John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
After Travis d'Arnaud had stunned Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees on the greatest night of his baseball life, the type of night the Mets gave up on waiting for, Buck Showalter had an interesting take that served as a reminder he's available to manage next season.
In Queens, perhaps?
I don't think it's out of the question, partly because I believe Brodie Van Wagenen realizes the instant credibility a big-name manager such as Showalter or Joe Girardi would bring to the Mets, which is something they desperately need after the Mickey Callaway era ends.
I'll get to all of that, but first Showalter's analysis of the D'Arnaud at-bat that ended with a game-winning three-run home run in the ninth inning on Monday night:
As a guest analyst this week on YES, Showalter indicated that because d'Arnaud looked so locked in the plate, having already hit two home runs earlier in the game and then taking good swings during the ninth-inning at-bat against Chapman, he might have been inclined to walk him.
Doing so would have loaded the bases and moved the potential tying run to second, a no-no in the manager's handbook. And obviously it's easy to take such a stance after Chapman served up a three-run home run to d'Arnaud that won the game for the Rays.
But if you know Showalter, he wasn't so much second-guessing Chapman as making the type of observation that has defined him as a thinking man's manager over the years.
That is, he trusts what he sees with his eyes, something fewer and fewer managers are even allowed to do in this analytics-driven era of baseball. And he's not afraid to act on his instincts.
Remember, when managing the Arizona Diamondbacks he once had Barry Bonds intentionally walked with the bases loaded, a strategy that ultimately paid off with a win.
Not that he would have intentionally walked d'Arnaud on Monday night. But it sounded as if there was a point in the at-bat with Chapman, as d'Arnaud was fouling back 101-mph fastballs and not so much as flinching on nasty sliders, where Showalter would have intervened.
In fact, he indicated that he told his co-hosts on the post-game show, Bob Lorenz and Jack Curry, during the at-bat that he smelled trouble.
"You could tell the body language of d'Arnaud," Showalter said. "That he had a good feeling. He was seeing the ball, letting it travel. I said to ourselves a little bit here, 'there's another guy on deck. This guy's locked in.' "
Showalter went on to say that Chapman was inviting disaster by throwing everything on the outer half of the plate, giving d'Arnaud the opportunity to take advantage of the short porch in right field.
"You could see how many breaking balls he was throwing, that he didn't really trust his fastball, even though he was throwing it 101 miles an hour," Showalter said. "When he tried to elevate the fastball, it was down. That's the only place you can get (Chapman), a breaking ball in the strike zone or a fastball down that does the work for you."
All of that said, Showalter admitted, "You're not going to tell Chapman to pitch around him, that's not in his makeup. But you could tell the body language was such…it's tough to see (him give up the home run)."
Perhaps, then, Showalter would have sent the pitching coach to the mound during the at-bat, which managers rarely do, to deliver the message of what he was seeing and tell him:
1)If you're going to miss, better to miss inside with a fastball than leave a slider up, as Chapman did on the 3-2 pitch.
2)With two outs already, don't be afraid to walk a guy who is clearly feeling ultra-confident at the plate, even if it does load the bases.
Anyway, the big-picture point is that listening to Showalter break it down was to be reminded of how detail-oriented he was during his years with the Yankees, D-Backs, Rangers, and Orioles, and that he's among the very best at in-game managing.
No, I haven't forgotten that he may have cost the Orioles a loss in the AL wild-card game of 2016 by refusing to use closer Zack Britton in a tie game. It was a bad decision that I've asked him about, without any real luck in getting an answer, and ultimately I think Showalter paid for thinking he could steal a few innings, even in extra innings, while holding Britton until he got a lead.
Buck got hammered for it, and rightly so, but that mistake doesn't compare to the years and years of excellent managing.
At age 63, he has joked that he's "too old for this (stuff)" anymore, but I think Showalter still burns to prove he can win a championship, something his Yankees' team did under Joe Torre, after Buck built a foundation for winning, and the Diamondbacks did as well, two years after he won 100 games with them.
He's smart enough to understand the importance of analytics in today's game, but he would also demand a level of decision-making control that many managers no longer get these days. I think Van Wagenen would agree, understanding that Showalter would take some heat off him and give the Mets the best chance to win.
Buck also would demand significantly more money than Callaway is making, but this is where the Mets need to be smart: the credibility Showalter would bring is something worth millions to the organization.
For starters they wouldn't have a manager like Callaway who's had trouble dealing with the media at times. On Sunday, he lied about his decision to discipline Amed Rosario for not running out a fly ball, even though he told the team broadcasters the truth, apparently not realizing they'd talk about it on the air.
Showalter, meanwhile, guards information closely but he's smart enough to establish a respectful relationship with the media, using a self-deprecating sense of humor that smooths out any rough edges.
And while Girardi would be a good choice as well as the next manager, I think Showalter has grown more over the years in the way he relates to players, giving up some of the micro-managing that wore on Yankee and Diamondback players early in his career.
Bottom line, just hearing that analysis Monday night was a reminder: if/when Van Wagenen goes looking for a new manager after the season, he should start by talking to Showalter.