Is Terry Collins Detached from Reality, or Playing Head Games?

I realize that Terry Collins hasn’t been in a big-league dugout as an MLB skipper in over a decade, and many things have changed in the game over that time. For example, the scorecards look different now, and people track a few more statistics since the 20th century. The players don’t wear stirrups anymore, and they’re not allowed to drink “special coffee” before the games.

However, even in the old days, I don’t ever remember a dropped ball causing a player’s skills to erode, or to cause injuries.

In his first conversation with second baseman Luis Castillo, Collins brought up — for reasons unknown — the infamous dropped popup from the Subway Series of June 2009. From The New York Times:

“I said, ‘Is the pop-up bothering you?’ ” Collins said. “He said, ‘No.’ I said, I’m sure it has, but I said, you’re not the first guy to ever drop one.”

Despite Castillo’s denial, Collins said he thought the error still ate at Castillo, 35, who was an integral member of the Florida Marlins when they won the 2003 World Series and is a three-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner.

“‘You dropped it, it’s over, nothing you can do about it,’ ” Collins said he told Castillo. “ ‘Let’s move forward, let’s stay positive. You’re a talented guy, you’re healthy. What can you do to make this team better? Let’s go with that.’ That was pretty much the direction we went in the conversation.

“But until we see it, can he get by it? Only time will tell. But I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a psychologist. We try to be, but the one thing I am right now is positive, and I think he can help.”

Um. Really?

First off, why in the world is Collins bringing up something that happened almost two years ago, in a game that was relatively meaningless (except in terms of bragging rights for New York fans)? On the one hand, Collins asserts that he’s “positive”, but he communicates it by pointing out the negative. It’s dinosaur talk like this that makes progress twice as difficult, if not impossible — as any “real” psychiatrist or psychologist will tell you. If you dwell on the negative, or plant negative images in the mind, negative results are likely to occur.

Secondly, where does Collins get the idea that Castillo’s underachievement in 2010 had anything to do with a dropped popup? As the NYT article points out, Castillo’s offensive stats actually improved after the error:

When he made the error, Castillo was hitting .277 with a .376 on-base percentage. The next game, he went 2 for 5 in a 6-2 victory. More telling, in the 91 games after the error, Castillo hit .316 with a .393 on-base percentage.

He finished the 2009 season with a .387 on-base percentage, his best since his .391 mark in 2005.

Even if you hate Luis Castillo, you have to admit that his ’09 season — other than that dropped ball — was pretty decent. Not great, but about as good as you could expect from him. Further, if you can be completely objective and fair, you know that there are two very basic reasons Castillo’s 2010 season was awful in comparison: 1) chronic leg and foot injuries; 2) eroding skills due to age. Does anyone other than Terry Collins truly believe that Castillo was hobbling around all year because he was thinking about the popup he dropped? Can anyone connect a 50-point drop in OBP and 70-point decrease in batting average to making an error? I do believe it’s possible — and probable — that Castillo’s offensive struggles last year were somewhat due to self-confidence issues, but I’d bet they were tied to being cognizant of a loss in bat speed and general feeling that he couldn’t physically perform at the same level he did 5-10 years ago.

Surely, the dropped popup will forever remain in the minds of many Mets fans, and likely had faded from Castillo’s memory. Professional baseball players, by nature of playing games every day, have no choice but to move past errors like that — and by his performance for the remainder of ’09, Castillo proved he had indeed moved far past that egregious bungle.

But suddenly, thanks to Terry Collins, that defining moment has returned front and center. Which begs the question: could Collins have rehashed this mostly forgotten incident this to play head games with Castillo, and shake any bit of confidence he might have coming into camp? Or does that sound too much like a conspiracy theory?

In somewhat related news, Aaron Gleeman points out how much of a d%&*#bag Jon Heyman has proven to be in his tweets about Luis Castillo. Stay classy, Jon.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Rob February 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm
    There’s no question that Castillo’s eroding performance over the last few years is the result of his declining health and advancing age. I don’t think that anyone can debate that.

    What I find interesting is that many Mets fans want to question his heart. I think that Adam Rubin correctly pointed out very recently that Castillo really does care…he was one of the last out of uniform on the final day of the 2008 season when the Mets were eliminated. He just doesn’t have the skills to justify his current contract. But is that his fault and does that justify Jon Heyman and the myriad of other sports writers piling on to him? Probably not.

    I’ve never understood the anger that fuels reporters like Heyman, who appear to dish out everything personally. Castillo reported on time and he had a good excuse for not reporting early. He appears to face an uphill battle to show everyone that he still has the skills to play competitively. But he hasn’t shown anyone that he doesn’t care. Frankly, if I were him, I’d consider telling all the sportwriters who have written him off to go to hell…but what do I know.

  2. Rob February 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm
    Of course, Oliver Perez is a slightly different story. Perez had an opportunity last summer to go down to AAA and work on some of the things that were keeping out of the starting rotation and nestled under a warmup bench. He chose not to go. No matter how much pitching he did on off days and no matter how much he worked on his problems in the bullpen, it would have been better for his to take the ball every fifth day at AAA and try to find the skills that made him a desireable commodity for at least a couple of years.

    Did he have to go down? No. Should he have gone down? Hell yes. He wasn’t being asked to take a paycut…just go down and work on his game in live game situations. He declined. And that is a very telling decision.

  3. Ryan February 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm
    You can think of me as your Uncle Terry, Luis.
  4. JoeBourgeois February 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm
    Joe, I know you wanted Bachman to get the job, but this is ridiculous.
    What Collins was saying, subtextually, was, “I know you’ve caught a lot of crap about that. You won’t get any from me; as far as I’m concerned, you have a clean slate.”
    In the personnel management training I’ve had, I’ve been repeatedly told, “Get any PERCEIVED problems that AREN’T real problems out early and clear them off the table.”
    What exactly is wrong with that?
    • BobProletariat February 21, 2011 at 6:05 pm
      Actually, Collins is ridiculous. I agree with Joe – there was no reason to bring up something irrelevant from two years ago. This is an early beginning of the end for Collins, who clearly has no idea how to handle the NY media.

      Who is Bachman? From Justin Turner Overdrive?

    • Joe Janish February 22, 2011 at 12:39 am
      Monsieur Bourgeois,

      Originally, I did prefer Wally Backman to be manager. Now, though, I’m kind of glad he didn’t get the job, because a) this is a thankless job that no one can look good doing; and b) by having Collins in place making incredibly stupid comments like this, I will have plenty of fodder for content for this blog.

      Your personnel training was incredibly flawed; I suggest you find a way to get your money back. Any “training” that suggests one should focus on a negative event is complete crap. If you want bullcrap and useless business training you could have spent ten bucks on “Who Moved My Cheese?”.

  5. RealityChuck February 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm
    Why should it bother Castillo? It’s not as though fans remember it and mention it constantly.

    Half the time they mention him is not “constantly.”

  6. joel jlondon February 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm
  7. murph February 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm
    Castillo should have reminded him of the Angels mutiny in 1999 and then said, “it’s over, nothing you can do about it”
    • gary s. February 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm
      good one murph..Terry Collins has Art Howe Part 2 written all over him.I’ll be surprised if he’s still the manager after one year..