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.”
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.