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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: October 6, 2022 8:54 pm PDT
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Consider this an intervention, Mets. Can’t let you screw this one up.

Sometimes the truth is staring you in the face and all you have to do is accept the truth. Unless, of course, you can’t handle the truth.

Buck Showalter must be the Mets’ next manager.

He’s not perfect, but he is perfect for what the Mets need now most of all, an adult in the room.

This is so simple, but the Mets have a history of making life so hard.

Enough with the inexperienced managers who have to learn on the job in the major leagues, in New York of all places. The Mets have tried that the last four years with Luis Rojas and Mickey Callaway. The irony was they would not let Rojas manage and Callaway had to fight through the inner wars of the front office to try to manage.

Each man was limited in his major league managerial experience, try zero. And each man had to fight his way through all the obstacles the Mets front office and yes – the players – tossed in their way and they were expected to win in New York.

There were so many times after games when Callaway and Rojas were asked direct questions and they were not giving direct answers because they really had nothing to do with the decisions that were made on the field in front of them during the game.

They were puppets. And you wonder why it blew up every one of those years.

Buck reveres fundamentals and you better be where you are supposed to be on cutoff plays or Showalter will show you over and over again. 

A brief recap:

A 77-85 mark in 2021, third place, 11 1/2 games out of first place in NL East.

A 26-34 mark in 2020, fourth place, nine games out.

An 86-76 record in 2019, third place, 11 games out.

A 77-85 mark in 2018, fourth place 13 games out.

So essentially, the Mets finished where they started in 2021 with the same 77-85 mark under Rojas as they had in 2018 under Callaway. As you can see, that was under new ownership in Steve Cohen. That was after Cohen paid $341 million for shortstop Francisco Lindor.

You learn as you go even though you are not allowed to learn because you are a puppet for the Analytics Squad. All that didn’t work out for Cohen in 2021.

Buck Showalter is no one’s puppet. The problem could arise in that he will try to be the puppet master, running all things Mets as what happened to a degree in Baltimore. But if Buck knows what is good for Buck, and you learn what is good for you on the set of MLB Network when you are not allowed to manage anymore, then he will tone down his high-def personality just a bit and work more with Nerds and players.

The beauty of that is he will still be Buck. And that is what the Mets need right now. The Mets need managerial leadership. That was painfully obvious last year in the case of Lindor attacking Jeff McNeil, painful for McNeil. It is my understanding that Luis Guillorme just happened to come down the hallway from out of the clubhouse to intervene or it could have been a much worse situation.

With Buck in charge, he would have been all over that situation the moment on the field McNeil got in the way of Lindor, which helped create the bad blood.

Buck Showalter. (AP Photo)

Say this for Buck Showalter, on the field, he sees everything, going back to all his 20 years of major league managing.

And I mean that as a major compliment.

Showalter was interviewed Wednesday by the Mets. I’m sure he was at his best, dissecting every issue in the Mets cupboard of baseball mistakes made over the last four years with the running a managerial internship.

I would imagine that Billy Eppler’s head is still spinning, but Eppler can help himself with hiring Buck. You just know Steve Cohen is all in on Buck.

The Billy and Buck Show has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

The Yankees, currently stuck in the financial quicksand poured by Hal Steinbrenner, are ripe to be taken in New York. For Mets fans, 1986 was a lifetime ago. It’s about time they showed up again. Terry Collins, another veteran manager, got the Mets to the World Series in 2015, but lost in five games to the Royals. They got a wild card game the next year, eliminated by Madison Bumgarner and they haven’t done squat since.

The four years of intern managers produced a combined 266 wins and 280 losses. That’s rather pathetic, especially with Jacob deGrom on your team.

It was the little things that hurt the most. The Mets always found a way to bleed their fans with tiny little cuts, a base-running mistake here, a bobble there, throwing to the wrong base or just striking out when all they had to do to win the game was put the damn ball in play.

All during those four years Mets fans waited for the moment their team would screw-up. The Mets, once the Kings of Queens, became the Kings of beating themselves.

Jeff McNeil and Francisco Lindor

No other teams consistently beat themselves more than the Mets did and a lot of that goes back to managing. Little things became big things because the Mets let the little things get away from them, starting in spring training.

There was really no true value placed on winning. It was all about the process or something stupid like practicing a World Series winning celebration like they did last spring training one day.

With Showalter, the Mets will practice baseball.

Buck Showalter will value the little things. He will value them so much he may drive you crazy. But that’s okay, these Mets deserve to get a little skill work and teamwork into the program. I used to love to go over to Sarasota early when the Yankees were playing the Orioles in spring training just to talk baseball with Buck and also watch his teams go through infield and outfield practice before the spring training game.

Buck knows the importance of fundamentals. Buck reveres fundamentals and you better be where you are supposed to be on cutoff plays or Showalter will show you over and over again. Same thing with baserunning.

Buck came up with the Yankees when they stressed all the little things. That’s his wheelhouse. And the great thing is nowadays most teams are lost in the analytics of the game and overlook the fundamentals of the game. So the improvements Buck Showalter will put into action will be noticed immediately.

Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa made it cool again to be an old guy in baseball. Buck Showalter, 65, will make it cool again to play fundamentals. The game needs it. The Mets certainly need it.

Let me know some of your favorite Mets miscues of the last four years.

One of my favorites was forgetting the outs (it’s on the scoreboard, fellas) and getting doubled off second base like Javy Baez with no outs against the Giants last year. He might have thought the ball was going to drop into centerfield but he never looked at the ball or where the centerfielder was playing. Either way it was a huge mistake. Evidently he never looked at the third base coach either, who would have pointed him back to second. So on one play Baez committed a litany of mental mistakes.

Don’t think with Buck in charge, Baez, Lindor or Kevin Pillar would be dropping any thumbs down on the Mets fans, either.

Billy Eppler

A couple more Buck Points no one may have thought about until now.

Showalter worked for some of the cheapest owners in baseball in Baltimore. He would be tremendously energized by working for the richest owner in Steve Cohen. In other words he will be at his best with that kind of backing.

Let’s make 2022 the Year of the Manager at Citi Field.

Gil Hodges, thankfully, was elected to the Hall of Fame Golden Days Era committee this week. It was Gil who led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series win over Earl Weaver and the Orioles. He will be celebrated by the Mets this summer and it is only fitting to have a manager like Showalter in charge of the team, not another learn as you intern hire.

Managerial candidate Brad Ausmus, has major league managerial experience, was a major league catcher for 18 years, and like Sandy Alderson is a Dartmouth man, but he does not have the depth of experience of Showalter. The Mets certainly can find a good role for Ausmus in the organization if they want to hire him in some other capacity.

The other candidates I am not going to waste any time on because frankly, why would the Mets go with major league managerial inexperience yet again. Are they going to continue to hit their head against the wall? And Cohen, to his credit, has said he would rather not have to teach people their jobs on his dime. I love that.

With Buck Showalter you always run the risk of the downside of being too much of a control freak. It’s just his nature, but again, when you know you can manage better than most people in the job and you have to watch them manage from Studio 42 in Secaucus, NJ at MLB Network, it humbles you a bit and you probably say to yourself I can make the adjustments I need to make to be at my best.

Manager Buck Showalter #11 of the New York Yankees argues with an umpire during a Major League Baseball game circa 1993 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Showalter managed the Yankees from 1992-1995. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

And we haven’t even gotten to the fact Max Scherzer floated a trail balloon for Buck.

If I’m paying my ace $43.3 million a year, I want him to have total respect for the manager who is going to have to manage him and pull him out of games on occasion that he does not want to be pulled from. It’s common sense.

The Mets have shown the opposite of common sense in past years so they could use some common sense now. Then there is the Jake deGrom situation. DeGrom can opt out after 2022 so the Mets better get a manager that knows what he is doing with a rotation and a bullpen.

Showalter also will have more control over Francisco Lindor than Rojas had and in some way Buck could be like a Terry Francona leader that Lindor played for with the Indians, who, by the way, are now the Guardians.

Mets fans like my BallNine teammate Rocco Constantino, deserve a run with Buck Showalter. It’s one less thing for them to worry about. Mets fans lead the league in worrying every year and really, you can’t blame them.

So no offense to Ausmus, Don Kelly, Joe Espada, Matt Quatraro, Bob Geren, who also has some major league managing under his belt, but Buck Showalter clearly is the best of this group for right now with this team.

Manager Buck Showalter of the Arizona Diamondbacks during a Spring Training game against the San Diego Padres on March 3, 1998. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Billy Eppler played the obvious card signing Scherzer with Cohen’s big money. That’s a good sign. Don’t try to reinvent the baseball wheel here. Don’t be blown away by a great interview by the other candidates. Buck has been interviewing for this job every day he has been on TV analyzing games.

Every time I would see him after he was out in Baltimore I would tell him, “Got to get you back in the dugout to manage, at the least so I can hear you pontificate on everything baseball and life.’’

That time is now for the Mets. Don’t waste you time overthinking this Mets. You need on-field leadership more than most teams. You need to get baseball right. The game is not just about handing out the biggest contracts, it’s about making players play the game right as a team.

It couldn’t be simpler than that and if Buck Showalter fails somehow, after all, that’s possible because this the Mets we are talking about, it will be one interesting ride. My money though is on Showalter bringing baseball back to the forefront for the Mets and bringing the Mets to the forefront in New York.

Buck Showalter believes in action and actions, once noting, “Your actions will speak so loudly that I can’t hear a word you’re saying.’’

That’s beautiful and it also applies to Buck the manager.

Yes, the Buck truly stops here. It’s about time the former Yankee manager comes back home in New York to finish the job.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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