It isn’t the best policy to fire folks on the fly once a season is under way. It is, in truth, an indictment that no matter how carefully planned a season might be, how meticulously blueprinted it was, something has gone wrong. That’s never a good thing.
Logically, rationally, we know there is no such thing as a magic bullet when it comes to these things so, logically and rationally, we know if the Mets were to, say, fire Mickey Callaway midway through this season it really shouldn’t matter much. Bad teams are generally going to be bad. It’s why managers and coaches get fired in the first place.
Still … when Edwin Diaz had his “Eureka!” moment Friday in Chicago, crediting Phil Regan with discovering a flaw in his delivery, it did allow for a moment to reflect on the other reality: Sometimes, making a change really does work (all due respect to the fired Dave Eiland, who we suspect probably saw the same thing; different voices sometimes allow the same message to be heard differently).
The biggest example of this around here, of course, will forever be Bob Lemon rescuing the ’78 Yankees, after the team had clearly tuned out Billy Martin and sunk 14 games behind the Red Sox. There were other factors of course — the Sox started that season 62-28 and couldn’t possibly keep up that pace (and didn’t); the Yankees were defending a world championship, so they probably had it in them to play better all along. There were others.
But that’s the example most often cited, and with good reason. Similarly, the ’08 Mets had devolved into a sniping, back-biting mess under Willie Randolph, and though the manner in which Randolph was let go was (and remains) a disgraceful moment in Mets history, there is little question they were a better team after Jerry Manuel replaced him, playing 20 games over .500 the rest of the way. Buddy Harrelson had a similar impact on the 1990 Mets after he took over for Davey Johnson.
Mickey Callaway would be next to go
CHICAGO — Hey Mickey, you’re next. If the Mets continue…
And in 1999, the Mets showed sometimes replacing coaches is enough to create the spark — Bobby Valentine lost half his coaching staff when his team sat 27-28 after 55 games; the Mets then went 40-15 over the next 55 to put themselves into position to make their first playoff appearance in 13 years.
And it isn’t just baseball. The Knicks were a lost cause in 1995-96 until Dave Checketts installed Jeff Van Gundy to replace Don Nelson; the Knicks were all at immediately transformed. In 2012, the Knicks were scuffling along at 18-24; as fun as Linsanity had been the Knicks were still heading nowhere until Mike Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni with 24 games to go, won eight of his first nine and went 18-6 overall to snare a playoff slot and set up the Knicks’ one bright spot in the past 20 years, the 2012-13 season.
We remember these, of course, precisely because they worked out. We remember Larry Robinson taking over the 1999 Devils with eight games to go, then leading them on a magical rampage to the Stanley Cup; remembered less fondly is when Phil Esposito replaced Michel Bergeron with himself with two games left in the 1989 season and proceeded to go 0-for-6 — losing the last two games of the regular season then getting swept four straight by the Penguins in the Patrick Division semifinals. And, of course, there were all the years when George Steinbrenner fruitlessly changed managers, general managers and pitching coaches to no avail — or worse.
Sometimes the Magic isn’t quite so magical, after all.
Proof that success covers a lot of ills: Every time the Mets play someone out of position in the interest of offense, the hand-wringing is overwhelming. Yet the Cubs do that every day — often with their best two players, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez — and it barely registers a whisper.
I almost feel like Duke should hang a banner at Cameron Indoor to commemorate this year’s team not making the Final Four, because that seems as much an amazing achievement as all the ones they’ve qualified for.
I was fortunate enough to see “Yesterday” when it premiered at Tribeca a few months ago, and all I can tell you is this: I had extraordinary expectations going in, and I walked out feeling exactly the way you’re supposed to feel after seeing a great movie. I hope you agree.
Maybe it was a cell of embedded Jets fans who booed Daniel Jones at Yankee Stadium last week?
Whack back at Vac
Richard Siegelman: Given 82-year-old Phil Regan’s record of 14-1 with a 1.62 ERA as a reliever for the 1966 Dodgers, why did the Mets sign him as pitching coach instead of as their closer?
Vac: His nickname (one of the great nicknames) was “The Vulture.” He would’ve fit right in!
Patrick Bonner: Love the Knicks picking RJ Barrett. Barring some free-agent signings, the Knicks could start five players with an average age under 21: Dennis Smith Jr. (21), Kevin Knox (19), Barrett (19), Noah Vonleh (23) and Mitchell Robinson (21). None of these guys can rent a car!
The Knicks may have already made their summer splash
The Knicks have a new rookie trio to add to…
Vac: That team might not win a lot of games, but I’m pretty sure they’d TRY to win as much as possible, which really has to be the prevailing standard here from now on.
@Maulers69: The Brooklyn Nets to me are like the Mets. They will always be the stepbrother.
@MikeVacc: Except it’s worth noting that when the Mets exceeded the Yankees in the early ’70s and mid-’80s, they also owned the town. The Knicks might not want to find out if history can repeat itself on the basketball court.
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Matt Deakin: Maybe you can answer this question for me: All the Mets seem to talk about is getting to .500. If they do that, will they consider the season to be a success? Just wondering.
Vac: Wait …. you mean winning 81 games doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot…?