In James L. Brooks' wonderful film, "As Good As It Gets" the cantankerous writer Melvin Udall portrayed brilliantly by Jack Nicholson is asked by an admirer of his work, "How do you write women so well?"
Nicholson's Udall responds, "I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability."
I thought about that scene when considering what's unfolded when the the umpire shouted, "Play Ball!" and the 2015 season kicked off for real. Opening Day is in the books and it was a senior citizen’s wet dream for Terry Collins. His 41 year old starting pitcher and his 37 year old closer reduced the $210 million man the Nationals signed into an 0-1 loser to start his career in the National League. The closest a young pitcher like Rafael Montero got to contributing was warming up in the bullpen and the youngest offensive player on the field was sent up there with slugger Bartolo Colon protecting him in the lineup.
Stories abound regarding whose lineup it was – Terry Collins’ or Sandy Alderson’s – but the fact remains that despite his often head-scratching managerial machinations, the Mets are off to a temporary residence atop the Eastern Division of the National League against the team who owned them in the recent past. Give credit to whomever it’s due for the victory – Bartolo Colon, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, Buddy Carlyle, Jeurys Familia and a host of other minor contributors. Enjoy it as you prepare for Game Two of a long, 162 game season.
Of course, all was not rosy from the get-go. In addition to the injuries that had Zack Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Bobby Parnell and Vic Black on the DL to start the year, now it appears Jenrry Mejia is having some issues with his elbow, hence the (at the time) odd decision to have Carlyle closing. At this point it’s not clear if the 8-man pitching rotation was in response to what they already knew about Mejia’s condition or just coincidence, but it does open up all kinds of rampant speculation on what will evolve should he require an extended absence from the bullpen.
Terry Collins has already opened his mouth and opined that Jeurys Familia would close, Carlos Torres would get the nod for the eighth inning and Rafael Montero might get consideration for the 7th. Hmmmn…classic Collins at work here, no doubt. He takes the highly effective and familiar long man, Carlos Torres, and puts him into a pressure-leverage situation in the 8th inning, thus leaving himself without someone to do that multi-inning stint when necessary (assuming his forked tongue regarding Montero is for once speaking the truth).
At no point did it occur to him that the lefty with the reverse platoon splits, Alex Torres, be positioned for 7th or 8th inning duty. At no point did Carlyle’s name come up despite having just closed out the game successfully. At no point did he consider having a guy with a 6:1 K to BB ratio who throws heat in Montero do Familia’s old job. No, he immediately goes to the well of the familiar veteran despite the potential for less disruptive and perhaps greater productivity by using his younger players.
Then again, if the stories about roster and lineup selection being Sandy Alderson’s call wind up having some merit, whatever Collins has said is once again proven meaningless. It’s only game one but Terry’s already developing his taste for shoe leather whenever he opens his mouth.
To paraphrase Jimmy Breslin, can’t anyone here manage this game?