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.