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May 19, 2019

Raissman: Mickey Callaway better hope he mastered the gift of gab during the Mets’ offseason

January 6, 2019

Mickey Callaway has not asked for our advice, but here’s some — free of charge.

Go back and replay 20 or so of your postgame press conferences. Then take a look at the limited amount of press availabilities Brodie Van Wagenen has participated in during his early days as Mets GM. Get the picture? In case you don’t, we will spell it out: In terms of communication skills, and more importantly entertainment value, BVW’s got you beat, pal.

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The gab gap between GM and manager needs to be closed.

We know, we know. Callaway is in a results business and winning between the white lines is more important than victory behind a microphone. Yet going into the 2019 season, it will be more important than his rookie year for Callaway to react to media inquiries with more than a quizzical, bewildered look and soft southern twang; more important for Callaway to have understandable and quotable answers when responding to questions about head-scratching moves. And most importantly, Callaway needs to gain the respect of media types who were not down with him last season and didn’t trust him.

For Callaway, the communication alterations are essential. This is the undisputed truth considering Van Wagenen has plastered a bullseye on Callaway’s back. That’s what BVW did last month when he said: “Internally, we would argue that we’re the favorites in the division right now.”

New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway speaks during a news conference ahead of the official start of spring training baseball practice Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (Jeff Roberson / AP)

If the Mets don’t get off to a fast start, BVW will have the answers. He’s probably already formulated them. This cat could sell air conditioners to Eskimos. BVW also has a fall-guy in Callaway. Van Wagenen could leave Callaway blowing in the wind to do the explaining. That’s why Callaway needs to sharpen his verbal game. He needs to go beyond the “we believe in those players in the clubhouse” shtick and find a credible groove. A little self-deprecating humor, spiced by some passion and blunt talk would be nice.

It worked for Terry Collins.

Collins sometimes found himself at odds with Sandy Alderson and the front office for being too candid. But most boss scribes covering the Mets, up until the day he departed, had Collins’ back. With BVW turning up the heat before spring training even starts, Callaway might benefit from similar support.

When the GM tags the Mets as “favorites” in the NL East and they pull into July in last place, Callaway is going to have some explaining to do. If that scenario becomes a reality, Callaway better be able to convincingly preach hope and sell light at the end of a short tunnel. He better find a nice way to say Van Wagenen was not in touch with reality.

If he can’t, Van Wagenen might look to make another splashy move and fire Callaway.

Then, for Callaway, it will be too late to find the gift of gab.

SPIN-CYCLE

As predicted in this space, both Mike (Sports Pope) Francesa and Michael Kay, ultimately made excuses and spun their Fall ratings results.

FAN’s Francesa, who finished second in the market with a 5.9 share (in the key men 25-54 demo), beating ESPN-98.7’s Kay, who notched a 5.8 share, claimed if his streaming numbers were counted he would have finished first in the market. Yeah, and if I grew one strand of hair on my head I would not be bald.

The No. 1 station in afternoon drive is WSKQ-FM (Mega-97.9). It finished with a 6.3 share.

Anyone surprised Francesa would try to change the rules once the winner was crowned? This is a Gasbag who continues making a living by bending the truth (that’s being kind) for his own purposes.

Not to be outdone, 98.7’s Kay claimed if you combine his YES TV simulcast ratings with his radio numbers, “The Michael Kay Show” would be “the most consumed English speaking program” in the market.

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Another Helium Head dealing in “if.”

Stunning!

GUNNAR MAKES HIMSELF VISIBLE

Anyone following the career of WFAN/CBS’ Norman Julius Esiason has heard him talk about his son Gunnar, 27, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of two.

Now, in an enlightening and compelling podcast, “Made Visible” (the new episode launches on Tuesday), Gunnar Esiason tells host Harper Spero: “If you did look at me, you wouldn’t really see that I have cystic fibrosis. I look like an otherwise healthy person, but I am dealing with a demon inside of me.”

The mission of “Made Visible” is to provide an audio platform for people with invisible illness. In the interview Spero, who has spent her entire life managing an invisible illness, strikes an immediate chord with Esiason, who takes listeners deep into his tenuous world.

He talks about using his vest and nebulizer in a room full of strangers on his first night at Boston College. Esiason relates his experiences coaching high school hockey. And he solves the mystery of why he’s never met his fellow co-hosts of his own podcast, “Breath In.” Throughout the “Made Visible” podcast a singular spirit of hope resonates.

“Compared to a lot of illnesses I’ve featured on the show, there’s a lot of research and proven treatments as it relates to cystic fibrosis,” Spero said. “Gunnar has a full regimen he has to stick to, to maintain his health daily. Yet, he’s doing it with a strong sense of humor and plenty of joy.”

PITI’S FLACK

Considering all the charitable bones in Dick Vitale’s body, maybe we should define his recent call for UCLA to hire Rick Pitino as a compassionate gesture.

Sorry, can’t buy our own illogic. Dickie V has long been a Pitino sycophant who has never wavered, even during the bad times. While this gives Vitale high marks in the loyalty department, it also shows a total lack of common sense.

Vitale gave Pitino a pass after he was fired by Louisville following an investigation of a pay-for-play scheme. Last August, all it took was Vitale reading Pitino’s memoir to give Slick Rick his stamp of approval. Now, after Pitino has already accepted a job coaching in Greece, Vitale is tweeting that the disgraced coach will make UCLA “top 10&relevant INSTANTLY.”

No, Pitino coming to Westwood would only tarnish UCLA’s basketball program INSTANTLY. Dick, stop the campaigning. The Free World already knows Pitino is your guy — give it a rest, please!

AROUND THE DIAL

With more and more college football players passing on playing in Bowl games so they don’t get injured on their way to the NFL draft, it’s only a matter of time – if it isn’t here already — that the quality of play suffers and the legitimacy of the games can be questioned. In the future it would not be surprising if some players pull out of college football playoff games too. Why risk your financial future when you are not getting paid in these mega games when everyone — from ESPN, to sponsors, to coaches — is rolling in green but you? … How long before the Jets impose a gag order on Jamal Adams? If they don’t, there could be a bidding war for his weekly radio services next season. He should — at least — double the dough FAN paid him this season. … How long before Joe Benigno, who reveled in Todd Bowles’ misery, fires the next Jets coach?

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Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (Sam Craft / AP)

DUDE OF THE WEEK: DeANDRE HOPKINS

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For donating his playoff check to the family of Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old girl killed in a drive-by shooting in the Houston area. The Texans wideout said the $29,000 he will make during Saturday’s Colts-Texans game will go to the family to help pay for funeral costs. “When I see Jazmine Barnes’ face, I see my own daughter,” Hopkins wrote on Instagram. Hopkins told the NFL Network he felt compelled to give back to those who are down. “It’s the least I could do,” he said.

DWEEB OF THE WEEK: KIRK COUSINS

You market yourself as the top 2018 NFL free agent acquisition. You permit a camera to document your free agency tour. You tell the world you would have received more money from the Jets after cashing in on a staggering $84 million contract with Minnesota. Then you have a serviceable season that ends with no playoffs and the Vikings in chaos. For Mr. Cousins, 2019 has got to be better, right?

DOUBLE TALK

What Eli Manning said: “I think this is kind of the time to reflect and figure out what’s the best thing going forward.”

What Eli Manning meant to say: “Let me know how much of a pay cut I’m going to take and I’ll let everyone know what I will do going forward.”

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