The necessary marriage between the Mets and Buck Showalter always seemed inevitable
The win-now Mets hired the best win-now person to manage the egos and expectations with stability
Once the off-season shifted from the free agent bonanza that was November into the lockout-induced dark and quiet December (and probably January) in baseball, it was hard to see Mets GM Billy Eppler and club owner Steve Cohen moving this roster forward with anyone other than Buck Showalter.
Not after Cohen committed so many resources to Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar (and of course, Francisco Lindor last winter). Not after yet another season where the Mets underwhelmed on the field and overwhelmed with controversy, both on the field and off it. Not after having four general managers in place over a 12 month span (Brodie Van Wagenen, Jared Porter, Zack Scott, and now Billy Eppler).
And certainly not after the Mets crapped out with their second (third if you include Carlos Beltrán) straight dugout manager with no major league managing experience.
Yes, the stars were aligned for this marriage between the Mets and Showalter, thereby making this marriage seem both necessary and inevitable from the jump.
The Mets needed stability, they needed credibility, they needed a standard of excellence that came pre-established into this upcoming spring training. They needed a strong and confident tactician and one that navigates without paranoia, someone who can think four steps ahead when any opposing manager is thinking three steps ahead. They also needed a manager who has the ability to maximize the talent on the roster and has the ability to easily protect that roster’s weaknesses while creating a culture of inclusiveness and excellence.
They needed to bring order to their chaos.
While there’s no discrediting the credentials and resumes of Bob Geren, Joe Espada, Matt Quatraro, Clayton McCullough and anyone else the Mets might’ve considered, none of them come with the combination of experience, reputation and street credentials to do all of that with this roster in this city at this time.
Eppler and Cohen knew they needed someone with those street credentials. And after hiring three consecutive managers with no major league experience since the end of the 2017 season that combined for a .487 winning percentage (of course, one was fired before ever managing a game), not finishing higher than third place and no closer to first place than nine games in the National League East, and with so much nonsense and chaos sandwiched into all of that, they could not proceed with yet another manager with no experience.
Enter Buck Showalter.
Make no mistake - it’s all but certain Showalter will have his share of cringeworthy moments in his pre and post game press conferences, he will make mistakes and head-scratching decisions like every other major league manager does every single day during the baseball calendar. He will be second guessed and some people will want him fired by the third inning on opening day, or maybe even February 27.
And even if Showalter can out-think his counterpart in any given situation, the moves won’t always work out in the club’s favor.
The difference is, unlike their last two managers who have managed games while filling the airwaves with lame excuses and deflection, Showalter will hold both himself and his team to account and own mistakes and missteps, which is part of the foundation of a strong organizational culture for any company anywhere in the world.
Just think - does the, “thumbs down” controversy even get conceived if Showalter is the dugout chief? Does the fight between Lindor and Jeff McNeil early in the year ever happen? Would Showalter have needed two tries to apologize and be accountable for that ugly incident between Jason Vargas and a reporter at Wrigley Field back in 2019? Would that have even transpired in the first place with someone like Showalter at the helm?
Showalter has a reputation of being a quick fixer by coming in and turning franchises around quickly, and the core of those quick turnarounds have always been with the culture. He helped turn the chaotic Yankees from a 71 game winner in 1991 to an 88 game winner in 1994 (and the rest is history, of course). In just it’s second year of existence, his Diamondbacks won 100 games in 1999. He transitioned a 72-win Rangers team in 2002 to an 89-win team by 2004. And after taking over the 32-73 Orioles during the 2010 season, Showalter went 34-23 the rest of the way and won 93 games in 2012.
Yes, its always about talent in the end, but that talent must be steered and influenced properly too - just look at how talented the Mets have been over the last couple of years and how badly they’ve underperformed expectations. Of course, it’s not all Mickey Callaway’s fault, and it’s not all Luis Rojas’ fault, either. But neither seemed to have the presence or stature to steer their rosters in the right direction, prevent those clubhouses from going sour or keep those aforementioned incidents from being cultivated to begin with, let alone transpiring.
Will Showalter come in and steer the Mets back on course, hold his club to account, keep the egos in check and do all of that while managing what’s unquestionably the highest expectations he’s ever faced in a new job? Time will tell. His track record suggests he can and will, but this is a different club in a different city with expectations even greater than that with the Yankee team he managed 30 years ago. But the win-now Mets hired the best available and most equipped win-now person for the job for which he fits like Cinderella and the glass slipper.
That’s all anyone can ever ask for.