MIAMI – Mickey Callaway is consistently inconsistent with his messages.
He let Robinson Cano off easy for not hustling in back-to-back games earlier this season, even defending Cano repeatedly, before finally reprimanding the second baseman after being skewered in the local media for 48 hours.
Compared that to Sunday when Callaway benched Amed Rosario for not running out a single that he thought would be caught Saturday night.
But Callaway’s inconsistency didn’t stop there.
To the print and online media covering the team, Callaway described it as just a “scheduled off day.”
To the team’s TV and radio personnel, he described it as a benching, which the tandem of Wayne Randazzo and Keith Hernandez explained on SNY.
"As Wayne mentioned,” Hernandez said during the Mets’ 6-2 win over the Marlins, “the disciplinary benching for one game of Rosario for not running out that fly ball that dropped."
Callaway attempted to downplay the issue after the game, even going so far as to not even explicitly confirm that he benched Rosario for the lack of hustle.
The incident yet again showcased Callaway and the Mets in a negative light for their inability to deliver a consistent message.
This is the same team that a few weeks ago needed two press conferences for Callaway to say sorry after berating a reporter following a loss in Chicago.
And to make matters worse, Rosario made it clear he viewed his spot on the bench as a punishment for his lack of hustle even if his manager wouldn’t say so.
The team couldn’t even sync up its message after having time to regroup.
“I think it was because of the consequences of me not running out the fly ball,” Rosario said through a translator. “(Callaway) told me to run hard.”
The ability to convey a cohesive message has not been Callaway’s strength this year, and it only makes it harder for the general public to trust what he’s saying.
It also makes it clear that there appears to be a different operating procedure based on who he’s talking to or dealing with.
That Callaway doomed himself in this case makes it even more cringeworthy since he was the one who leaked it to the in-house networks he had disciplined Rosario.
“Some of that stuff that we do internally needs to stay with us, but I think Rosie knows some of the reasons on why he didn’t play today,” Callaway said. “I wouldn’t call it disciplinary. …We addressed that part of it after the game (Saturday) night.
“He knows that he has to be on second in that situation. And a few guys hit him up right after it happened.”
Callaway also botched a chance to truly take a strong stand against players who don’t hustle, a topic which he has been rather lenient on this season.
Had he just revealed his plans or owned it after the game, it's perceived in a much different fashion. Instead, it seems as if there are different rules for different players.
Callaway twice went out of his way this year to defend Cano after the veteran didn’t run out ground balls in a May series here in Marlins Park. Cano has a history of not always busting it down the line, and those two moments came during losses.
When the Mets played their next home game on May 20, Callaway finally changed his tune, saying he did not started Cano that night in part because it’s “unacceptable” to not run balls out. The manager did a 180.
Cano, however, said he had not been told he had been penalized for his actions.
In explaining Rosario being out of the lineup Sunday, Callaway mentioned the lack of hustle but also said he wanted Adeiny Hechavarria in the lineup. .
It’s not surprising that Callaway would extend much more leniency to Cano than Rosario since he foreshadowed such a development during the winter meetings.
“Robbie deserves the leeway on that,” Callaway said in regards to Cano’s history of not always hustling. “I also understand that our players, that Rosario is going to understand that's Robinson Cano doing that, and he probably can't do the same thing that Robbie can do, because he doesn't have that experience and probably doesn't quite understand the things that Robbie does when he's doing it.”
Callaway indicated that he believes he’s been consistent with how he’s handled lack of hustle.
However, it's a noticeable difference compared to how Gil Hodges handled a perceived lack of effort 50 years ago when he came onto the field to remove his top player, Cleon Jones, from a game after Hodges felt Jones did not give his all.
That moment is remembered as a turning point in that championship season.
“The consistent part is that it’s addressed when it happens. It has to be,” Callaway said. “I think that’s just part of the game.”
Rosario, to his credit, took his benching —or scheduled day off if you prefer — in stride, acknowledging he had messed up.
It seemed like a simple message that could have been acknowledged and addressed, but like most things with the Mets lately, it’s never that easy.
“No, I don’t think I’m being singled out,” Rosario said through a translator. “It’s my style of play where I’m always aggressive, and this time you kind of noticed.”