New Mets manager Buck Showalter takes a timeout during spring training to take a swing at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What does Opening Day mean to you?
A: Try not to get too nostalgic. A lot people counting on us. I first think about it’s an opportunity for us … beginning of a journey … with its ups and downs, twists and turns … remind yourself to stay in reality. Pick your battles.
Q: Describe your very first major league Opening Day.
A: The Indians were mad at Mr. [George] Steinbrenner because of where he put their scouts when they came in the year before. I had thrown BP, hit fungoes and everything, and I had to rush in the locker room, get dressed, go to my seat with the walkie talkie to be the “eye in the sky.” And then I found out that my seats were down in the right-field corner in the upper part of the corner where I couldn’t even see the field. It started snowing in about the fifth inning. I remember when they stopped the game because of snow, I had to make my way back to the locker room from the right-field corner — not that I remember any of that. I had my Sears and Roebuck overcoat, and that was about all I had to protect. … It was pretty cold.
Q: How would you rate the baseball IQ of this team?
A: Pretty good. We did some things with rules and whatever, and they were right on top of a lot of it. Better than some I’ve had. Ask me once we get in the season, but I think we have potential to be a good IQ team.
Q: Which if your previous teams had the best baseball IQ?
A: Oh, I had a lot of ’em. I don’t want to single one out. I’ve had some good teams. But it was a common denominator of a good team.
Q: What have you learned about Max Scherzer’s mound mentality?
A: Verified what I thought. Extremely competitive. On the days he doesn’t pitch, he’s gonna be involved in the game. He’s a baseball player that happens to be a pitcher. He’s a guy that’s easy to trust.
Q: And Jacob deGrom?
A: Jake likes to pitch, he likes to compete, he’s low-maintenance: “What day am I pitching? See you then, let’s go.” Extremely in tune with his family, as is Max. They have a great support system. I tell you the guy that you’re gonna like is [Chris] Bassitt. Same cut of cloth, all three of ’em. They’re completely different, they have a lot of similarities. We got a chance if we keep ’em healthy to have a pretty good group.
Q: What specifically do you like about Bassitt?
A: He’s in a great spot. I think people are gonna kind of forget about him. This guy’s got a chance to be really good in that 3-hole. He’s got a great faith, he’s got a great feel for pitching, very competitive. I like him.
Q: What have you learned about Pete Alonso’s approach and game?
A: One of those guys I knew I was gonna like once I got to know him. Pete’s very sincere. There’s nothing phony, always approachable. His “on” button’s always on. He doesn’t take himself too serious, he takes the right things very seriously.
Q: How long do you think it will take you to learn what makes each player tick?
A: That’s a process you can’t force. I’ve got some sneaking suspicions, but until you get in the heat of action in the real season, I don’t think anybody can sit here and smugly say they’ve got that completely wired. We’ll see what happens when your finger’s on the line, so to speak.
Q: Why is it important for catchers to almost be psychologists?
A: Each guy’s different, we’re not all robots. Just like relationships, you can’t force relationships, you can’t put somebody’s locker next to somebody and think they’re gonna be great friends. We pick their friends for ’em for six or seven months. It’s just a respect for your teammates and understanding the weight your words carry, that people are listening to you. You’re not gonna win that battle. But catchers have to understand that each guy’s a little different.
Q: Some Mets history: When you hear the name Tom Seaver, what do you think about?
A: Professional, competitive, embodied everything you want in a teammate, a pitcher. … He was a baseball player who happened to be a pitcher, he wasn’t a pitcher who happened to be a baseball player. He always treated me with class and respect. You always remember how somebody made you feel. The other thing I remember is what a great laugh he had.
Q: Gil Hodges.
A: Class. I’ve got a picture in my office of one manager, it’s Gil Hodges. His presentation was so professional and knowledgeable. Just listen to people talk, such a good, human being who happened to be a manager. He walked the line between empathy and sympathy. Very knowledgeable, didn’t need to show you how smart or how good he was. It just reeked off him.
Q: Jerry Koosman.
A: Stylish left-hander. Always pitched the game at his tempo. Stone face … competitive … just a very stylish repeat of delivery. Very unique in his pitch shaping. And always didn’t have to have his best stuff to be competitive.
Q: David Wright.
A: Everything you’d want a Met to be, or one of your players to be. It’s all about teammates and the team. He was somebody that a fan could sell themselves to emotionally knowing that he wouldn’t let them down. On or off the field. And that says a lot. If you’re in New York that long, and you’re able to maintain a reputation like David has … in New York, they sniff out a phony in a heartbeat. He was sincere and had a pure heart.
Q: Gary Carter.
A: Played the game like his first day in Little League. Every day. He never felt like anything was ever beneath him. It came out of his pores that he enjoyed catching, he enjoyed the competition. And he never had an off day, as far as mentally or emotionally.
Q: Keith Hernandez.
A: I was enthralled watching him hit. Can you imagine what he would do with a shift nowadays? He took a lot of pride in his defense, great throwing first baseman. Seemed to be able to deliver what the team needed — hey, I need to hit a ball out of the ballpark; hey, I need to double; hey, I need a single the other way. Unbelievably cerebral, but was able to put it into baseball form.
Q: Dwight Gooden.
A: A different level of maturity and feel for pitching at a young age. Curveball … a guy that you never let him get ahead of you in the count, that’s why so many guys were trying to hit him early in the count. So many ways to get you out … athletic … great delivery. … When you think of the Mets, you think of a guy like Dwight Gooden. He had some great moments with fans. He seemed to never let ‘em down on the field.
Q: Darryl Strawberry.
A: I had him in New York a little bit when he came in, one of the best BPs I ever saw in old Tiger Stadium … majestic home runs … great leverage. … Only place you could pitch him was up, anything down out over the plate. … Good defender … threw well. Lived up to his billing. A lot of guys have this big hype. You get through the hype, there was a lot of substance to him.
Q: Mike Piazza.
A: Playing a very demanding position. Just a physical catcher that played through every nick and bruise … ultimate post-up guy — this guy posted up. The team needed him to play he posted up. There were some times I didn’t think he’d be able to squat. Another guy that could always react to a moment. If a moment was looking for him and it got to him he was gonna respond.
Q: Where were you when Mookie Wilson’s roller went through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series?
A: Instructional League. You know what I remember feeling? How awful I felt for Bill Buckner. A good baseball player. A reminder that it can happen to anybody if you let your guard down, and had nothing to do with how good his career was.
Q: Your first managerial gig in Oneonta.
A: I learned a lesson about not trying to do everything and delegating authority. I was trying to be the hitting coach, pitching coach and infield coach, the baseline coach. Finally one day I had an old pitching coach named Russ Meyer and I turned to him, I said: “What do you think about Dody Rather?” He said, “Well now that you ask me young man,” and he was this wealth of knowledge. But I also remember my first trip to Cooperstown was in an ambulance. We warmed up a pitcher that was a converted catcher — we didn’t get our catchers out of the draft yet. I got in the batter’s box, first pitch he threw hit me right above the right ear. So I ended up spending a couple of days in the hospital. That was my first trip to Cooperstown. … When I finally got back to the locker room a couple of days later, I walked by and I said: “Hey kid, I took your best shot and I’m still here.”
Q: What did you miss most about being in the dugout?
A: Being part of the team, with a group of people trying to do your part to get to something that the 30 best teams in the world are trying to get to. And understanding the journey … the small satisfactions … being a part of a unit, a group of people pulling on the same rope … and very protective of your people.
Q: Describe the unique challenge of managing in today’s day and age in New York.
A: I don’t know, ask me at the end of the year. I think probably how many different voices they’re exposed to every day. The level of information that’s out there, or inaccuracies or whatever. … I think the challenge of staying together, and not having separations. There’s just so many things that you can’t shield them from that they’re gonna have to make good decisions. But sooner or later, they’re gonna be exposed to everything, it’s how they deal with it. You don’t go into it trying to win a battle, you’re trying to survive it. And you survive it by being the last team standing. … It’s play better. It’s a no excuse, here it is, we got an opportunity. Nobody wants to hear about getting into a five-star hotel at 4 o’clock in the morning here with somebody working 9-to-5. You’re on the West Coast playing a late game, somebody back in New York’s staying up till 1 o’clock in the morning to watch because they care. If you’re not doing something that people care about it ain’t worth doing. It doesn’t pay very much.
Q: How do you handle pressure?
A: It’s a blessing, really. You’re doing something that’s important. I try to stay in reality. I understand the shelf life of a manager. The Golden Rule works pretty good. I think the people that you have around you, there’s very few people that really understand what’s going on every day … the day-to-day ups and downs. The roller-coaster ride you can get on if you let yourself.
Q: What will you tell your team about the weight of great expectations?
A: You control it. There’s a few bounces here and there that might not go your way. You control the outcome. It’s not like some outer force. … We’re gonna find out. Our curiosity’s always gonna be satisfied. No one wants to hear about some guy got hurt or something happened. Everybody’s got the same challenges. There’s somebody going to work every day in New York that’s not 100 percent. Or doesn’t have all the tools, so to speak.
Q: What is one mental error on the field that drives you nuts?
A: The mistake we coaches and managers make is they forget is how tough the game is to play and how bad they were on a given night. So you walk around like you never made a mistake. I think mentally not being in a game more, or effort. I don’t think it’s asking too much.
Q: Mark Teixiera once called you the smartest man in baseball.
A: Mark was a good player for me — I’ve had my share of dumb moments, too. I don’t know … how do you comment on that?
Q: What were your emotions on the day your 1995 Yankees team broke a 14-year playoff drought?
A: I was happy, proud … felt great for them.
Q: Tell me what your wife Angela has meant to you.
A: Put it this way, she’ll hand me the address and say, “Here’s where we’re living.” Thirty-nine years, thick and thin, trying to pinch pennies, make ends meet. I tell players all the time, the hardest two things you’ll ever do in your life is be a good husband and be a good father. And rest of the stuff comes secondary. She’s been the one constant of reality, and I need that.
Q: Where do you get a fried bologna sandwich and a pickle?
A: I don’t anymore. First of all, that was always in Florida, I was making $13,000 a year. Those days are over. It’s one of those things you walk by the deli longingly looking at it knowing you can’t have it.
Q: No plans on tweeting?
A: Hell no!
Q: Your team owner tweets.
A: Well, God bless him, he can do whatever he wants. He always has good things to say. I got enough on my plate to worry about that. I don’t have time.
Q: What impresses you about Steve Cohen?
A: He’s completely enthralled with winning and putting something together that our fans are proud of, that they can sell themselves emotionally, and doing things the right way. He cares. I love talking to him, I wish he’s come around more. He’s sharp, man.
Q: Would the Buck of today have handled Mr. Steinbrenner differently?
A: No. I’m very proud of the way we handled each other. Just wish he hadn’t wanted to fire my four coaches.
Q: When and how did you fall in love with the game of baseball?
A: I was at a school where we were the smallest public school in the state of Florida. You played football, basketball, baseball, football, basketball, baseball, you just went from sport to sport. I think because they had different seasons you could play baseball where you had Little League, you had summer ball. I was pretty good at it, and I enjoyed winning. I remember standing in front of the TV and emulating stances with Pee Wee Reese and Dizzy Dean and the “Game of the Week.” I remember asking my dad what an Old Falstaff was. I don’t think anybody knows that was a beer … what a blue darter was.
Q: What is your worst fear? Is it not being prepared enough to gain an edge on your opponent?
A: I guess not being as good as we’re capable of being, probably. Not reaching our potential. We’re done here rehearsing for a Broadway play, basically. You’re rehearsing your cutoffs and your relays and your rundowns and your bunt defense and your pickoffs and everything. Then all of a sudden the stage and the curtain’s gonna open up, and you better be able to execute what you’ve been rehearsing for.
Q: Would your career be unfulfilled if you didn’t win a World Series?
A: That’s why we all do what we do. You want to impact people’s lives positively and try to give ’em some shortcuts. Shortcuts not to make the mistakes you made. Every day I get up I realize how lucky I am and how honored I am to still be doing this. Where it takes me? Am I driven to have our fans and our team be the last team standing? Of course. It’s an obsession with us being as good as we’re capable of being. And where that takes us, I’m looking forward to the journey. What’s the old saying? You want to make God laugh, tell him about your plan.
Q: What would you want Mets fans to say about you?
A: That I cared as much about the Mets as they did. You can do a lot of things behind closed doors critiquing and whatever, but publicly there are no sides. Anything that asks you to pick a side you walk away from. We just want to be fair.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/02/buck-showalter-talks-mets-expectations-steve-cohens-tweeting/ Buck Showalter talks Mets expectations, Steve Cohen’s tweeting