A week ago, Buck Showalter stood underneath a leaking pipe of some sort at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The Mets had just been swept by the Philadelphia Phillies when the manager made a joke about how water had dripped on him all weekend. Was there a metaphor in there? Maybe.
Maybe it wasn’t a metaphor, maybe it was foreshadowing.
The Mets played game No. 162 on the season Sunday. They lost 9-1 to the Phillies once again, finishing the season 74-87, with the result of last week’s suspended game still waiting to be decided. The game itself was forgettable after Showalter announced that he would not be returning as the team’s manager in 2024 at the conclusion of his pregame press conference.
One night prior, general manager Billy Eppler held a meeting with the veteran manager, giving him the option to either step aside and let incoming president of baseball operations David Stearns choose the manager, or be fired.
He chose the latter, wanting the clubhouse to know that he didn’t quit on them.
“I think the players know that I would never quit or resign,” Showalter said. “I was kidding with four or five of them office earlier in the day. They said, ‘Yeah, we would have seen through that in about 30 seconds.’”
You wouldn’t have known anything was amiss before he started reading his prepared statement with tears in his eyes and emotion in his voice. Showalter often opens his pregame press conferences with pleasantries and off-topic small talk. Often humorous though sometimes pointless, and it was no different Sunday afternoon. Showalter mused about Muhammed Ali, the possibility of a continuation game with the Miami Marlins on Monday and the strange time of the game: 3:10 p.m.
Showalter talked about expectations for next season. He talked about his offseason evaluation process. Everything seemed relatively normal but when the subject of his job status came up, he deflected the question.
“We’ll get to that, I promise,” Showalter said. “I don’t break promises.”
The 67-year-old skipper did not break his promise.
It wasn’t immediately clear that he was fired. The Mets issued a statement shortly after he read his remarks, clarifying that this was a decision made by Eppler and owner Steve Cohen in order to give Stearns the autonomy to choose his own coach, which was written in Stearns’ contract.
Stearns is set to be introduced Monday at noon.
“The way it works when you bring in a president of baseball ops, they’re entitled to bring in their own people,” Cohen said following the game. “We weren’t sure if David was going to join us, and finally he joined us. It became clear that he wanted to go in a different direction. That’s certainly his right and I gave him that right.”
The clubhouse was shocked. Many players placed the blame on themselves.
“In my opinion, it all falls on us,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo. “I am a professional athlete who is supposed to motivate myself. So if I need help being motivated, that’s probably a problem. So I don’t really feel like Buck was the problem.”
Cohen also didn’t place the blame on Showalter.
“This is not a reflection on Buck,” he said. “Buck did everything we wanted him to do. Obviously, the season was a disappointment. But it’s not Buck’s fault, it’s spread across the organization.”
So that’s it. A Mets season that began with so much promise ended with the firing of the fourth manager since 2017 — fifth if you count Carlos Beltran. Early odds are on Craig Counsell, the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, to replace him.
Showalter has not ruled out managing again, despite this past season being one of the more challenging ones of his career.
“I’ve been very proud to hold this together,” he said.
Questions still remain, but for now, there is a sort of finality to it all. One big answer at the end of a season full of uncertainty.
“I was honored to get a chance to manage a second New York team,” Showalter said. “I’m proud of what the Mets did. We won close to 180 games in two years. Especially last year, it was as much fun as I’ve ever had in the game. It reminded me why I always love this kind of work.
“I wish things could have gone better this season because the Mets fans deserve that.”
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