Here’s how sports journalism generally works; you wait until the results are known and then look for an easy explanation for those results.
Here’s an example: it was either Alex Gordon Bobblehead Day or Nebraska Cornhusker Day at Kauffman Stadium — I can’t remember which — and Alex Gordon hit a home run. So of course Alex was asked whether his home run had anything to do with Alex Gordon Bobblehead Day or Nebraska Cornhusker Day.
Alex said that he’d hit a few home runs when it wasn’t Alex Gordon Bobblehead Day or Nebraska Cornhusker Day.
Emotional explanations are usually wrong. Alex hit a home run because the pitcher threw him a fat pitch.
Now here’s another tip on becoming a sports journalist: wait until the game is over. If your team wins then the manager is a smart guy.
If your team loses then the manager is a dope.
But here’s reality: it’s possible to make some dumb moves as a manager and get bailed out by your players. It’s also possible to do the smart thing and have it backfire.
So let’s talk about Mets manager Terry Collins.
The New York media has turned on the Mets; the morning after the Royals won the World Series I was walking through La Guardia Airport and saw a New York Post headline: “Amazin’ Disgrace.”
Seems a little harsh for a team that won 90 games and the National League championship. The series only went five games, but it was still a very competitive series.
The Mets bullpen was shaky
OK, it’s Sunday night and Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey has been brilliant for eight innings.
At this point he’s thrown a four-hit shutout and he’s got all his pitches working.
Harvey had a 1-2-3 eighth inning on nine pitches and he hasn’t really been in a jam all night.
So Terry Collins has a choice to make: He can go with Jeurys Famila — a reliever who has already blown two saves in the series — or stick with Matt Harvey.
Harvey’s pitch count is low — 102 after eight innings — and Harvey wants to finish the game. In fact, Harvey insists on finishing the game. Harvey is later quoted as saying, “No way I’m coming out.”
The New York media later interprets this as selfishness on Harvey’s part, but it’s just what a manager wants to hear from a pitcher.
It doesn’t mean that pitcher is going to stay in the game — that’s the manager’s decision, nobody else’s — but a manager does not want a pitcher who’s looking to get out of games.
“Five and dive” is how pitchers who want to throw the minimum number of innings and then — if they have a lead — leave the game are described. It’s not a compliment. So Harvey is showing heart and wants to stay in this must-win game.
On the other hand, Collins could go with Familia, but the Mets bullpen has been shaky. Imagine the criticism if Collins pulled a pitcher who was throwing brilliantly and had a low pitch count and then the bullpen blew the save.
For Collins it was damned if you do, damned if you don’t; but he knew for sure Harvey was throwing well so he stuck with him.
Not a crazy decision at all.
Set roles in the bullpen
People who don’t play the game and don’t have to deal with reality are always proposing crazy schemes for using a bullpen. But a bullpen by committee — tonight our closer pitches in the seventh! — can become an organizational nightmare.
Nobody knows when to stretch, nobody knows then to throw ... every night’s a crap shoot.
Say what you will about Ned Yost’s methodical managing — and I believe at times it deserves to be criticized — but always using your closer when you’re in a save situation lets everybody know what’s happening.
A Kansas City starting pitcher would have to be nuts to insist on finishing a close game when Wade Davis was available.
That might have been part of why Harvey wanted to finish the ninth inning; Wade Davis wasn’t available — it was Jeurys Familia.
If you still want to be critical of Terry Collins, and if you’re a Mets fan you probably do, blame him for putting Familia in tough spots. In the Harvey game Familia came in with the tying run on second and nobody out. Familia got straight three groundouts, but because Eric Hosmer went crazy on the base paths, that wasn’t enough.
In Saturday’s game Familia wasn’t brought in until the tying run was already in scoring position; an error and two singles later and the Royals had a lead they wouldn’t give back.
In Tuesday’s 14-inning game Familia was brought in with two outs in the eighth and the tying run on third base. Familia got out of that jam, but then blew the save when Alex Gordon hit a homer in the ninth and sent the game to extra innings.
Was Collins a batter too late?
All things considered, sending Matt Harvey out to pitch the ninth inning does not seem like a bad decision. Yesterday I ate biscuits and gravy and a bear claw for breakfast. That’s a bad decision.
Some people have said Collins should have pulled Harvey after he walked Lorenzo Cain to start the ninth, but Eric Hosmer was due up next and Harvey had handled Hosmer well. (Sorry, I couldn’t think of another “H” word to finish that sentence.)
In Game 1 of the series, Hosmer was 0-3 with two strikeouts (although Hos did have two walks and two RBIs in that game). And in Game 5 Eric was 0-3 against Harvey (with two more punch-outs) coming into the ninth inning.
Bottom line: if Collins had pulled Harvey and his bullpen blew the game, critics would be on him about that.
Collins stuck with a pitcher that was throwing well and now critics are on him about that.
Sometimes you can make a good decision and it still doesn’t work out.