When speaking with Mets outfielder Mark Canha and his manager, Buck Showalter, it doesn’t take long to notice just how high the duo thinks of each other.
Such a relationship is usually reserved for a superstar and his manager, the former — whether it be a slugger or an ace pitcher — often carrying a team and the reputation of the skipper. Not so much in Queens, considering Canha’s playing time has fluctuated while his defensive responsibilities have shifted, too.
“He’s a pro, he’s a baseball player,” Showalter began when asked about Canha. “That’s my highest compliment when I talk about players. He’s a baseball player.”
The 33-year-old — who was signed to a two-year, $26.7 million deal prior to the 2022 season to potentially be the Mets’ everyday left fielder — has appeared in 108 of his team’s first 129 games this season, coming off the bench 15 times while getting subbed out before a game’s completion another 18 times. That included a six-game stretch toward the beginning of August that saw him start just twice with 12 plate appearances.
He’s batted at the top of the batting order, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and even ninth this season.
He’s logged defensive innings in left field, right field, center field, first base, and — for the first time since his rookie season with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 — third base.
“That’s kind of been my M.O. and what I’ve done in the past with the A’s is a lot of moving around and hitting in different spots, playing defense in different spots,” Canha told amNewYork. “I figured [Mets GM Billy Eppler] has seen me play being a former GM of the Angels so I figured he knew how to utilize me and that was all part of the appeal.”
With all of that moving and shaking with a dash of sporadic playing time, Canha has been one of the most reliable Mets — which is what drew such high praise from Showalter.
Canha is batting 34 points higher (.278) than his .244 career batting average coming into his first season with the Mets with a .377 on-base percentage that ranks fourth in the National League.
He’s arguably been the Mets’ most valuable player in August, using an 18-game stretch from Aug. 7-28 in which he batted .359 with a 1.216 OPS, four home runs, and 16 RBI. That included a home run, double, and two RBI in a vital 3-2 win over the second-place Braves in Atlanta on Aug. 18 before game-tying and go-ahead round-trippers with five RBI in a thrilling 10-9 comeback win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Aug. 21.
On Tuesday night at Citi Field, his solo shot in the fourth inning of Andrew Heaney helped the Mets overcome an early deficit to tie the game — though they would ultimately drop the series opener against the high-powered Los Angeles Dodgers.
“It’s hard not to play every single day and be consistent and I’ve gotten used to that and shown that I can be productive in that role,” Canha said. “I think Buck sees me for who I am and that’s the ultimate sign of respect for me.”
That’s exactly the case, as Canha’s work ethic between games is something that an appreciative Showalter can lean on when he’s in a bind — regardless of whether the veteran is in his lineup or not.
“He’s very trustworthy. Even when he knows he’s not playing the night before, he has a whole different work regimen,” Showalter said. “He’s doing nothing but getting ready for the next time you need him, whether it be pinch hit, pinch run, play defense, or start the next day. He’s always preparing for the next need and he wants to be there and eliminate all the things that might challenge some guys.”
For a Mets team that continues to hold the top perch in the National League East, Canha’s demeanor is the centerpiece of an organization that stresses a successful team being the whole sum of its parts.
“It’s a lot of fun. When you’re winning like this it’s a lot of fun and just the way we’re doing it we’re kind of using everybody and everybody’s involved,” he said. “It’s a very easy way to have a lot of fun. It feels like every win is very much a team win and it’s not just one guy that’s carrying the load on his shoulders more than the other guy. It’s kind of all hands on deck and that’s the beauty of it.”