To maintain his demeanor, Callaway, 43, said he leaned on his playing experience, the realities of a long season, and the books and experts he used to learn about leadership.
But players said Callaway has been tough when needed, in formal meetings and with quick directives in passing in the hallway. Following the lineup mistake and loss, Callaway held himself to the same standard, telling the team in the clubhouse that he had “messed up big time” and would do better. Callaway also used the opportunity to remind players that he was unconcerned about the skid and that a good stretch was coming.
“He’s unwavering and he’s accountable for stuff that goes on,” said starting pitcher Steven Matz, who has pitched better of late because of Callaway’s tips on how to remain calm on the mound. “It rubs off on us.”
Callaway’s in-game decisions, however, cannot be entirely ignored, and he made a debatable one on Sunday in the sixth inning of a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. With the Mets leading by one run, he stuck with Paul Sewald, a right-handed relief pitcher who has improved against left-handed batters, to face Nick Williams, a left-handed pinch-hitter.
Callaway had Jerry Blevins, a left-handed relief pitcher who has been inconsistent, warming up in the bullpen. But on Sewald’s 39th pitch of the game, he gave up a decisive three-run home run to Williams. Television cameras caught Blevins shaking his head in the bullpen.
Callaway later said Blevins would have pitched only if Sewald was in a dire situation. Blevins said he is “always upset” if he warms up and does not appear in a game. “It’s the competitor in me,” he said.
“You always go back and think about what would have been,” Callaway said, “but if you live your life with what-would-have-been’s, you wouldn’t be a very happy person. We make the decisions we make and move on.”