9:38 am May. 16, 2012
What happened between Mets manager Terry Collins and third baseman David Wright in last night's 8-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers said quite a lot about the state of the team.
Reliever D.J. Carrasco entered the game in the top of the seventh inning, surrendered a home run, then appeared, at least to the umpire, to hit Ryan Braun intentionally on the next pitch. Carrasco was immediately thrown out of the game. Fearing retaliation against his best player, Collins lifted Wright (and later that same inning, Daniel Murphy) for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh. Wright took exception and argued with Collins in the dugout, raising his voice and gesturing. He felt he should have been left in to take the hit if necessary.
"He wasn't getting hurt," Collins said emphatically in his postgame news conference Tuesday night. "I'm not accusing anybody of the possibility of retaliation. But I don't blame the umpires for doing what they did. I don't blame the other team for any perception they had of what happened. But I've got news for you: In this game, there are unwritten rules. And one of the unwritten rules is you hit my guy, I'm hitting your guy. They're not hitting my guy tonight. I'm not exposing him to being hit. He said, 'If anybody gets hit, I want it to be me.' I said, 'I'm sorry, it isn't going to be you.' They're not going to hit Jordany Valdespin. But if they're going to retaliate, they're going to hit David Wright. And that ain't happening tonight."
When Collins, who went on to describe his feelings for Wright as "[loving] him like a son" to him, was asked about Carrasco, his tone was quite different.
"He said he threw a sinker that got away from him," Collins said in a disbelieving tone, waving his hand dismissively. "That's what he told me."
He acknowledged a similar motivation to take Murphy out of the game.
"I mean, we've got two guys in our lineup that are killing the ball," Collins said. "We can't afford to lose anybody ... I'm not in a situation to have my two stars get hurt."
One lesson to be drawn from Collins' actions and his explanation after the game is that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to try and protect both Wright and Murphy. In the manager's mind, his other players are expendable in a way that Wright and Murphy aren't. (Lucas Duda, for instance, hitting between Wright and Murphy, remained in the game.) That Wright is untouchable is to be expected. But it's a testament to Murphy's progress in 2012 that he's worked himself into that category too.
The way Collins dismissed Carrasco was telling as well. The reliever, signed to a two-year deal prior to the 2011 season, had a year lost to injury and ineffectiveness last season. Finally back and healthy in 2012, his inability to give the Mets innings isn't likely to endear him to his manager. The chances that Carrasco will ever pitch meaningful innings for the Mets appear small.
Most of all, Collins recognizes that the number of players he has at his disposal who are truly major-league caliber is extremely small. Other than Wright and Murphy, the New York lineup includes Ronny Cedeno at shortstop and Mike Nickeas at catcher, the badly slumping Ike Davis, and players like Andres Torres and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, coming down to realistic levels after impressive starts.
Collins is circling the wagons. He has no other choice.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
In a sign of how far the Orioles have come, Baltimore beat CC Sabathia and the Yankees behind fifth starter Wei-Yin Chen, 5-2. Sabathia had a rare off night. But it was still striking that the Orioles had the pitching depth to hold off the Yankees, to split the two-game series. Next up for the Yankees is Toronto, who are likely to lose third baseman Brett Lawrie to suspension at any moment for this tirade.
President Obama, describing the future of the Knicks, appears to be saving his more inspirational words of hope for the general election. Miami lost to Indiana last night, with Chris Bosh, who played so effectively against New York, likely to miss the remainder of that series with an injury.
When the series against the New Jersey Devils heads to Newark for Game 3, the Devils are hoping their fans won't abandon them, New Jersey Nets-style. Meanwhile, Game 2 is Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, and the Rangers will continue their new, controversial defense.