The quote read terribly.
Mickey Callaway reacted to a lost weekend against the Cubs filled with more horrible offense, relief pitching and fundamentals by saying Sunday: “Let’s be honest, this is a tough place to play. It’s tough on everybody. If [Mets players] were in Cleveland or somewhere else, maybe they wouldn’t feel that pressure. But you are playing in New York.”
In separate phone calls with The Post on Monday, both Callaway and Sandy Alderson tried to dispel that comment as excuse-making. Callaway said he was just using it as one of “50 factors” that could be weighing on his players.
But why even bring it up? Especially about this team. Because mainly the only one needing to separate from Cleveland is Callaway, who was the Indians’ pitching coach the past five seasons.
Eight of the 12 position players with the most plate appearances on the 2018 Mets were here last year and half played on the 2016 wild-card club — and one of those who didn’t is Todd Frazier, who is from New Jersey and played with the 2017 Yankees. Twelve of the 13 pitchers with the most innings were 2017 Mets and 10 were on the 2016 playoff team. The pitching coach (Dave Eiland) played and coached for the Yankees and the hitting coach (Pat Roessler) has been with the Mets the last four years and was in the Yankees employ the decade before that. Alderson and his staff have mainly stayed intact the past eight seasons.
And in case it needs to be reinforced, The Bronx is part of New York, and the Yankees are in the midst of their 26th-straight season of contention.
So to even bring up the New York thing — excuse or not — is a losing move by Callaway and one that needs to get out of the mind of the manager and the whole organization. The Mets spend too much time obsessed with being the other team in town, the little brother who can’t do anything right. And, I believe, that mentality is a factor in why so much spins out of control for the Mets, from losing streaks to storylines. Paper cuts become hemorrhages for an organization too steep in woe is me.
If the Mets want to change the narrative, it is in their hands. They did a good job in 2015-16, and if they would have made the playoffs for a third straight year in 2017 for the first time in organization history, perhaps they would get a different benefit of the doubt. Instead, when they play like they have since an inspiring 11-1 start and particularly this ugly weekend — losing four straight to the Cubs to fall a season-worst three under .500 (27-30) — they emit a sense of pessimism and alibiing, whether intentional or not.
Alderson said he still believes the 2018 Mets are a playoff contender, but indicated the next six or seven weeks will be revelatory. The elephant in the room is, if the losing continues, will the Mets broach trading Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard? To which Alderson stated: “I am confident we are going to play much better overall in the next six weeks than we did in the last four days. Where we are will dictate our posture at that point. I don’t think we have any thought of deGrom or Syndergaard [being traded] and I wouldn’t expect there to be any time soon, if ever. But you have to constantly keep in mind where you are and where you are going both short and long term.”
In the near term, Alderson and Callaway believe their rotation has stabilized (2.66 ERA in the last 18 games) and that, plus the return of Anthony Swarzak, will help reduce burden on an overworked bullpen. In addition, they think the return of Todd Frazier on Tuesday and Yoenis Cespedes perhaps a week later will evoke more desperately needed run scoring. But this is not just about returning players, but a recalibrated mindset.
“You do have pressure here,” Callaway said by phone. “You have to push through it. You have to get the job done regardless of the circumstances.”
Look, there is pressure everywhere. What there is here for sure is more attention because there are so many fans and they care deeply, and it is up to Callaway and his team to honor that passion by getting out of the business of “pressure” and what the reactions and perceptions are going to be of their fans and the media.
They control that, like in any city. The record is their responsibility, as it is for any team whether it plays in Cincinnati, Detroit or New York. Viewing it any other way — intended or not — is just an excuse, and what the Mets need a lot more of is runs, not alibis.