It’s not often you see a manager make such a boneheaded move that you say to yourself, “Geez, even Terry Collins wouldn’t have done that”, but Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss provided just such a moment Monday evening when he inexplicably lifted dominating rookie pitcher Jon Gray after just 75 pitches while throwing a 1-hitter. The Colorado bullpen did what mediocre bullpens do – throw gasoline on the fire – and a Daniel Murphy bleeder between Jose Reyes and Nolan Arenado propelled the Mets to a come-from-behind victory.
Certainly the Mets skipper has provided plenty of his own interesting decisions over the course of his tenure. Most recently, of course, was the proclamation from on high that you hit or you sit. Juan Uribe has provided a few clutch moments since his arrival, but playing a guy who was brought in to strengthen the bench as a regular starter has resulted in a batting average of .209 over the last 15 games. He proceeded to find playing time for fellow bench player Kelly Johnson (.152 over his last 15 games) while sitting Wilmer Flores, he of recent folk-hero status (.286 over his last 30 games). That’s certainly a head-scratcher, too. What these two capable veterans can do is spot start, not get overexposed, and not embarrass you when called upon to play. They are no longer starting caliber players.
Still, like a kid with a new toy, the manager is determined to spend quality time with them. Take case in point Eric O’Flaherty who, straight off a cross-country journey to join the team as a LOOGY, wasn’t used in this role for which he was obtained and at which he’s excelled in his career. No, the manager instead decided to use him to face both lefties and righties in his first jet-lagged game and the result was an ugly 2/3s of an inning in which he gave up four earned runs. While it’s on the player to execute, it’s on the manager to set up his team to succeed. Of course, it’s nothing new as he misused Alex Torres, Jack Leathersich and others with reverse platoon splits simply because they threw with their left arms. Thus far he hasn’t let that creep into the decision making with Tyler Clippard who does the same reverse splits from the right side.
However, still many seem to be of the opinion that given the right horses, he is the right man to lead them to post-season glory. With the bench acquisitions, the promotion of Michael Conforto, the bullpen reinforcements, the presence of Yoenis Cespedes, the return of Travis d’Arnaud and the imminent return of David Wright, all of the pieces would seem to be in place for a solid September.
Let’s play the what-if game for a moment…what if they miss the playoffs entirely? What does that mean for Terry Collins in the eyes of the front office? What if they make the playoffs and go quickly out in the first round? Same question. What if they make it to the championship game and lose? The World Series and lose? (After all, the Yankees once fired Yogi Berra for that sin against the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.)
So the question is…how far must the Mets go to warrant a return of Terry Collins?