option for 2025, but more importantly, it would give Stearns a chance to see if Showalter can get the Mets back on track for 2022. I wouldn’t bet against Buck.
“I think Buck is the right person for this job,” Francisco Lindor said. “I’m a big fan. I’m a big supporter. He’s done a great job controlling the narrative and controlling what’s happening in the clubhouse.
Lindor rightly attributes the Mets’ surprising status to injuries and underperformance.
“It depends on the players on the pitch, I include myself,” he said.
My general rule is that it’s usually best to change managers after a disastrous year. You want to avoid the naturally negative narrative that follows train wrecks to spring training. And this time, it would be accompanied by the double scenario of the lame manager.
But in this unusual case, it makes sense. A new leader arrives, who has never hired a manager and knows only the complicated terrain of his brief stint as a low-level employee on his way to much bigger things at MLB headquarters in Houston and Ultimately. Milwaukee.
Showalter doesn’t have a reputation for being the easiest employee, but he’s surely smart enough to know that this is now Stearns’ team (and if not, a change could be made during the season). The best reason to keep him, however, is that he is a very good manager with a proven track record in New York.
While he’s been polarizing in the past, I only know of two people in the traveling party who would rather see him go, and that’s a pretty low number considering the team’s wide disparity between expectations and reality. They lost, but unlike San Diego and Chicago’s South Side, the Mets didn’t become a soap opera.
Lindor is right, he’s not Buck. Expectations were based on abject overperformance in his first year, but this season was plagued by shaky roster construction and debilitating injuries (notably Edwin Diaz and Starling Marte). Buck’s biggest mistake may have been winning too many games in 2022, setting them up for such a steep fall.