In the ninth inning of what was about to become one of the most gut-wrenching losses of a sickening Mets season, Robinson Cano struck out on a pitch that bounced in front of the catcher, and didn’t even make the pretense of trying to run to first.
Cano’s indolence was so blatant that virtually simultaneously, both the Mets radio and TV crews roasted him severely on the air.
But it didn’t bother Mickey Callaway.
A few minutes later, the Mets having blown a very winnable game to the Cubs largely because Callaway left Seth Lugo in way too long, the manager was asked why he didn’t bring in his closer, Edwin Diaz, when it was apparent that Lugo was struggling.
That bothered Mickey Callaway.
And when, a little later, Tim Healey, the Mets beat writer for Newsday, said, “See you tomorrow,’’ well, that set Mickey Callaway’s hair ablaze.
Talk about having your priorities straight.
Still, it would be foolish for the Mets to fire Mickey Callaway over an incident so typical of their organization and their history.
In fact, what happened Sunday in the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field only confirms my suspicion that Callaway is, indeed, the ideal choice to lead the Mets. His fake “mea culpa’’ press conference on Monday in Philadelphia further supported the point.
The guy is the perfect manager for an organization that can’t seem to do anything right.
Not even apologize.
Callaway at first couldn’t bring himself to admit he had apologized to Healey -- if in fact he had -- in their closed door meeting on Monday, or to even admit that he might have been wrong in responding to “See you tomorrow Mickey’’ with a string of profanities and a demand to have the reporter ejected from the clubhouse.
Instead, he made some flippant joke about not going to the food room anymore, where he was headed before the outburst, and would instead eat back at the hotel.
About an hour later, he called everyone back into the clubhouse to say he had, indeed, apologized. Basically, he was saying sorry for not saying sorry.
Likewise Vargas, the laughing stock among the Mets starting rotation until his recent run of success, was unable to acknowledge that he acted like a childish bully trying, half-heartedly, to rush Healey for some unexplained reason. Luckily, noted peacemaker Noah Syndergaard was there to hold him back.
Vargas, summoning up all the arrogance a three-game winner can muster, called it “an unfortunate distraction.’’ Then he walked away.
Talk about two guys learning a lesson! Clearly, the Mets must have fined Callaway and Vargas like five sticks of chewing gum for all the contrition either man showed.
Then again, competence has never been a hallmark of this organization.
This fits right in with a general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen who has needed less than half-a-season to prove he can’t build a big-league roster, and needed about five minutes on Monday to prove he has no idea how to issue a convincing vote of confidence for his manager.
“My confidence in Mickey remains the same,’’ he said, which sounds OK until you realize that he never specified exactly what his level of confidence in Mickey was. The more you see and hear of Brodie, the more you become convinced he was hired because he has great hair, nice teeth and looks good in a suit.
So who better to lead this crew into battle than Callaway, a former pitching coach who can’t figure out how to manage his bullpen, a self-styled “tough competitor’’ who either lacks the guts or the authority to confront his highest-paid player about his daily lack of effort, and a smiling front man who betrays on a daily basis that he can’t stand being questioned about any of his decisions?
Plus, aside from his regrettable breakdown on Sunday, he has shown himself more than willing to serve as the human shield for Brodie’s incompetence.
It will not be easy for the Mets to find another manager with the skill set that Mickey Callaway brings to the table.
Joe Girardi? Buck Showalter? Dusty Baker? All three are way too competent, not to mention professional and independent, to put up with the kind of nonsense Callaway is being asked to put with by the Mets.
Not use your 25-year-old closer, with a total of 220 big-league innings on his right arm, to get more than three outs in a game?
There’s two answers to that and neither of them are good. Either Callaway took it upon himself not to use Diaz, or Brodie has ordered him not to.
In either case, Callaway has to live with it, not take it out on the hard-working men and women who cover his team on a daily basis. Putting Tim Healey on blast does not make Callaway “a tough competitor who doesn’t like losing,’’ as he claimed on Monday. It makes him a bully who thinks pushing around a reporter makes him appear to be a tough guy in front of his players.
Same goes for Vargas, whose woofing act after Callaway’s explosion reminded me of nothing so much as the way my little Yorkipoo once barked at a chipmunk in our house after it was safely confined in a cage.
This is all well in keeping with the history of the Mets, who in previous years have featured explosives expert Vince Coleman, bleach artist Bret Saberhagen, and NYC tour guide Bobby Bonilla, who specialized in showing people the Bronx.
In fact, the normal state of this organization has always been dysfunction, to the point that seasons such as 1969 and 1986, and even 2000 and 2015, are remembered fondly as nothing more than outliers.
In that spirit, the Mets seem to have found their perfect match in Mickey Callaway.
Fire the guy? No way. Make him manager for life.