Mickey Callaway and some managerial comps

Mickey Callaway’s rookie managerial season skippering the Mets had some ups, and a lot of downs. He and the team had a sizzling start, then a dreadful June, before rallying to a respectable pace the latter part of the year. Perhaps the low point for Callaway was the infamous lineup mixup in Cincinnati that likely cost the Mets a game ultimately won by the Reds in extra innings. Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera batted in each other’s spot through no fault of their own, due to an incorrect batting order posted in the dugout. The Mets finished 2018 in fourth place with a 77-85 mark.

However, 2019 is a new season, Callaway has a year under his belt and some new coaches, ironically including new bench coach Jim Riggleman, who was the Reds’ manager who successfully exploited the batting order snafu last year. Callaway said Riggleman has already given him some valuable insights about approaching managing, including suggesting Callaway not try to reinvent the wheel but instead go with tried and true methods that have worked.

Other managers have struggled in their first year but then turned it around into very successful careers. We’re going to look at the records of five Hall of Fame managers who managed within the past fifty years, all of whom had some type of New York team connection.

Walter Alston had a very rocky start to his MLB managerial career in 1954 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. They finished second to the arch rival New York Giants with 92-62 record. In ‘53 the Dodgers under Charlie Dressen t demolished the league with a 105-49 pennant winning season. There was plenty of speculation that Alston was on thin ice, but he then rebounded and the club won the WS in ‘55 over the Yanks and Alston went on to a long and successful career with the Dodgers with another four championships in Los Angeles.

Whitey Herzog had been the Director of Player Personnel with the Mets before receiving the managerial post for the Texas Rangers in 1973. However, Herzog did not even finish out the year, he was fired with a 47-91 record. Herzog hung in there, made some adjustments and eventually landed another manager spot. He was especially successful in the ‘80s with a WS win and two other appearances with the Cardinals.

Joe Torre replaced Joe Frazier as the Mets manager part way into the 1977 season. In 1976 the Mets had finished a respectable 86-76, but regressed considerably in Torre’s first year as his record was 49-68. He never sniffed .500 in his tenure with the Mets which ended in 1981. Torre soon landed on his feet, managing the Braves to a divisional title in 1982. He had a great run with the Yankees in the 90s and into the 2000’s including the remarkable ‘98 season when the Yanks had an other worldly record of 114-48, culminating in a WS win.

Lou Piniella just won election to the Hall of Fame this off-season. His initial season managing was 1986 with the Yankees, with a solid 90-72 record good for second place. It was, however, a regression from 1985 when the Yankees were 97-64. Piniella was then replaced by Billy Martin in 1988 during the unstable George Steinbrenner years, but he did go on to a successful managerial career elsewhere including a 1990 WS win with the underdog Cincinnati Reds.

The final manager to be examined is Bobby Cox, who is the exception to the slow start to his managerial career. The one-time Yankee infielder managed his first MLB season for the Braves in 1980, finishing 81-80. That was a big improvement over ‘79 season when Atlanta finished 66-94. Cox had a stint managing Toronto, then became Braves GM before returning to the Atlanta dugout midway through the 1990 season. Cox won one WS in ‘95 over Cleveland to go with a long string of divisional titles in the 90s and 2000s.

The bottom line is that even though Callaway had some bumps in his first season managing, that is almost to be expected. Who knows how his career will end, but he seems like a smart guy who learns from his mistakes.

15 comments for “Mickey Callaway and some managerial comps

  1. steve
    February 12, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    Remember Lou led the Mariners to the record tying number of wins in a season in the early 90s as well.

    • John Fox
      February 12, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      Steve,
      It was 2001 when the Mariners had their big year, 116 wins I think but they did not win the WS that year. But it certainly was a tremendously successful regular season.

  2. Chris B
    February 12, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    Callaway was a breath of fresh air at the onset last year and I hope that he’s an exception to the pitching coach to manager slump. I’m very curious as to how he manages clutch moments with the ‘pen and platoons with the infield in 2019. Let’s hope he ends up with a better record than Torre with the Mets at least.

  3. Name
    February 12, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Callaway was absolutely horrible for the Mets in 2018. He had absolutely zero NL experience, both as a player and coach, before this year and it showed. He had no idea how to utilize a pen, he had no idea how to deploy a bench. Double switches were non existent and he pulled SP way too early and at times that made no sense.

    And the amazing thing is he actually got worse at the managing game as the season progressed. It’s mind boggling to me why he wasnt fired.

    He actually made me yearn for Terry Collins.

    • TJ
      February 13, 2019 at 6:15 am

      Riggleman May be their biggest offseason acquisition.

    • February 13, 2019 at 10:19 am

      Never yearn for a guy that had Nimmo and Conforto.

  4. Mike Walczak
    February 13, 2019 at 6:08 am

    Not a big Callaway fan, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Cox is completely overrated. Yes, he won a bunch of division titles. But, with three hall of fame starters, he won only one World Series.

    A manager with no talent on the roster will struggle. Put Torre, Alston, Callaway or anybody as the manager of the Marlins in 2019 and the will struggle to win 75 games. Jeter can jump up and down all he wants, but his team is going to suck.

    • TexasGusCC
      February 13, 2019 at 7:58 am

      Mike, I heard an interview from an ex-player of his, and the player’s answer to how Bobby Cox was as a manager left me very impressed. His three Hall of Famers included two soft tossing pitchers in an era when they called strikes off the plate during the regular season, however that wasn’t the case in the playoffs. Technology has gotten rid of that and nowadays Maddox and Glavine would get killed. Plus, he had no bullpen. You could say that the Braves often overachieved.

      Cox was actually a very caring manager and very good manager, and his players would run through a wall for him.

    • Chris F
      February 13, 2019 at 9:28 am

      Im a believer in Flags Fly Forever. And living in Braves country, I very much enjoy the 2 banners we have. That said, the WS is a fickle temptress. Bad teams can beat good teams, just look at ’69. It wasn’t called a miracle for nothing. I think there is value in assessing the quality of a team excluding post season. ZYou run that many division titles together and its a dynasty, complete ownership. And we felt it. Part of my measure is just how much I couldnt stand seeing Cox and Mazzone…

      • IDRAFT
        February 13, 2019 at 9:36 am

        The 1969 Mets won 100 games. How many wins does it take for you to consider a team good?

        • Chris F
          February 13, 2019 at 9:38 am

          they were good of course, but 10 back late int he season, and the Orioles were a better team by every measure. It was an upset. No bad team makes the WS, I meant the worse team of the 2.

  5. February 13, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Hopefully he learns from his mistakes but some managers stay bad forever like Terry Collins and Jerry Manuel.

  6. February 13, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Lou missed induction by one vote actually.

    • John Fox
      February 13, 2019 at 2:44 pm

      You are absolutely right David, my memory failed me.

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