Hard Mets lessons will aid Mickey Callaway’s managerial future

TEMPE, Ariz. — Mickey Callaway believes he will receive another shot to manage in the majors. Not in spite of his time with the Mets, but because of it.

“That was the best coaching experience of my life and it made me a better pitching coach now or a manager in the future,” said Callaway, the Angels’ new pitching coach. “Managing there was like managing five years anywhere else. Because you went through everything on a weekly basis. A little bit of everything. That is good for a first-timer. You want to experience everything you can and you are going to get that experience coaching for the New York Mets in New York. I loved every minute.”

Callaway is back on more comfortable ground. He was a well respected pitching coach with the Indians before his uneasy two years succeeding Terry Collins with the Mets. Angels GM Billy Eppler dug into what occurred in New York while he mulled hiring Callaway, but mainly focused on abilities as a pitching coach. Eppler said the return on that was not only positive, but exceedingly so.

As for being a manager, Callaway never fully developed comfort in the job or in being in New York. He failed to ever be in tune with the intensity of the fan base and aggressiveness of media coverage, and lacked a feel for the right words at the right public moment and real-time decision-making. But his allies will tell you also how poorly he was supported with inconsistent and unclear counsel on how to handle everything from the day-to-day to crises or by being left too frequently with little or no support in troubling moments.

Callaway did not pile on the Mets’ dysfunction or express regret about his tenure or being let go after just two years, one under Sandy Alderson and one under Brodie Van Wagenen, who inherited Callaway. He wanted to stay, but understood why he was removed.

“Any time an organization brings in a new leader they deserve to get their guy,” Callaway said. “There are no hard feelings there. I totally understand it. I’m going to keep on grinding. … Look, you always have regrets and you feel like you could have done something better. So I have regrets daily. But hopefully I learned from those and the next go around I will be better because of it.”

Angels manager Joe Maddon, who brought Callaway in as pitching coach, said: “I think he is going to get another opportunity. He is articulate. He has good thoughts. He sees things. He knows how to deal with pitchers, which is the most important thing for managing. The experience of working in [New York] under that scrutiny plays anywhere else. Maybe others don’t consider it a success, but 86 wins [in 2019] is something and so is coming back to play so much better at the end of the year.”

That was what Callaway was most proud of — that the Mets improved by seven wins in his first year and nine in his second and that they performed well down the stretch.

“I am glad we made those improvements and excelled in the second half last year,” Callaway said. “That is what we were capable of. We were always searching for that identity. I think they found it in the second half last year. That was the high point. Low points? I wish I would have gotten another shot this year because I think that group can do something special.”

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