Callaway said he had learned a good deal from Francona, who often goes by “Tito,” including the importance of a balanced and calm approach. Callaway noted his former boss’s reputation for treating playoff games as if they were regular-season games in May, and he said he hoped to transmit that same self-assured demeanor to his players.
“The games probably do mean more,” Callaway said. “There’s going to be more pressure on the players. You just have to keep a calm, relaxed atmosphere and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities. I think Tito does that better than anybody I’ve ever been around. I think it’s very important.”
Francona, one of the more gregarious managers in baseball, said that he remained good friends with Callaway. They spent some time together at Citi Field on Tuesday catching up, and while Francona did not reveal the specifics of their conversation, he later discussed with reporters the pressures that a manager faces in New York.
“He hasn’t lost the ability to laugh at himself, which I think is important,” Francona said. “When you are in a market like this, if you don’t win you are going to get criticized or picked at when things don’t go the right away. As a manager, you do what you think is right, have enough confidence in the things you are doing, answer the questions and then move on. That’s the best way to do it.”
Callaway’s short tenure with the Mets has certainly included instances of heavy criticism, including last week’s questions over his pulling starter Steven Matz before the seventh inning and replacing him with Seth Lugo, who gave up a lead in a loss to the Braves. In addition to occasional managerial blunders, Callaway has made a few bizarre public comments and was embroiled in an ugly episode in which he yelled at a reporter in the clubhouse earlier this season.
But even if Callaway has detractors among the Mets fan base, he has led a team that has been one of the hottest in baseball in recent weeks. The Mets have won nine of their last 11 series and entered Tuesday with a 24-10 record since the All-Star Game, including their remarkable 15-1 stretch from July 25 to Aug. 10.
But many of those wins came against teams with record below .500. Now they will have to prove they can do it against good teams, too.
“We put ourselves in a huge hole in the beginning of the year and halfway through it,” Frazier said. “We went 15-1, and we’re still not in first place in the wild card. That show’s you how big a hole we made. But it also shows you our resilience and our determination not to give up.”
Danielle Allentuck contributed reporting.