Buck Showalter began his pregame press conference on Wednesday with an unprompted story, as he’s wont to do.
“They changed the error they gave Francisco Lindor in St. Louis to a hit,” Showalter said. “I asked Lindor after the game [if he wanted to get it changed]. He said leave it alone. You know why? It would give Carlos [Carrasco] an earned run. That’s pretty cool. But the hitter contested it and won.”
To say the manager and his team are laid back is an understatement. In the clubhouse, players are often sipping coffee and chit-chatting with each other, crossword puzzles strewn about (mostly untouched), conversations about that day’s cleats or other baseball minutiae bounce off the walls. Sometimes pitchers are laughing about a particularly ugly swing they drew from a would-be hitter.
The differences are obvious, and tangible. Apart from Showalter, there are other gravely important figures in the clubhouse now. It helps to have a future Hall of Famer like Max Scherzer around, especially when he’s standing up for his teammates like he did on Tuesday night. Scherzer was ejected from the dugout for berating home plate umpire Jeremy Riggs, who called Dom Smith out on a pitch clearly out of the zone.
“He takes the right things seriously but he doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Showalter said of Scherzer. “I think he went right into where Billy [Eppler] was watching the game and sat down with him after he was ejected.”
There’s also the new hitting coach, Eric Chavez. The former third baseman played 17 years in the big leagues and retired after the 2014 season, meaning he played against several of the current Mets. Like with any coach, his direct impact his is hard to quantify, but Showalter did his best to explain the Chavy Effect.
“I think Eric’s so close to playing. He’s such a competitive guy. He’s really got a feel for what guys are actually thinking and feeling in the batter’s box,” Showalter said. “I’ve got such trust in his feel his for what players need. They know he’s got a pure heart. Not once have I heard him talk about ‘back in my day, I did this or I did that’. They don’t want to hear that.”
While he’s not brand new, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner’s word also goes a long way in Flushing. Like Chavez (44), Hefner (36) is young for a coach. The two work on completely opposite sides of the baseball spectrum, but they’ve found a way to merge their expertise into something that works extremely well for the players.
“[Chavez] and Jeremy [Hefner] are like ham and eggs,” Showalter said. “They’re finishing each other’s sentences. They both respect the skill set that the other one brings that they may not. I think the players feed off that lack of ego, and they’ve got great work habits.”
Lack of ego has been another theme for the so-far-enchanted Mets. They’re getting big fortifications from bench players Travis Jankowski, Luis Guillorme and Tomas Nido, as well as relievers like Drew Smith and Chasen Shreve, who don’t pitch in the same high-leverage situations that their bullpen mates do. Rather than attributing things to a higher baseball power, Showalter gives all the credit to the players themselves.
“You’ve heard me say ‘never overlook an orchid while searching for a rose,’” Showalter said. “I don’t think it’s understanding your role. Your role changes a lot depending on what the club’s needs are. You’ve heard the expression, ‘You want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.’ It’s kind of like the baseball gods too, which we know don’t exist.”
Jankowski was extra useful in Tuesday’s doubleheader, in which he went 2-for-6 with a walk, stolen base, and three runs scored in the two games.
“Travis gets it,” Showalter said. “There might come a time where he has to play two weeks in a row. Or Luis [Guillorme]. People around baseball know Luis’ value.”
TYLOR THE CREATOR
Wednesday brought yet another Tylor Megill Day at Citi Field. The 6-7 California kid has far exceeded expectations in his year and change with the Mets, but especially this year. Through his first five starts, the pitcher nicknamed “Big Drip” had a 1.93 ERA and 27 strikeouts to six walks in 28 innings. The Mets have also won all five of the games he’s started.
Showalter remembered first seeing Megill in spring training and how the man he’s seen in the regular season matches what he saw in Port St. Lucie.
“He was well thought of,” Showalter promised. “I kept watching him in spring. I love how people say, ‘No one’s evaluating you.’ Well if you’re standing next to the guy staring at him, guess what? You’re evaluating when he walks in the locker room. But I kept watching going, ‘What am I missing here?’ Jeremy said, ‘You’re not missing anything’. He’s got a chance to be pretty good. With Atlanta, he’s got a hornet’s nest today. Hopefully we get out of here before they get out of the nest.”