By Lenn Robbins
Let this be the last October for a long time that we don’t find ourselves in this New York baseball Groundhog Dog.
Like the movie, we’ve lived this scenario over and over again. But whereas Bill Murray finally gets it right and wins Andie MacDowell’s heart, the Mets and Yankees almost never get it right at the same time.
So here we are, the Yankees about to begin their pursuit of a 28th World Series. The Mets about to hire their sixth manager in the last 16 seasons after firing Mickey Callaway on Thursday.
This is the most important decision of Brodie Van Wagenen’s young GM career. He traded the future for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Then he doubled down and acquired Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline.
The Mets weren’t an afterthought in September for the first time since 2016. They should be a legitimate postseason contender in 2020 but that window isn’t likely to remain open for long with the depleted farm system.
Van Wagenen needs a manager that has a win-now mentality and a New York-tough resiliency.
In his last comments before getting fired, Callaway had an interesting spin on managing, especially in this town.
“I make unpopular decisions every day, whether it’s unpopular to you guys or the players.’’ Callaway told reporters. “And every decision I make is going to be unpopular to somebody. But I make decisions based on trying to win games and trying to keep these guys motivated to win as many games as they possibly can.”
What separates the great managers from the good ones is that they can sell those unpopular decisions. They have a track record that affords them the benefit of the doubt. They have a confidence that is not cocky but fierce.
The Mets need that kind of manager to lead the way.
Which brings us to the Yankees. When Brian Cashman chose Aaron Boone, it was a bold decision that could have backfired. Boone is the poster boy for a young manager. He can relate to players while balancing analytics and feel.
One can’t overstate the job Cashman and Boone did this season. The injuries came like a plague and still the Yankees won 103 games and the AL East. Cashman never uttered the words, “Come and Get Us.” Or maybe he did by buying a formidable bullpen and stockpiling depth.
It seems unfair to base the success of this season on whether or not the Yankees win it all. There are other teams in the AL with just as much power and better starting pitching. That’s the contract one signs when donning pinstripes – titles or bust.
Maybe the Yankees will overcome that suspect starting pitching and you should know your way to Canyon of Heroes. And maybe Van Wagenen will get it right and the Mets will be playing in October next season. Maybe, just maybe, a subway series is in our future.