NEW YORK — Just after 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Buck Showalter called his group of veterans into his office. It’s a group I’ve relied on throughout this season for advice, leadership, and accountability. It’s a group that got smaller when the team shipped veterans at the trade deadline and changed course over the last two months.
On this day, the remaining members of the New York Mets — Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, and Pete Alonso among them — listened as Showalter delivered his news.
Sunday’s game will be his final game as manager of the Mets. Late Saturday night, after New York’s doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, Showalter was fired.
“It was one of those conversations where there was a lot of silence for a lot of seconds,” Lindor later said.
The New York veterans knew David Stearns was coming in as the new president of baseball operations. They realize they were hugely disappointing in 2023, falling from a 101-win campaign to one in which they spent the last four months under .500. They knew change was coming to the organization, likely in a big way.
However, the news Showalter shared, about 90 minutes before the season’s final premiere, caught them by surprise. Many hoped, both privately and publicly, that the director would be retained.
In his office, they expressed surprise and guilt that the team’s poor performance had put Showalter in this position.
“It’s all on us,” Nemo said after the match. “I don’t really feel like Buck was the problem.”
“You guys are going to be OK,” Showalter told them at the meeting.
“He was a true professional and told us about it before the world knew it,” Lindor said. “I appreciate him. I love him.”
On Saturday night, after the Mets had swept a doubleheader and by the time most people inside the club had left Citi Field, Mets GM Billy Eppler walked into Showalter’s office, offering two options: resign or be let go.
Stearns made the decision to move on from Showalter. Once Stearns agreed to the Mets job a few weeks ago, it was clear that the Mets would hire a new manager. (“Once David signed, we kind of knew where things were going,” said owner Steve Cohen.) Anyone who knows both Stearns, a New York City native, and Showalter says the two personalities would not have meshed well. Stearns likes to work in a quiet manner; He can be personable, but he won’t reveal much in casual conversations. Showalter can be talkative in a popular way, and although he is known for protecting players and staff from criticism, words don’t always come as simply as many modern baseball executives would prefer. One person put it succinctly: “Very, very different personalities.”
While players may have been surprised by the timing of the news, the change shouldn’t come as a surprise as something unusual.
“The way things are, when you hire a president of baseball operations, they have the right to bring in their own people,” Cohen said.
Stearns never spoke to Showalter. So Epler delivered the news to Showalter. After receiving the news, Showalter returned at the trade deadline, to the conversation the manager had with Max Scherzer.
“The only thing that bothered (Scherzer) more was that he felt like his teammates might think he was jumping ship,” Showalter said. “That was clearly not the case.”
So, Showalter will not resign. He will be expelled.
“The players know that I will never give up or quit,” he said.
After Showalter broke the news to the players, he appeared before the media at the daily pregame news conference. Once the questions stopped, he said the Mets wanted a new manager. Uncharacteristically, Showalter read from a prepared statement. Or at least try to. He took some notes before the press conference, not wanting to forget anything. He did this through a paragraph. maybe. Then he was freed from his mind.
“I was honored to have the opportunity to manage a second team in New York,” Showalter said. “I’m proud of what the Mets did. We won almost 180 games in two years. Especially last year, I had as much fun as I’ve ever had in a game. It reminded me why I’ve always loved this kind of work.”
“I hope things go better this season because Mets fans deserve it. … It’s not the ending I wanted, but I still love the city and the players. … And if I talk again, it won’t be good.
Showalter didn’t want emotion to get the best of him. There were some cracks in his voice.
“I left a bunch out there,” he said. “But that’s about it. How do I do?”
In the ninth inning on Sunday, with Philadelphia adding meaningless runs in a meaningless game, Showalter made one last trip to the mound, replacing Denny Reyes with Anthony Kaye. Showalter’s walk from dugout to mound is always quick; This time Lindor noticed how quickly Showalter’s mind was moving. As the manager began his walk back to the dugout, Lindor took a few steps with him and patted him on the back.
“You’re where you need to be,” Lindor told him.
“He was present in the game, but at the same time it was very difficult to focus on that moment. Then the crowd applauds him,” Lindor said after the game. “He knows this is the last time he will be back in the dugout as a member of the New York team.” dead.”
Showalter had already received huge applause from the crowd and from his team — all of whom came out of the dugout to applaud — while exchanging lineup cards before the game. He heard it again that ninth inning, heading downfield on his way back to the dugout.
“It’s special,” he said after the game, his voice cracking occasionally. “The fans were great today, as always.”
“It doesn’t feel real,” Nemo said. “Just one year ago he led us to 101 wins. It’s crazy that just one year later we’re saying goodbye to that relationship.
“I was really upset,” Alonso said. “He does a great job of understanding his staff — not just their talents and what they do day in and day out on the court, but understanding how each person on the roster stands out as an individual. From my experience playing under Buck, I feel like he’s a Hall of Fame manager.”
Several players talked about Showalter’s ability to put the roster together through the disappointing change in direction at the trade deadline. Other teams, especially in major markets, have seen them break up under similar circumstances. A diminished version of the Mets played .500 ball over the final 44 games of the season.
“Being able to keep a group together here can be a little more difficult (in New York) than other places,” Adam Ottavino said. “It takes some nuance and some experience, and Buck did a masterclass on a lot of that stuff. I know it’s not as easy as he makes it seem.”
“I was very proud to put this together this year at the club,” Showalter said. “It was one of the biggest challenges of my career.”
“The last couple of months, I’ve been really proud of the players and the way they’re fighting,” Nimmo said before the game and before Showalter revealed his ejection. “A lot of that goes back to Buck’s mentality of never giving up and always fighting to the end to see what happens.”
And so the Mets enter another offseason with a long to-do list and a big decision to make at the top. The longest-tenured player on the team, Nimmo at one point beat out the five different managers he has played for since 2016. Next year will be his sixth.
“That’s what these times produce,” Nimmo said. “When things aren’t going well in New York, things happen, and they happen fast.
“Our job as players is to try not to let these things happen again.”
(Photo by Buck Showalter and Francisco Lindor: Al Bello/Getty Images)
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