It’s April 5. Most years, this date would be baseball’s Opening Day, the herald of sunshine and warm weather. If you live in the New York area, you might have noticed this is not most years. April 5 and the Mets are already five – and should be six – games into the 2018 season. And the reason we’re short a game is because winter will not let us go: the April 2 game was snowed out. It has been a cold, damp start to the campaign, it’s true, but the way the Mets are playing should warm the heart of any frozen fan. Yes, of course it’s early; five games does not a season make. But a 4-1 start will stir the juices of a lot of people. The Mets have played some pretty crisp, fundamentally sound – for the most part – baseball. Early season hasn’t had this kind of feeling to it in a couple of years. It really does remind one of 2015. You may recall that after a 2-3 start, the Mets embarked on an 11-game winning streak that really sustained them into their famous June doldrums that year: by July 4, they were sitting at 41-41, before reinforcements arrived. Right now, it feels like a similar winning skein is right around the corner.
Of course, over basically one trip through the rotation, they have pitched. Oh, my, how they’ve pitched. You’d think that would be natural, considering a former pitching coach is manning the dugout these days. At this early juncture, it really does look like Mickey Callaway has brought a new attitude to Queens. It would be an easy article to write, to simply compare and contrast Callaway with his predecessor, Terry Collins. I’ll avoid that, for the most part, except when it comes to the bullpen. Collins had his precious “book,” and he ran his bullpen by it, come rain or shine, hell or high water. There was no flexibility, no creativity…and no rest for the weary. Collins only trusted a very few individuals to get the job done and those individuals would be worn out over time. Callaway has done the opposite, so far, tailoring his bullpen usage to fit the situation at hand. He seems to have a keener sense than Collins of what high-leverage situations actually are. For instance, in Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over the Phillies, Callaway brought in AJ Ramos, ostensibly his trusty eighth inning setup guy, to start the sixth, in relief of Matt Harvey in a 0-0 tie. The Phillies had the top of the order up at that point. Ramos surrendered a single and a walk before getting two quick outs. Callaway then replaced him with lefty Jerry Blevins, who got the dangerous Odubel Herrera to pop out, ending the threat. Could you ever imagine Collins doing that with, say, Addison Reed and Scott Rice? Probably not, because he’d have wanted to save them for a later inning, as if a game couldn’t be won or lost as early as the sixth. Callaway seems to understand the fluidity of the game. It’s refreshing.
I think we’re in for a nice ride.
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