Sunday, October 1, 2023

Cohen & Showalter On Mets Taking A "Different direction" Heading Into 2024


Buck Showalter being greeted by his team heading back to the dugout after delivering the lineup card to the home plate umpire. Photo by Jason Schott.

Before the Mets finale on Sunday afternoon, Buck Showalter made the shock announcement that he would not be returning next season, as he said the Mets would be "going to go in a different direction with the Manager next year."

The team ran a "Thank You Buck" tribute on the board before the first pitch, so the fans gave him a standing ovation, and the Mets players and coaches stood outside the dugout cheering as Showalter delivered the lineup card.

Every time Buck left the dugout, he received an ovation upon walking back to the dugout, especially after a pitching change in the ninth inning.

Buck Showalter returning to the dugout in the ninth, amidst the adulation from the Mets fans. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets lost the season's final game, 9-1, to the Philadelphia Phillies, and they finish with a record of 74-87, with a likely win from Thursday's suspended game against Miami tacked on to the ledger.

Mets Owner Steve Cohen addressed the media after the game, with the focus solely on Showalter, as he will then be conducting a press conference on Monday at noon to introduce the new President Of Baseball Operations, David Stearns.

On the decision to let Showalter go, Cohen said, "Well, you know, the way it works, when you bring in a President of Baseball Ops, you know, they're entitled to bring in their own people, and obviously, wasn't sure if David was going to join us, and finally he joined us, and it became clear he wanted to go in a different direction, that's certainly his right. I gave him that right; it's no different than when a CEO comes in to a new company, they bring in some of their own people. 

This is not a reflection on Buck - Buck did everything we wanted him to do. Obviously, the season was a disappointment, but it's not Buck's fault, okay. It spread across the organization, and, so, but like I said, when you bring in a new Head of Baseball Ops, they're entitled to bring in their own people."

On how wide-ranging the search for a Manager will be, Cohen said, "Well, you know, I mean, I've tried to keep it really high-level with David, and he'll be, obviously, starting tomorrow, and so, really these are his decisions - I've empowered him, and, you know, so he'll make that decision."

Cohen said of how he would evaluate Buck's tenure, "You know something, I mean, you know, it's two years. We had a great season last year, this year obviously didn't go the way we wanted it to go. You know, Buck did everything we wanted him to do. Not everything went right this year, yet he kept an even keel, the players loved him, and, you know, these are always hard things to do, and so, you know, I personally have no complaints. I enjoyed, you know, I loved having Buck here, and I think he did a fine job."

On if their performance this season affected the decision, or was it solely because of bringing in Stearns, "It's all hypothetical, right, and you know, there's always what-ifs and, but in general, when you make a change, I strongly believe they're entitled to bring in the people they want to bring in."

Cohen was asked if Stearns was able to quantify that someone would be better than a Manager he thought highly of, and he said, "Listen, this gets into personal choice and, you know, maybe you can ask David that tomorrow. You know, these are never easy decisions, and, but, like everything else, just because someone wants to go in a different way doesn't make the other person a bad person, right. I mean, it's just a matter of choice and personal preference."

On when the issue of a new manager was broached with Stearns, Cohen said, "I mean, you know, first, I didn't know if he was going to sign, right, so, I mean, obviously, you know, but it was something that was discussed at a high level. Once David signed, we kind of knew where it was going to go; it was just a question of when you do it. Typically, it's done at the end of the season normally, and once again, no reflection on Buck, just wanting a change in direction."

Showalter then took the dais, and he was asked what he thought of the pregame tribute where the Mets took the warning track to cheer him while delivering the lineup card to home plate.

"Somebody made them do that, I'm sure. Chavy (Bench Coach Eric Chavez) probably cattle prodded them, somebody did something in the dugout to get them out of there. Seriously, that was special. The fans were outstanding today, as always."

Before the game, Showalter said it was General Manager Billy Eppler who delivered him the grim news, and he said of his reaction to it after it happened, "I just had some things to contemplate, he gave me a couple of options. I think the players know I would never quit or resign, so that wouldn't - I was kidding, I had four or five of them in my office early today, and they said, 'we would have seen through that within 30 seconds.'

"But, I appreciate it, classy move on the organization, on Steve's part. You know, this organization's in a good place with Steve. He's always going to be in competitive mode. I just hope that the - I know the players will give the next Manager the same respect and chance and honor they gave me after Luis (Rojas) because Luis was, and is, a good baseball man. Like I said, I wish I could have gotten to him before he took the job with the Yankees (as third base coach); I would have tried to keep him on the staff. 

"You know, not always fair, and we should have played better, as simple as that."

On what he would like to do next, and if that could include another managing gig, Showalter said, "Sure, I mean, I feel great physically, you know, actually, I've been very proud to hold this together, the clubhouse and things, one of the bigger challenges of my career to really stay on top of things and making sure. You know, some of the challenges we've had in the past, you know, to be able to keep that from being the focus and, as good as you are at what you do, you know to make that not something is a real tribute to the players, to the leadership, and that's what bodes well.

"Someone's walking in to a great situation here, it's just a few things that will happen, a lot of it just the help of the players, and I'll be pulling for them, I can tell you that."

Showalter was asked who told him what on Saturday, "Billy spoke to me after the game," and if he has ever spoken with Stearns, to which he said, "No."

On if he finds it strange that someone decided he shouldn't manage the team without talking to the incoming Stearns, Showalter said, "You know, strange, no. What's strange, Joel, in today's world? When you're asked to deliver something and you feel confident in the way you have to deliver it, and you want to create the environment to deliver it in, I understand the responsibility of those things...I try not to dwell on stuff like that and live in it, baseball's been very fair to me, all things considered, so I don't dwell on it too much. Everybody operates with a different mode of operation, and just because something's a little different doesn't mean you confuse change with a lack of respect for tradition, and the way things may have been done doesn't mean it was right."

On how he went about telling people what occurred, Buck said, "I obviously told my family first last night, and then, first thing I did when I got here, I met with my coaching staff because I think we've got three of them don't have contracts next year, and families that want to know, and then, I met with the training staff, trying to get to everybody. I've got five or six players I want to talk to in my office, and did that, and then kind of made my rounds, which was tough because everybody's trying to get ready before a game, and trying to be respectful of that, but I didn't want them to hear about it somewhere other than from me."

On if he was surprised when he met with Eppler Saturday night, Buck said, "He came into my office; no, not in this game. You know, a lot of people say this, but I do it - I don't read anything and I don't listen to anything. You're going to watch a game with me during the baseball season, it's going to be on mute. Ethan can tell you, I come here every day and say 'is there something I need to know about,' because it doesn't do me any good. The thing I have to do with the players, I can't have emotions up. I can't interact with you all every day if I read every little sentence that's being written. I know a lot of times you have hardly anything to do with a headline, I know they can move something around for the number of words and the whole context changes. I can't listen to radio and TV broadcasts, I can't because we care too much and we know things. It takes a lot of discipline, trust me. Fortunately, your families and friends say, 'yeah, I read something,' and I'm, 'sorry, stop!' I have a charge to keep with the players, and I'm not going to give into that."

Through it all, Showalter still showed how much he cares about the players, such as what he said on Francisco Lindor, who was at 98 RBI entering Sunday's game.

"I was kidding Lindor, he kind of messed up by getting two RBIs yesterday and then, all of a sudden, he's hitting fourth in the last inning. I was hoping to send him out to shortstop in the middle of the inning and take him out so everybody could acknowledge the year he's had, but I couldn't take the chance of him not getting the opportunity. I was really hoping that ball of Pete's (Alonso) would fall so he'd have a pop at it, but he still had an unbelievable year. He's running on fumes; he's been that way for about a week. I hope everybody here appreciates what he does and brings, he's a special young man." 

On Wednesday, Lindor became the fourth Met in history to have 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season. His final numbers were: .254 batting average, 31 home runs, 98 RBI, .336 on-base percentage, .470 slugging percentage, and 31 stolen bases.

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