Collins’ Legacy on the Line?
First off, Joe Janish lives. I had an email exchange with him late last week. Among his many statements was this: “the Mets are a mediocre team with great starting pitching playing in a league where half the teams have already tanked.” My first thought was that he was being a bit harsh. Then came the Phillies series over the weekend. Now, I am wondering if Joe hasn’t (once again) nailed it.
Right now, the Mets are hitting like a bad high school team. In both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games the Phillies pitchers followed the same formula in approaching each batter. Inside slider that they foul off. Check. High heater that they swing and miss. Check. Curve on the outside edge of the plate (or further out) that they flail at. Check. All told the Mets struck out a whopping 21 times against a supposedly ragged Phillies pitching staff. In doing so, they fell below the .500 mark and already trail the hated Washington Nationals by a game and a half.
This is where we find out what kind of a manager Terry Collins really is. And as this is very likely his last managerial job, what happens next is probably what he will be most remembered for. You may recall the tepid (to put it mildly) reaction to his hiring back in 2011. Up to then he was remembered as the tightly wound martinet whose players rebelled against him. It was hard to be critical of him as a team of castoffs and has-beens struggled from 2011-14. He did get some credit for holding the team together during those dark days. GM Sandy Alderson admitted that he nearly fired Collins after the 2014 season. Then came a magical 10-week ride in 2015, all the way to the World Series.
Now, the Mets are the hunted. You could sense the glee in the Philadelphia dugout as Sunday’s debacle drew to a close. The Mets played tight. I don’t buy the weather excuse as the Phillies played in the same climate. Right now, it’s up to Collins to get this turned around. Unlike past years, he has the horses. And also unlike those seasons, there is no more help arriving from the farm. The team is relatively healthy and almost everyone has a role. Not much of a stretch to imagine that Collins is a goner if the Mets fail to qualify for the playoffs this year. Like his team, he has much on the line and the stakes are very high.
Putting Janish’s comments in perspective for a moment: the Mets of the Miracle era (1968-1976) also had great starting pitching and a mediocre lineup. They did make the World Series twice. Also, the 1986 and 2015 teams also started 2-3.
It is pretty disappointing to see what appears – and I admit it only looks that way from the couch – to be a team playing with very little spark or desire after winning the pennant last year.
In addition to their great starting pitching, the Mets have a good closer, some okay set-up options, a solid bench, defense that’s subpar but not atrocious by today’s standards, and a lineup that’s above average for the NL in 2015. That’s not “great”, but it’s certainly better than “mediocre”.
The only way this team is mediocre is if the bats underperform. I do think that’s a risk, as August-September 2015 were the only two months of particularly clutch hitting from this franchise since 2006. Mets hitters haven’t tended to come up big, and the 2014 team is a good example. The hitters padded their stats in some big blowout wins and didn’t do much of anything against late deficits, leading to 79 wins in a year when they outscored the opposition. This is why I wish the Mets had brought back Juan Uribe. Nothing against Campbell, but Uribe had the first few big hits of the Mets’ offensive revival, and never once let the pressure of a situation diminish him at the plate.
The Mets had their best ABs against the Phils in the first and second innings. On Friday they kept it up, but on Saturday and Sunday they got all messed up during their biggest chances, taking fastballs down the middle or waving at stuff neck high. Looked like pressing to me. Not the sort of confidence I was hoping for from the 2015 NL champs.
The Mets are ice cold. Grandy and TDA aren’t producing at all and aren’t getting on. They’re in a funk and are beginning the season as a virtual mirror image of the first half of 2015’s Mets.
However,in the first week of the season his stubborn refusal to play his bench is clearly hurting this team. So is trotting out the same lousy lineup each day even though it ain’t working.
Case in point – Conforto in a key AB tonight, tie game and 1 out with runners on the corners and a tough lefty on the mound. Lagares is an obvious pinch hitter but Conforto is left to bat, and hits into a double play. Mets lose by 1. Whilst on the subject of Conforto and Lagares, Terry has done an abysmal job of using a 4 OF rotation which makes a lot of sense with this roster and given the defensive abiilities Lagares brings to the table as well as speed. Terry is IMO putting too much pressure on Conforto to be the saviour, and it is hurting the player and the team.
Another case in point is the absence of Flores who we were led to believe would be a super sub, spelling guys at all infield positions. To me they could all use a day off, not just DW.
Finally, batting Duda 4th is just plain dumb at this point. He has repeatedly struggled at being “the man” and produces much better from other spots in the line-up. Look at the Royals with their atypical 3/4 hitters. Be creative with the line up card. Mix and match a little. But for your own sake Terry, don’t let loyalty to your players get in the way of doing your job which is putting guys in a position to succeed so the team wins as many games as possible. If he needs to be reminded, someone can send him the replay of game 5 right before the 9th inning started (and yes I was there screaming for Harvey to pitch the 9th).