The Mets have had many managers over their 55 years of existence, but only three earned their keep in the Majors as pitchers, specifically George Bamberger, Dallas Green, and the most recent hire, Mickey Callaway. We’ll explore how these three compare and contrast.
Bamberger pitched 18 years in the minors, with brief cups of coffee for the New York Giants (1951 and 1952) and the Baltimore Orioles (1959). The Staten Island native only pitched in 10 MLB games, and ended up with an unsightly 9.64 ERA.
Green had a longer MLB career, pitching in 185 games, posting a lifetime 20-22 record with a 4.26 ERA. He was a hard-throwing right hander who was a top prospect for the Phillies, the team he had rooted for as a youngster. However, like so many pitchers, he injured his arm and never rose to the stardom some had predicted for him. Although he mostly hurled for Philadelphia, He was a Met for the 1966 season.
Callaway pitched in MLB from 1999-2004, for Tampa, Anaheim and Texas. He ended up pitching in 40 games, evenly split between starts and relief appearances. His lifetime record was 4-11 with a 6.27 ERA in the Majors.
All three had considerable success in MLB after their active playing days. Bamberger became the pitching coach for the Orioles from 1968-1977, mostly under Earl Weaver during their glory days. Pitchers like Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer flourished under Bamberger’s guidance. Bamberger’s pitching philosophy emphasized control, and also stressed complete games. Bamberger believed a key to keeping pitchers healthy was to work them a lot, a variance to the contemporary approach, but it worked for the Orioles.
Bamberger became manager of the Brewers in 1978, and the team went from last in 1977 to third under Bamberger, with 93-69 record. He also had a good 1979 season, but had a heart attack in 1980 and underwent a quadruple bypass. He took a break to recuperate, then surfaced as the Met’s skipper in 1982. He posted only a 65-97 record for the Mets that year, then resigned after a poor start in 1983. This was of course just before most of the core players of the 1986 Mets had arrived in Flushing.
Green became manager of the Phils in 1979, and in 1980 he guided the team to its first World Series win ever. In 1982 he took a job with the Cubs as general manager, and turned the team into a contender, making the postseason in 1984 for the first time since 1945. He made several great trades, notably acquiring a young future Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg. His managerial tenure with the Mets was from 1993 into 1996 with losing records each year.
Callaway became a minor league pitching coach in the Cleveland organization in 2010. By 2013 he was pitching coach for the Indians under Terry Francona. Under his supervision the Indians’ pitching staff became one of the best in the Majors, and the team came within a whisker of beating the Cubs during the 2016 WS.
As to the personalities of the three men, Bamberger was a players manager, very approachable and even keeled. Green was just the opposite, an extremely intense manager who gave no quarter, and even kind of crotchety as he aged. Callaway has not managed yet in MLB but he seems to be similar to Bamberger, friendly and approachable.
Both Bamberger and Green had, by any measure, success in MLB after their playing careers were over. Frank Cashen, who ran the Orioles then the Mets, said of Bamberger “He was the best pitching coach i ever saw.” Green was a key part of turning around two franchises, the Phils and the Cubs. However, neither one was successful with the Mets.
Let’s hope Callaways’ tenure with the Mets is not like the other two, but more like another marginal pitcher who became a big league manager.. one Tommy Lasorda.