New York Mets manager Terry Collins seems like a really nice man. He's just ill-equipped to be a baseball manager, worse at that job than either Willie Randolph or Jerry Manuel were on their worst days.
That's weird to say considering the New York Mets are pretty lousy team anyway -- before managing is even taken into account. This is a fourth place team if there ever was one, the baseball equivalent of a walking, quacking duck. There's a lot to like about the 2013 New York Mets -- they don't quit, they have a bunch of nice complementary players and two legitimate superstars -- but fourth place is fourth place. Here's where it's at for Mets fans: the season will count as a tremendous success if the team wins 81 games.
What we're left with, then, is those two superstars, David Wright and Matt Harvey, and Collins' worth needs to be measured in how he handles their talents. With regards to Matt Harvey, it's not going well.
Three times in five starts, Harvey has been left in to start innings when he already had a high pitch count. On June 18 against Atlanta, Harvey flirted with a no-hitter and tossed seven scoreless innings. Collins sent him out for the eighth with 103 pitches already banked. Harvey threw an additional 13 pitches to load the bases without recording an out, and the bullpen allowed all three inherited runners to score. The Mets still won the game 4-3.
On July 3 against Arizona, Harvey labored through six innings despite running up nine strikeouts, and had 101 pitches to his name by the end of that frame. Collins sent him out for the seventh anyway, where Harvey threw another nine pitches to three batters. The result? Walk, single, RBI double. The additional inherited runner scored after Harvey left the game. The Mets lost 5-3.
It was more of the same on Monday night in San Francisco, though many fans were likely already asleep when Collins pulled a Collins. Harvey battled through six solid innings, throwing 107 pitches in the process. With the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead, Collins brought Harvey out for the seventh: triple, RBI single, tie game. Harvey threw an economical 14 pitches in the seventh and didn't give up another run, but he blew the lead and left after tying a career high with 121 pitches. The Mets and Giants would play another nine innings before New York won in the 16th.
This is maddening to watch as a fan; it's managing as moth-to-flame. Why is Harvey being brought back out to the mound, time after time, when he has already come to a natural stopping point for a given start? Not only has Collins' usage of Harvey damaged the pitcher's credentials for the 2013 Cy Young Award (Mets fans will take whatever individual player honors they can get during this playoff drought), but Collins has hurt the team's chances to win games that they could actually win this season. From ESPN's Adam Rubin:
According to ESPN alumnus Steve Glasser, tonight marked the fifth time this season Harvey took the mound for an inning with his pitch count already at 100. It was the first outing in which he even finished an inning in that situation. Harvey has allowed a run in four of those five appearances. In fact, Glasser noted, Harvey has allowed eight earned runs in 1 2/3 innings in those situations -- good for a 43.20 ERA. In innings this season that he began without his pitch count having reached 100, Harvey has allowed 29 earned runs in 135 innings, for a 1.93 ERA.
That isn't a small sample size. If someone at your office did something so demonstrably wrong for so long, they would likely be reprimanded or worse. Collins, however, is still making these bad decisions. He's like Natalie Portman in "Closer," blithely strolling down the street without a care in the world, unaware he's about to walk into oncoming traffic.
After the game in San Francisco, Collins revealed that Harvey has been pitching with a small blister (!), which has been affecting his command. (Nothing like 121 pitches to fix that.) Ever the competitor, Harvey didn't cite that as the reason for his recent struggles. Collins will skip Harvey's Saturday start against Pittsburgh in an effort to get the starter ready for the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 16.
Infuriating. Madness. All of it. Yet Collins keeps banging his head into the proverbial wall whenever Harvey starts. Whenever anyone starts: On Tuesday night, Collins left Dillon Gee in past his sell-by date, and the starter blew a 5-4 lead. (The Mets would win the game after an offensive explosion in the eighth inning.)
There are reasons, of course, for this behavior. First and foremost, the Mets bullpen kind of stinks -- save closer Bobby Parnell. In the case of Harvey, the guy is a fierce competitor and legitimately one of the best pitchers in baseball; he's pitched deep into games all season and has continued to shoulder the burden of being the Mets' one great hope. It goes to reason that he wants to be out there, even after 100 pitches, 110 pitches and 120 pitches. Harvey would probably pitch until his arm fell off.
Collins, though, is supposed to be the adult in the room. He's supposed to be the guy who manages the team. Under no metric is he doing that right now, especially with Matt Harvey -- not the 2013 version of Matt Harvey, nor the 2015 version of Matt Harvey, who Mets fans and general manager Sandy Alderson hope will lead the team to its first World Series title since 1986. Collins is just bad at this. To quote James Franco in "This Is The End," he gots to go. Maybe Collins would be better off doing something else for his career. Just as long as it's not "crossing guard."