Mets manager Terry Collins leads team to Wild Card berth
By Rich Sparago
The Mets are going to the postseason for the second consecutive year under Terry Collins
On October 1 — the same date they qualified for the postseason in 1973 — the Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies to earn the first Wild Card in the National League. This is just the second time in team history that they’ve reached the postseason in consecutive years (the other was 1999 and 2000).
According to Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post, manager Terry Collins deserves quite a bit of credit for this accomplishment, “saving the season” as Vaccaro writes here. This is lofty praise for a manager whose job was speculated to be on the line in August.
Vaccaro makes the point that Collins was able to manage the personalities well, writing the following:
"It’s the other stuff that dominates the job, even now, even in a time when the game is ruled by numbers and tendencies and percentages. Even in a time when it seems a manager has been completely marginalized, they are still the ones who answer to the players, who soothe their egos, who call in the kids to tell them they’re being sent down, who call in the veterans to tell them they’re being sat down.And across the last two years, there isn’t a manager in baseball who has done this aspect of the job better than Collins."
I agree with Vaccaro here. It’s well known that Collins is a “players’ manager.” After all, he pinch hit Eric Campbell for Jay Bruce in a critical spot on September 20, and somehow managed to keep Bruce mentally well enough for his resurgence that followed shortly thereafter.
However, I disagree that the “other stuff” dominates in the job. The X’s and O’s in baseball matter, and they matter quite a bit. It is in this area, in-game strategy, that Collins struggles the most. Let’s take a look at two examples.
On September 10, the Mets lost a game in Atlanta. In that game, Wilmer Flores was thrown out at the plate as the potential tying run. When asked why he did not run for Flores, Collins said that he was preoccupied trying to set up the pitching matchups for the next inning.
Huh? Flores is perhaps the slowest non-catcher in the majors. Collins had a 40-man roster. It does not take much analysis (by Collins or any of the coaches) to determine that pinch running in that spot may be a good idea.
On September 20, also against the Braves, Freddie Freeman came up in a crucial spot. Collins left a right-handed pitcher in to face the red-hot Freeman, rather than going to one of his available left-handed relievers (40-man roster again). When asked why he did not make the move, Collins said that he neglected to get a lefty up early enough, and the relievers needed more time. He joked that he considered feigning a heart attack to slow the game down. He said that on camera to reporters.
Collins has a reputation for making ponderous decisions during games. Beyond the two above, in late July, Collins used Jeurys Familia when the reliever had thrown 104 pitches over four days, despite saying Familia was not available that day (of course Familia blew the save on July 28 against Colorado).
Early in the season, Collins used the surgically repaired Jim Henderson in a day game after a night game in which Henderson had pitched, and the reliever later complained of arm soreness.
And then there’s the infamous decision to leave Matt Harvey in for the ninth inning of Game 5 of last year’s World Series (as well as other peculiar decisions in Game 4). Collins said he learned from the Harvey decision not to let players dictate game strategy. However, in the July 28 game referenced above, Familia talked his manager into using him, though the boss had said Familia would not be used in the game.
So the Mets are hosting the Wild Card game on October 5. Terry Collins has presided over back-to-back postseason appearances. However, I don’t think this exonerates his in-game managing.
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In fact, my hope is that Collins and his decisions do not cost the Mets once again during the playoffs. Maybe Collins can manage the egos and keep a team together over the 162-game season. However, a bad strategic move during a playoff game can have huge implications.
While the Wild Card berth is a cause for celebration, I have trepidation about our man at the helm as October rolls on.