A roster move: Mike O’Connor to Triple-A, Manny Acosta up. Guess the Mets wanted someone who could give them full innings. But beware: he walked 17 in his 20 1/3 innings at Triple-A. That’s control that would make Oliver Perez blush.
I also found Terry Collins’ description of his moves in the eighth inning fascinating. To recap: in a 7-7 game, Ronny Paulino singled. Jason Isringhausen was due up next, and Collins had Willie Harris and Josh Thole on his bench. So he pinch-ran Harris, but sent up Chris Capuano to bunt. But on a 1-1 pitch, the Pittsburgh hurler balked, sending Harris to second. At that point, mid-at-bat, Collins pinch-hit Thole for Capuano.
Collins explained that Capuano is arguably his best bunter (little-known fact: Nick Evans is also quite good, but was already in the game). Once the runner moved into scoring position, Thole became a better option.
So there are two takeaways from this, I think. First of all, Collins clearly learned from the famous sequence in the ninth inning of the game that dropped the Mets to 5-13 to start the year- already infamous before it ended the Fred Wilpon New Yorker piece. In that game, Jose Reyes reached to leadoff the ninth, Collins had Thole bunt, and he bunted horribly, and into a double play.
In other words, Collins had no intention of repeating his error. This is putting his players in position to succeed.
But everything he did in the eighth inning smacked of a manager desperate for a win. I don’t mean this as an insult; this is how a manager should manage. Ronny Paulino reaching base didn’t preclude Collins from using Thole. Think back to the many, many games when the Mets didn’t use Ramon Castro as a pinch-hitter late in games simply because he was their only other catcher. The extremely unlikely possibility that another catcher would get injured kept the Mets from using their best pinch-hitting option. It happened post-Castro, too. And it was always infuriating.
In addition, Collins was right on top of that situation. He had a bunter ready. The situation changed. And he IMMEDIATELY had a strategy to change with it.
For Jerry Manuel, desperation meant often overusing his pitchers (Fernando Nieve’s arm would wave hello, if only it still could). For Collins, who has been consistent about communicating with his players and giving them proper rest, it is managing the Leo Durocher way.
It won’t be enough, in all likelihood, without a return of his key players. But it isn’t up to a manager to get a team from 70 to 88 wins- that is up to the GM. The manager can get his team from 88 to 92, though. In 2007 and 2008, that would have meant two more playoff appearances.