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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mickey Callaway should be fired for his terrible Bryce Harper logic

New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway has never been a particularly popular guy among the fanbase. He’s never been regarded as a master tactician or a great handler of the clubhouse. But his latest move might be his most inexplicable, and should really seal his fate.

On Sunday, with the Mets trailing 9-6 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Callaway had reliever Tyler Bashlor intentionally walk light-hitting catcher Andrew Knapp to load the bases for the pitcher’s spot. Predictably, the Phillies brought in Bryce Harper to pinch-hit, and he drew a bases-loaded walk to extend the lead to 10-6. Callaway’s stated goal was to get Phillies reliever Mike Morin out of the game by forcing Philadelphia to hit Harper for him.

It’s worth going through this one aspect at a time. Callaway knew the pitcher’s spot was on deck when Knapp stepped up to the plate. He knew that putting Knapp on would ensure that the Phillies used Harper, who hadn’t started due to an injured hand.

This really should have been a no-brainer. Knapp is a career .219 hitter who has 21 hits in 108 at-bats in 2019. While no player is a guaranteed out, Knapp is one of the lightest-hitting position players in the entire sport. Harper, down year or not, is not. He has 30 home runs and an .863 OPS, and is a threat to go deep every time he steps up to the plate.

Then there’s the decision to let Bashlor stay in and pitch to Harper. He has allowed 17 earned runs in 19 innings this season, so he’s not a reliable pitcher. Lefties have hit him at a .280 clip, with a .406 OBP and a .520 slugging percentage. There is no easy solution here — Harper actually has a reverse platoon split and has hit lefties better than righties this year, while Daniel Zamora, the left-hander up in the Mets’ bullpen, has watched lefties hit .357 against him this season. If anything, though, these considerations are even more reason not to put Harper in a position where he has to hit.

Then there’s Callaway’s stated reason altogether: he wanted to force the Phillies to remove Morin, whom he regarded as one of their best relievers. It’s not at all clear how he came to that calculation. Morin was picked up by the Phillies from the Twins this season, and has posted a 5.14 ERA since moving to Philadelphia. He’s striking out 4.5 batters per nine innings this season, and has allowed a hit an inning with the Phillies. This is not an intimidating profile. It’s certainly not intimidating enough that facing Bryce Harper with the bases loaded is a preferable scenario to facing Morin for another inning.

In short, Callaway’s logic is indefensible. Knapp is one of the worst hitters in Philadelphia’s lineup. Callaway put him on knowing the Phillies would deploy one of their best hitters in response. He did not have the personnel to deal with Harper and was forced to use a subpar reliever who failed to get Harper out. And he did it all with the stated goal of forcing the Phillies to pull a decidedly mediocre reliever in Morin.

It’d be one thing if Callaway was a great clubhouse manager, but he doesn’t seem to be that, either. He’s gotten in shouting matches with media members, had communication issues and faced accusations of inconsistent discipline, and has run into issues with one of his stars. He doesn’t seem to get it on the field or in the clubhouse, and it’s time for him to go.



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