Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Steve Karsay is a Queens kid, born and raised in New York. He pitched in the Bronx cauldron with the Yankees, serving in the same bullpen as Mariano Rivera, and even subbed at closer for Rivera during a stretch in 2002.
So Karsay has a grasp of the New York market, its pressures and strains. And Karsay, who has worked with Mickey Callaway the last few years in the Indians organization, believes the new Mets manager is suited to thrive in it, mostly because "one of his strengths is, he's a great communicator," Karsay says.
"I think he'll excel at being a manager. He'll be a players' manager, but with the stern-ness and the growth for them to learn under him.
"He's about as down-to-earth as you can get," adds Karsay, who was the Indians' Triple-A pitching coach the past two seasons and was hired by Callaway when Callaway was Cleveland's Minor League Pitching Coordinator before he moved up to become Indians pitching coach in 2013.
We're all just learning about Callaway, the 42-year-old who excelled at tutoring the Indians' pitchers over the last five years. But he comes to the Mets with solid billing from the industry.
Two high-ranking front office executives from other teams touted him, with one describing Callaway's reputation like this: "Well-respected baseball man with an understanding of analytics."
Adds C.J. Nitkowski, the former pitcher who was a teammate of Callaway's and is now a Texas Rangers broadcaster: "Great guy, student of the game and communication off the charts. He's as even keel as they come.
"He gets it."
It's a good start for the Mets, who are slated to introduce Callaway in a press conference on Monday afternoon. But it's also going to be a challenge for the club and Callaway to move quickly away from the dismal 2017 season in which the injury-riddled Mets finished 70-92, 27 games behind the Nationals in the NL East Division. The new manager must reach the hitters, too, not just the highly-touted arms.
There are building blocks on the roster, starting with the remarkable Jacob deGrom, and other pieces. But plenty of questions, too. For the Mets' sake, they need players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Noah Syndergaard to be back to their old selves after injuries affected '17. Maybe Callaway can help a lost Matt Harvey.
Callaway has proven himself in pitching. He pitched for parts of five seasons in the majors, going 4-11 with a 6.27 ERA in 40 games. The Indians have thrived under him -- their 3.64 ERA from 2013-17 is the lowest in the American League over that span. Cleveland's 3.30 ERA in 2017 was the lowest in the majors, the first time the Indians can claim that since 1954, and the '17 team set a single-season MLB record for strikeouts with 1,614.
Much of that, of course, is talent. Corey Kluber is probably going to win his second AL Cy Young Award this winter. But, Karsay says, Callaway helped along the way, particularly with the blossoming of pitchers such as Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Bauer, you might remember, baffled the Yankees in Game 1 of the AL Division Series a few weeks ago.
"Those numbers are a tribute to him," Karsay says of Callaway.
Part of the way Callaway helped his charges in Cleveland is through his understanding of the game's more forward-thinking types of analysis, which should fit in nicely with the Mets' own baseball worldview. But, Karsay says, Callaway does not simply crunch the numbers and dump stacks of gray data on a pitcher's lap.
"Being within our organization and how we do things, what our analytics department does -- we have one of the best in the game -- you have to build relationships with the player and get the player to buy into what the analytics is saying," Karsay says. "Mickey's really good at deciphering what they say and working with the pitcher to get the most out of it.
"That's where the success and growth comes."
While Callaway has no prior managing experience -- certainly not unusual these days -- he has been working closely with one of the game's most respected skippers, Terry Francona. Karsay believes that will have an impact on Callaway's Mets tenure, including on dealing with New York scrutiny.
"He's worked with Tito and I'm sure he's learned a great deal of how to deal with the media from him," Karsay says. "I don't know this, but I'm sure being with Tito, he's had multiple conversations on that type of atmosphere. He's so low-key and he understands, or will, how to handle that. He's not one who automatically panics on a moment's notice. There's calculation to what he does. He gets information from all the different places before applying it.
"Being a manager is a tough job. There are a lot of decisions, a lot on your plate. Having worked in the Indians organization, to be able to collaborate and throw things off different people, working with the front office and the analytics and establishing rapport with the players, that will help him have success there."