Billy Eppler, Buck Showalter confident in new coaching staff and state of the Mets: ‘I know we’re good’

·4 min read

To listen to Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter discuss the team they are building is to listen to a pair of men gushing with confidence, sometimes even bordering on arrogance.

Part of it is earned, to be sure. Eppler has done everything right in the offseason, but the offseason is not where he’ll ultimately be evaluated. And Showalter comes with an impressive pedigree himself, but he’s also been to just one League Championship Series in 20 years as a manager. His Orioles got swept that year.

Still, the duo came out swinging, exuding the type of bravado that is typically an afterproduct of winning, not a precursor.

“This club is well-positioned now as is, but it can always be better,” Eppler asserted. “I know we’re good.”

The new general manager said one of the yearly traditions he looks forward to is the release of sportsbooks’ over/under win totals for the upcoming season. He says he likes the outsider perspective on the club that those provide. On the inside, the Mets are operating as though they’re one of the league’s premiere teams, and part of that comes from Eppler and Showalter’s belief in their new coaching staff.

“We set out to really complement the skills of the staff,” Eppler said. “We wanted to diversify who was going to be involved with our players.”

The virtual press conference on Monday was for Eppler and Showalter to discuss the decision-making that went into creating the staff. Craig Bjornson (bullpen coach), Joey Cora (third base coach/infield instructor/base running coach), Eric Chavez (hitting coach), Wayne Kirby (first base/outfield/base running coordinator) and Glenn Sherlock (bench coach and catching instructor) are the new blood. Jeremy Barnes (assistant hitting coach) was promoted from within. Jeremy Hefner, the pitching coach for the last two seasons, is the only remaining survivor from the Luis Rojas days.

“Serving players’ needs is the most important thing, probably,” Showalter expressed. “We want to make sure we’re bringing in somebody who keeps the avenues open to all things.”

The staff has been hailed as a mix of old and new, peppering new philosophies on top of pre-baked ideas about how the game should be played. While Sherlock is in his sixties, Barnes is just 34 years old. Cora and Kirby both played their last professional game in 1998; Chavez was in the league eight years ago and was teammates with several active MLB players, including current Met Robinson Cano.

While it became juicy gossip because the Mets swindled him away from the Yankees, both Eppler and Showalter assured reporters that Chavez’s hiring was much less messy than the public perceived it to be. Eppler also said he had a cordial discussion with Brian Cashman about the move. Once he was in play, the Mets came to Chavez with some questions about how they could elevate even higher, keying in on the complementary and diversification themes that have been central to this entire process.

“What we did is, we really asked Eric,” Eppler shared. “When we landed on Eric we both had an independent conversation with Eric and asked, ‘What do you think would help the most?’ He gave a criteria, and once we established the criteria, that directed us toward who we should talk to. So we angled for a little more technical, swing-analysis people who had familiarity using some of the technology and batted ball information.”

Those conversations were partly credited as the motive for promoting Barnes, who will work alongside Chavez and the hitters. Showalter said that part of the design was to “attack the what ifs” and make sure that there’s never a night where he leaves the ballpark feeling like the other team had more information or were better equipped to win the game. One thing that’s supremely evident about Showalter is how seriously he takes the job, both from a pride standpoint and a preparation standpoint.

“The Mets don’t take a backseat to anybody in my mind,” the skipper spouted. “I love to make sure the players understand that they’re carrying a torch for a lot of people. Not only the fans, but the people who went before them who the Mets being good means a lot to. Billy and I make that a sacred thing in our minds. There’s somebody living and dying with everything that we’re doing.”

As for what they’ve learned about each other?

“Buck’s getting really good at Zoom calls,” Eppler giggled.

The chemistry seems to be there. The confidence has been in place since Max Scherzer signed his name on the Mets’ official letterhead. All that remains is for the lockout to end, the players to get in uniform, and the world to find out if any of this is actually going to work.