Every baseball fan dislikes his or her manager. He bunts too much. His hook is too slow. Are you kidding me: You didn't think they'd pinch-hit with Matt Murton when you brought in that side-arming lefty? He benches your favorite young player who has just taken a bad 0fer. He makes jokes about advanced stats. He doesn't understand leverage like you do.
This is not a defense of Terry Collins. He bunts too much (and the Mets as a team really can't bunt). He leaves his young starters in a batter or two too long. He chases the platoon advantage at times to his team's detriment. He has jerked around Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera. He has sat Michael Conforto against every lefty starter. A clearly not right Bobby Parnell got too many high-leverage innings down the stretch.
After 62 years of playing, coaching and managing baseball. Collins will be in the World Series. He has been in New York for five seasons now, accompanied by much moaning from Mets fans. This season Collins passed Gil Hodges in wins as Mets manager. He is now third all-time in franchise history. This made some people apoplectic.
Down in Las Vegas, Wally Backman toiled away. An old school, red ass, dirt dog. He might bunt too much. He would probably ride his starters even harder, and his playing time decisions, even with a Triple-A roster, could be even weirder. But he would fire the boys up, you see.
There is an affection, even a love, in the baseball media for the baseball lifer. There is a muted tragedy inherent in the career minor leaguer, the manager that never makes the playoffs, and Collins is both. Well, was both.
This is Terry Collins' last managerial job. He likely knew that when he took it. He had two clubhouse mutinies at his last two stops. That didn't happen this time. He had a horrible collapse down the stretch in his last gig. That didn't happen this time. And look, he didn't suddenly turn into Ned Yost or Bruce Bochy in the playoffs. But he made the right calls, kept the ball in the hands of his best pitchers as much as possible, and his players played hard for him. He seems to genuinely appreciate the Mets fanbase, or at least does a credible job of acting like it. He dove into the crowd in Los Angeles, hugging fans. In Chicago he waded in full bore with a bottle of champagne.
It's hard not to like Terry Collins.
Bartolo Colon is an easy lead.
It's October and a lot of column inches have already been filled. Everyone in the press box is running on fumes. There is nothing wrong with an easy lead.
There is plenty of good color here to fill out a gamer. Bartolo waddling (or whatever slightly pejorative verb you prefer) out from the bullpen in a big spot. The Cubs desperately trying to claw their way back into the game. A home run away from making it a game. The right guy up at the plate in Kris Bryant. Did you know Kris Bryant was only five when Bartolo made his major-league debut? AP style guide probably says we should use his last name, “Colon” here. But Bartolo is always “Bartolo.”
Bartolo gets ahead, nibbles, he's worked his exact sequence hundreds of times in his late-career Renaissance. There is no surprise coming on 3-2, just like there was no surprise on the first five pitches. He throws an 88 mph two-seam fastball by Kris Bryant. That isn't exactly correct, as (A) it was 88 mph, and (B) did things a two-seam fastball doesn't normally do.
Bartolo jogged off the diamond like he hadn't done anything harder than flipping a behind-the-back pass to the first baseman on a squibber up the line. Well, that's not hard for him either.
This is Bartolo's first World Series as well. I hadn't figured that. The Indians teams he came up on were quite good, and well, he's pitched forever. He was left off the 1997 World Series roster though, and his Angels lost in the ALCS during his Cy Young season, and didn't really even get a close call since. I don't know if it matters to him. He is inscrutable to the outside observer, and anything I offer here is mere projection. Still, I offer this:
I was in the media lounge at Citi charging my phone during Game Three. Matt Harvey wasn't too sharp, and it looked like the Mets might need some length out of their pen. Jon Niese was warming up in the pen. It was serious business. This is the playoffs and Niese, like most of the Mets lifers on this roster, had never been here before. I think Jon Niese is also a serious person generally. He warmed up with a purpose. Jogging into frame comes Bartolo with a wide grin on his face, tossing the baseball back and forth, like a kid called into the game after previously picking dandelions in right field. Bart would get the call, and he struck out the side.
One more thing:
Bartolo's father was at Game Four, and he came on the field to celebrate with his son, by baseball standards an old man himself, finally making it to the World Series. Apparently what Pops really wanted to do though, was meet Curtis Granderson.
Someone who I assume is Bartolo Colon's dad made the trip and wanted to meet granderson and is everything. pic.twitter.com/TpvCTbFbPK
— Ted Berg (@OGTedBerg) October 22, 2015
Like I said, Bartolo is an easy lead.
When I say Bartolo is an easy lead, I am not saying he is nearly as easy a lead as a book being published in March with the subtitle “How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets” coming off the team's fourth straight mediocre season under his charge. This was a year after his proclamation that the Mets were a “90-win” team was leaked to a press corps that Alderson had never been particularly interested in sitting down with. Meanwhile, Alderson had spent most of his time with the media bobbing and weaving about the Mets' current financial situation.
The great conspiracy theory in Flushing has always been that Bud Selig sent Alderson to his old friends the Wilpons to clean up their Madoff mess and shepherd the organization through the lean times. He cut payroll by one-third almost immediately. A lot of that was dead contracts he inherited, but he let a homegrown all-star in Jose Reyes walk to Miami in what was a very reasonable free agent deal at the time. He traded Angel Pagan when he got expensive in arbitration. He dealt R.A. Dickey coming off a Cy Young year. He filled out the rotation and the roster with free agent flotsam like Shaun Marcum, Chris Young (both of them!), Marlon Byrd, Brad Emaus, Ronny Paulino, Frank Francisco, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Mets ownership stayed afloat, and the team never really had to rebuild. Their only two offseason signings this year were Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry, Jr.
Behind his public face (a smirk that would very rarely twist into a grimace), Alderson really wanted to win. That much is obvious from the book with the very long and now-less-unfortunate subtitle. Like Collins, and like Colon, this was probably Alderson's last chance to make a World Series, and he'd been given quite the handicap. Unlike the other two, he'd tasted it before, great teams in Oakland, one denied by Kirk Gibson, one deferred by an earthquake. There were additional division titles and another pennant. A stint in the Commissioner's office followed, then an unsuccessful tenure as president of the Padres. As the Mets ground out one 70-win season after another the whispers got louder, the game has passed him by, he's too hard to deal with, at least Billy Beane's shit gets to the playoffs. Even in July the New York press was happy to dump on his tenure as Mets GM. Then a frenetic trade deadline, a white-hot August, and a team that perhaps even Alderson didn't think would be competitive this year was in the playoffs. Too many stories to keep track of, all of which will be recounted in the numerous books about this Mets season that the same New York media (who have already spent their advances in their heads no doubt) will be writing in the coming years. Alderson might even be happy to go on the record for some of them.
Until then, he enjoys it in his own way.
That lone man in the crowd is Sandy Alderson, the architect of this team. He's watching the party go by. pic.twitter.com/uf95ck2LpJ
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) October 22, 2015
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