11:00 am Aug. 29, 2012
Terry Collins was in fine spirits following the Mets' 9-5 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night, and he had good reason to be.
The Mets had trailed the Phillies 4-1, then 5-4, but rallied to win in extra innings. The comeback not only propelled the Mets to within a game of the Phillies in their private race for third place in the division, but served as rebuttal to the idea that the Mets have quit on Terry Collins for the second year in a row.
"This team has been accused of folding it up," Collins said following the game. "I disagree with that. I disagreed when I heard it. I know those guys in that locker room. I know what they're made of. I know what their personalities are. And when you don't hit, it looks like you don't care. That's just the nature of the game. When you don't hit, there's no action going on. It looks like you've folded it up. And they have not."
There's little reason to think Collins is wrong. The Mets started 46-40, and are 14-29 since. In 2011, they started 55-51, finished 22-34. But there are obvious, talent-based reasons for both of these swoons.
Last season, that start included Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis, while the finish included none of them, thanks to trades and injuries.
This season, the 46-40 start included strong performances from Dillon Gee and Johan Santana, an E.R.A. about a run lower from R.A. Dickey, and an M.V.P. caliber performance from David Wright. Gee and Santana's injuries sidelined them, while no one is accusing Dickey or Wright of quitting on the team simply because their superhuman performances of the first half have somewhat abated.
In fact, the questions about Collins at this point ought to focus less on his ability to motivate the players than on how he deploys them.
Take his handling the Mets' bullpen. In Tuesday night's game, the Mets had rallied to tie the score, 4-4. Chris Young clearly didn't have it; he'd already allowed four hits and three walks. As Chase Utley stepped to the plate, Collins had lefty Robert Carson warm in the bullpen, a good thing considering Young's .891 O.P.S. allowed to lefties, his fly ball tendencies, and the home run-friendly atmosphere in Philadelphia.
What happened next, Utley's home run to give the Phillies the lead, was predictable.
Maybe pitching coach Dan Warthen, who dates back to Jerry Manuel's staff, deserves some of the blame, too. He certainly doesn't have any particularly good results to point to since 2008.
It doesn't really matter this year anyway, when the Mets' talent deficit really has made Collins' in-game decisions moot, in terms of their ability to contend. The same was true in 2011.
But one day, when the Mets finally put another contender-quality team on the field, the tactical questions are going to matter, and Collins, if he's still around, will have to answer them.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Alex Rodriguez took batting practice and could play in minor league rehab games by this weekend.
Ahead of a critical Wednesday game against D.C. United, Jack Bell wonders if Dax McCarty is the Red Bulls' M.V.P.
Some roster spots are still up for grabs ahead of the Giants' final preseason game Wednesday night against the Patriots.
Former Giants coach Ray Perkins, 70, is back in coaching, at the junior college level. No word on the whereabouts of Scott Brunner.
Rookie receiver Stephen Hill hasn't been the most reliable, so far.
Jason Smith will need to do better than Wayne Hunter at right tackle, so, you know, low bar.
The new uniforms will be unveiled next Thursday, and modeled by Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, whoare by consensus the two most stylish Knicks.