BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Mark Brown/Getty Images)
The best-laid plans can go wrong. In the Mets’ case, it often is.
Mets manager Buck Showalter is finding out that being a Met means navigating crisis, and he is now dealing with it days before Opening Day starts. He will start the season with his ace Jacob deGrom being on the injured list with a stress reaction on his right scapula, and he may not have Max Scherzer to start the season after his hamstring acted up on Friday.
Don’t tell Showalter that this is not an ideal situation. While he acknowledged the problem, he knows he is being paid to figure it out as the Mets manager. He understands no one will feel sorry for him and his team, not when his boss Steve Cohen is footing the bill with the highest payroll in baseball at $235.6 million (team history).
Of all the big moves the Mets made this offseason, hiring Showalter was the best of all. They found a leader who can lead. They haven’t had a competent manager since Terry Collins. The new Mets manager may not have all the answers, but one thing he will do is not let his players feel sorry for themselves and just take the losses like his previous predecessors Mickey Callaway and Luis Rojas, who had no business managing a MLB team.
A manager should be hired more than just having intelligent, empathetic, analytical thinking and communication skills. He has to know how to lead through the tough times. That part of being a manager has been a lost art now because general managers want to be more in control of leading the team than managers, who just follow orders these days. This is why hiring Showalter is significant. For a crisis like this.
Showalter mentioned deGrom’s injury should be an opportunity to present itself for somebody to step forward. Look, no one can replace deGrom’s skillset. But a starter can still do his job by pitching well enough to win games. It’s not like the Mets are going to lose an everyday hitter out there. It’s a pitcher that is on the mound every five days or so, so he can be replaceable. This is where depth matters.
The Mets feel Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Trevor Williams can provide the depth in the rotation out there. Megill’s starts last season could be invaluable for the Mets this season. He showed he can be a competent pitcher every fifth day. He gave the Mets a chance to win when he was out there because he was efficient on the mound by throwing strikes and minimizing jams.
Peterson wasn’t as good last year as he was two years ago, but he has shown he has the stuff to be a competent starter with his control.
Those guys were going to be important heading to this season anyway. With Scherzer’s age and deGrom coming off lat, shoulder, elbow and neck injuries last season, the Mets knew pitching depth was going to be important this season, which explained why they acquired Chris Bassitt from the Oakland Athletics after the lockout ended. They had to prepare for the day deGrom would get hurt again, and unfortunately for them, it came earlier than they expected.
Showalter prepares for the long-term. He gets the big picture by knowing there are going to be ups and downs in a long season. He knows challenges are part of the game. It’s how to manage through it, which is the job description of a manager. It’s why he’s the right fit for the Mets. He is why the Mets can survive deGrom’s injury for the short-term and maybe the long-term.
He managed 2,268 games in his successful Major League career. He knows the ins and outs of managing situations. He understands this part of the deal where guys go down.
Too often, managers get the label of just writing guys in the lineup card or doing what their bosses what them to do in a game. Managers is about managing within a game and managing within a crisis. Rojas and Callaway were ill-equipped to handle that part of the role because Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons never looked at the role of the manager that way. This did the Mets a disservice, which explains why the team wasted four years of deGrom’s service.
Showalter knows it won’t be easy to manage if he keeps losing players. In fact, it won’t be easy now since there are question marks after Bassitt. No one knows what Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco can do. As good as Megill is, can he avoid the sophomore slump? Can Peterson rebound? The starters have their plusses, but things can go the other way.
It could be worse right now. The Mets have to hope this is as bad as it gets. They have to hope Scherzer doesn’t have that lasting injury. They are going to have to prepare with the idea deGrom may not even pitch this season with his chronic injuries.
It won’t deter Showalter. He knows this is part of the deal. His job is to go out and win games with what he has on his roster. This explains why he was defiant and not worked up about deGrom being out for two months. This is the type of leadership the Mets fans crave from their manager.
Count him out at your own risk. I will take my chances with him.
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