David Stearns should give Buck Showalter one more Mets shot

David Stearns should give Buck Showalter one more Mets shot

MIAMI — Outmanned now by a lot and by many, even against the spunky, low-budget Miami Marlins, the Mets are still playing hard and winning about half their recent games. And that reflects positively on Buck Showalter, who’s still the manager.

If Buck goes out, he goes out knowing he did what he could.

Showalter won his fourth Manager of the Year award in his first season in Queens. And this year he kept his team competing after an all-time fire sale gutted a team already and obviously short.

No one knows what Showalter’s chances are to return, not even Buck. It’s up to the Mets’ incoming baseball president David Stearns — as it should be. And Stearns isn’t quite here yet.

We’ve already gone over all the reasons Stearns is the right guy for the biggest job in this organization. But for those who haven’t put my columns to memory (yes, I imagine there are a few of you), let’s recount the reasons Stearns will be the new leader:

  1. He somehow got the tiny-market Brewers (30th of 30 markets) to the playoffs four straight seasons.
  2. He has an excellent personal rep, and people in the Mets organization recall him as a “nice young man” when he worked for the team he grew up rooting for as Omar Minaya’s intern.
  3. Things aren’t going well in Queens.

Now back to Buck.

Buck Showalter #11 of the New York Mets reacts in the dugoutBuck Showalter may be entering the final days of his Mets tenure with David Stearns coming aboard.JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

The odds would seem to be against Showalter, and I get it. There are two clear strikes. No matter that this disaster isn’t his doing, or certainly his fault, he was the pilot.

The other factor that may not work in his favor is that there’s a new man in charge. And like in real life, one key to getting and keeping a major league managing job is whether the boss knows and likes you. Just look around the league, you’ll notice a few nice guys who get along well with their bosses but who oversaw arguably even bigger disasters, some even with obvious clubhouse issues, who already have been told they’ll be back.

Stearns should have this call, of course, not only because his history suggests sound judgment but because the manager will be his guy in the clubhouse. It’s only natural Stearns should want his own man, and while there’s no known history between Showalter and Stearns, good or bad, folks are already guessing they aren’t a match (these are just the guesses of unproven matchmakers, of course).

Brewers President of Baseball Operations David Stearns talks about stepping down from that roleDavid Stearns should consider keeping Showalter before dumping him after a bad Mets season.AP

Sure, if Stearns can somehow lure Craig Counsell — the Brewers’ managing savant and a free agent to be — to New York, I get it. He and Stearns made a winning combo in Brew City. But many believe Counsell may take a year off from the grind of managing to spend time with family. Barring a surprise there, I suggest letting Showalter manage the final year on his three-year, $11.25 million deal.

Giving Showalter another year could mean Counsell’s an option for 2025, but more vitally, it would give Stearns a chance to see whether Showalter can get the Mets back on their 2022 track. I wouldn’t bet against Buck.

“I think Buck is the right man for the job,” Francisco Lindor said. “I’m a big fan. I’m a big supporter. He has done a great job of controlling the narrative and controlling what goes on in the clubhouse.”

Lindor fairly blames injuries and underperformance for the Mets’ surprising also-ran status.

“It comes down to the players on the field, I include myself,” he said.

My general rule is it’s usually better to change managers off a disastrous year. You want to avoid the naturally negative narrative that follows train wrecks into spring training. And this time it would be accompanied by the dual storyline of the lame-duck manager.

But in this unusual case, it makes sense. A new leader is coming in, one who’s never made a managerial hire, and who only knows the lay of this complicated land from his brief stay as a low-level employee on his way to much bigger things at MLB headquarters, in Houston and eventually Milwaukee.

Showalter doesn’t have a rep as the easiest employee but he’s surely smart enough to know this is Stearns’ team now (and on the off chance he isn’t, a change could be made in-season). The best reason to keep him, however, is that he’s a very good manager who’s New York tested.

Mets manager Buck Showalter walks in his dugoutShowalter deserves the chance to show he’s capable of guiding the success of the Mets like in the 2022 season.Bill Greenblatt/UPI/Shutterstock

While he’s been polarizing in the past, I only know of two people in the traveling party who prefer to see him gone, and that’s a pretty low number considering the team’s stark disparity between expectations and reality. They’ve lost, but unlike in San Diego and the South Side of Chicago, the Mets haven’t become a soap opera.

Lindor’s right, this isn’t on Buck. The expectations were based on abject overachievement his first year but this season was undermined by shaky roster construction and debilitating injuries (notably Edwin Diaz and Starling Marte). Maybe Buck’s biggest mistake was winning too many games in 2022, setting them up for a fall so steep.