On Friday, this was posted over at MetsBlog:
A team executive recently told Mike Puma of the New York Post he would be surprised if Terry Collins is replaced following the 2013 season.
“I think they are doing a good job of sprinting to the finish line,” the executive told Puma.
Putting aside the lunacy of talking about a finish-line sprint with over 50 games still to play, this statement still is ridiculous. Entering Friday, the Mets were 7-8 since the All-Star break. Now, maybe this “team executive” was recalling last year’s 1-11 mark following the All-Star game but how this qualifies as a reason to extend a manager is beyond me.
The easiest way to judge a manager is on his record. Collins, however, would probably prefer that we come up with a different measuring stick. To be fair, he has not had the best talent so we do need to look past the on-field results.
Without fail, the first thing Collins’ proponents point to is how the team plays hard for him. Fair enough – put that on the positive side of the ledger when making the evaluation. Is there anything else? No, seriously – I ask that as a legitimate question, trying to see what others see when they advocate for Collins coming back in 2014.
Because my evaluation keeps coming back to a rotten record and horrible decision making. Perhaps Collins gets something of a pass on the record due to the talent level but there’s no convenient excuse for the decision making. Let’s go position by position:
C – John Buck had a great April and Collins played him every day. He continued to do that even once the hot streak wore off. He continued to write a guy in the heart of the lineup who was virtually an automatic out. Even now, with the club having a better record in games started by backup Anthony Recker, Collins still plays the 33 year old in day games after night games, with less than stellar results.
1B – Ike Davis continued to play long after it was apparent to everyone else that he needed a trip to the minors. Josh Satin was buried for too long. He moved Daniel Murphy to first base instead of Lucas Duda, while Murphy was doing a fine job at his position and Duda was horrible at his.
2B – Jordany Valdespin was used at second base while Satin can’t get a game there.
3B – Nothing yet, as writing David Wright’s name into the lineup was close to a fool-proof decision this year. But let’s see what happens with Wright likely out for an extended stretch. Will Justin Turner get the majority of the playing time? Or will this finally allow Satin to get the playing time he deserves?
SS – The refusal to carry a backup SS has been a mistake from Day One. It led to Ruben Tejada being trotted out there despite horrible results until he finally got injured and now it leads to virtually no days off for Omar Quintanilla, who certainly looks like someone who would benefit from a break once or twice a week.
LF – Playing Duda in left when he did not have to was a serious error in judgment.
CF – Collin Cowgill – who now is batting .360 with the Angels – was buried too quickly. A lot of time was spent hoping for a miracle from Rick Ankiel. And Kirk Nieuwenhuis was held up as a defensive stalwart when all evidence pointed to a much different conclusion.
RF – It certainly won’t happen now with Wright out of the lineup, but wouldn’t it have been a good idea to give 35-year-old Marlon Byrd a couple of days off in June and July?
SP – There have been numerous instances of odd usage patters with the starters. For examples, Jeremy Hefner gets removed in a game where he’s pitching a gem despite throwing fewer than 80 pitches while Matt Harvey goes to the mound after he’s already thrown 107 and struggled in the previous inning. And has any manager in the majors used his starters out of the bullpen more often than Collins?
RP – The insistence on carrying two lefties in the bullpen – regardless of how horrid they may be – is actively hurting the club. Both lefties were used Friday night, as Collins burned four relievers to get six outs. This resulted in the need to use Carlos Torres, originally scheduled to start Saturday, as a reliever. Collins’ insatiable desire to have the platoon advantage late in the game outweighs every other decision. His bullpen management style makes any game that goes extra innings a challenge, a fairly significant issue for a club that has already played 14 extra-inning games this year.
Bench – A player’s reputation is treated as much more important than his production. Mike Baxter has a .352/.441/.537 line as a pinch-hitter. But he was sent to the minors so that RBI-man Turner (10.94 OBI%, ranked 298th-best coming into Friday) and PH deluxe Valdespin (3-for-29 this year) could hold down that role. Friday night, with a short bench due to the six-man rotation, he used Andrew Brown as a pinch-runner for Davis. How much speed did that gain on the bases? A normal manager would have used a relief pitcher. But a normal manager wouldn’t have burned four relievers for six outs, making a relief pitcher for PR purposes impossible. The Mets ended up using Zack Wheeler as a PR. Because it’s always a good idea to use one of the building blocks for the franchise in an unfamiliar role.
One can also point to a number of things Collins said this year which he immediately went back on. But let’s not be too harsh on him for what we will charitably call his flexibility. Instead, let’s focus on three things he said that were detrimental to the club. Here was why Duda didn’t get a chance to play first base:
“The one game in spring training when we said, ‘Do you care if you play first base?’ he was all excited,” Collins said. “Well, I don’t want him to get that excited, because he’s going to be the left fielder. We’ve got a first baseman here.”
This refusal to consider moving Duda to first because it made him happy was insane. Instead we got treated to extra playing time for Davis when he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. It was more important to cater to Davis, who was playing terrible, than to cater to Duda, who was putting up an OPS+ in the 120 range.
In late June, the Mets began to discuss an innings limit for Harvey. Here’s a blurb from MetsBlog:
“Terry Collins told reporters the staff does not want to hinder Matt Harvey‘s health due to throwing too many innings this season.”
So of course Collins goes on to let him bat in a game where he has the lead and has already thrown 107 pitches. And after the game we found out he was also nursing a blister. How on earth does a manager talk about protecting Harvey’s health and then allow that situation to happen? Forget everything else mentioned earlier – this by itself was a fireable offense.
And here’s one from Thursday on Wright’s health:
“Terry Collins said he trusts the captain that he is not trying to play through a severe hamstring injury that might end up in a blowout of the muscle.”
So, we had to watch Friday as our star player clutched at his hamstring and hobbled off the field. Now we face the possibility of playing without him for a month or more. We saw Giancarlo Stanton hurt his hamstring earlier this year in a game against the Mets and he missed 41 days. Perhaps Wright’s injury won’t be as bad as Stanton’s. But the critical issue here is: Why on earth would you take Wright at his word when it came to an injury? This is the guy who insisted there was nothing wrong with his back and it turned out he was playing with a broken bone.
Shouldn’t the manager know the history of his star player when it comes to injuries? Shoot, even Dan Warthen recognized John Maine as an “habitual liar” when the subject was his health. Not having Wright undergo a complete physical and do whatever it took to determine the severity of his injury was gross negligence on the part of Collins.
When the Mets hired Collins he was 62 years old and hadn’t managed in MLB in over a decade. It’s hard to imagine a situation that screamed out “managerial placeholder” more than this. It was a mistake to extend his contract the first time and it will be a mistake if they do it again. If the Mets do decide to bring back Collins for 2014, that does nothing to change the reality of what Collins was/is for the team – a placeholder.
We have seen the lunacy of his bullpen management for three years now. That alone should be reason for his dismissal. Then this year we see the cavalier way in which he treated the health of the team’s top two stars and that should be unacceptable for anyone. And of course there’s his three consecutive seasons with a sub .500 record.
But pay no attention to the team’s record or the manager’s in-game decisions or long-range planning. Just remember the millionaires play hard for him. Nothing else matters, right?