So the New York Mets, during the tenure of Terry Collins, haven’t had a roster that should come close to a .500 record, in my opinion. Thus, a 77-85 2011, a 74-88 2012 and a 54-64 2013 doesn’t argue against retaining him in 2014 and beyond.
Nor am I overly concerned, though I don’t love it, when I see him misuse the bullpen, or utilize Scott Rice, often, against righties, though Rice’s splits make it obscenely clear that he should be a lefty specialist, period. It’s not ideal, but Collins is also not blessed with many crossover relievers. There are too many Sophie’s Choices to make with that bullpen.
Essentially, the only standard I think it is fair to hold Collins to is this one: have his team playing hard, and don’t do anything to potentially damage the long-term outlook for 2014 and beyond.
Well, Collins sure failed that standard last night, and not for the first time.
In the ninth inning of a game the Mets went on to lose, 5-4, he sent up Wilmer Flores, he of the stiff ankle that meant he probably wasn’t available to play, to pinch-hit. This is precisely what you don’t do unless absolutely necessary, put a recovering player in a position to injure himself. Flores wasn’t the last position player available, this wasn’t a playoff game. Moreover, Flores is not a veteran about to hit free agency, but a young player whose service clock just started. Maybe he’s a second baseman, maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s trade bait this winter to fill one of the other positions of need.
If he’s hurt, though, he’s not any of these things. This move isn’t to be judged by whether he got hurt, the result, but rather the process. Downside was risking an injured player. Upside was… possibly improving the chance of getting a hit in a game the Mets already led by two runs, and which wasn’t going to catapult them into the playoffs regardless.
But Flores hit, and he singled. And then Collins did something equally ridiculous, if not worse. He pinch-ran Jenrry Mejia.
Again, upside? Not even a significant advantage for the play at the time. Eric Young, Jr., obviously, is a better choice, and still available. No, what Collins did here was put his brittle, high-upside pitching prospect on the basepaths, an area where he’s got very little professional experience, for the potential of having Eric Young Jr. available later in a meaningless game.
And no, this isn’t anything new. He did it with Zack Wheeler a few weeks back, a day after asserting he’d never do that, because, I mean, how foolish to expose pitching prospects to injury on the basepaths, right?
We don’t know what metrics the Mets are using to evaluate whether to bring Collins back in 2014. But if they are measuring by every last win, it is a foolish way to do it. I honestly doubt they are. And if they’re measuring by any other set of parameters, ones that look at how a manager is contextualizing decisions not just in-game, but in the bigger picture, then last night was a bad night for Terry Collins’ future, and that was true even before they blew that lead and lost in the 12th.