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Buck Showalter fired as New York Mets manager

NEW YORK (AP) — For the fifth time in six years, the New York Mets are in the market for a manager.

Buck Showalter was fired Sunday after a disappointing season in which baseball’s highest-spending team tumbled from contention by midsummer.

The 67-year-old Showalter said before the 2023 finale against Philadelphia that he will not return next year, and a few minutes later the Mets announced the club had decided on the change.

New York plans to introduce David Stearns as president of baseball operations on Monday, placing him above general manager Billy Eppler. Showalter’s departure with a season remaining on his three-year contract clears the way for Stearns to pick the next manager.

“When hiring a president of baseball operations, they’re entitled to bring in their own people,” owner Steve Cohen said during a brief postgame news conference. “It became clear he wanted to go in a different direction and that’s certainly his right and I gave him that right. It’s no different than when a CEO comes into a new company. They bring in some of their own people.

“This is not a reflection on Buck,” Cohen added. “Buck did everything we wanted him to do. Obviously, the season was a disappointment, but it’s not Buck’s fault, OK? It’s spread across the organization.”

Showalter and Stearns did not speak before the decision was made to change managers.

“I understand the responsibility of those things,” Showalter said. “A lot of coaches go in and want their offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator, in football terms. I try not to dwell on stuff like that and live in it. Baseball’s been very fair to me, all things considered.”

Showalter managed the fourth-place Mets to a 9-1 loss Sunday that dropped them to 74-87 and 30 1/2 games behind NL East champion Atlanta. Afterward, he said he would be open to managing in the majors again.

“Sure,” he explained. “I feel great physically. I’ve been very proud to hold this together, this year in the clubhouse. Been one of the biggest challenges of my career to really stay on top of things and make sure with some of the challenges we’ve had in the past, to be able to keep that from being the focus.”

When he brought the lineup card to home plate before the game, players and coaches came out of the dugout to join fans in giving Showalter a standing ovation. He saluted them on his way back to the bench, and the scoreboard displayed his image with the message: “Thank You Buck.”

Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor said the ovation was bench coach Eric Chavez’s idea.

“Very cool. Very cool,” Lindor said. “However, I wish it didn’t happen like that. I wish he was still here.”

Showalter took over in December 2021 and led the Mets to a 101-61 record last season, when he was voted NL Manager of the Year. New York lost to San Diego in their wild-card series, then added three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to its pitching staff during the offseason. The Mets boosted their payroll to a record $355 million on opening day, but wound up dealing Verlander, Max Scherzer and several other veterans ahead of the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

“I was honored to get a chance to manage a second New York team,” an emotional Showalter, who piloted the Yankees from 1992-95, said during his pregame news conference. “I’m proud of what the Mets did. We won close to 180 games in two years. Especially last year, as much fun as I’ve ever had in the game. It reminded me why I’ve always loved this kind of work.

“I wish things could have gone better this season because the Mets fans deserve that. In my heart, I always wonder what could have happened if this happened or that happened, but I try not to live in that world,” he added. “It’s not the ending I wanted, but I still love this city and the players.”

There’s already been speculation that Stearns will look to bring in Craig Counsell, who is in the final season of his contract as Milwaukee Brewers manager. Stearns led Milwaukee’s baseball operations department from September 2015 through the 2022 season before stepping down and moving into an advisory role.

Counsell has guided Milwaukee to five playoff appearances in the past six years, including a third NL Central title this season.

Other reports have indicated Counsell might want to take some time away from managing, with two sons playing college baseball in the Big Ten.

“I’ve been very consistent with where I’m at here and nothing has changed,” Counsell said in Milwaukee. “I’m fired up for what’s ahead of this team and that’s the only thing I’m thinking about right now and care about right now. We’ve got us a chance to do something special, to make great memories, to change some lives. Why would you think of anything else besides that right now?”

Showalter’s dismissal leaves the Mets searching for a manager for the fifth time since Terry Collins’ seven-year tenure ended in 2017. None of their past four lasted more than two seasons — Carlos Beltrán was let go without even managing a game, fallout from Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal in 2017.

Showalter is 1,726-1,665 (.509) in 22 seasons as a big league manager with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Orioles and Mets — guiding all those organizations to the playoffs besides Texas.

He’s won four Manager of the Year awards — tied with Hall of Famers Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox for most all-time — and is the only skipper to win the prize with four different teams.

Showalter ranks 19th in major league history in wins, but Gene Mauch (1,902) is the only manager with more who never won a pennant.

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AP freelance writer Rich Rovito in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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