There was a celebration in one clubhouse at Citi Field Friday night, where somebody actually found something unusual in beating the Mets. Houston’s interim manager Tony DeFrancesco — not to be confused with ’70s heartthrob Tony DeFranco of “Heartbeat (It’s A Love Beat)” fame — had just won his first game as a major league manager, as his 40-86 Astros downed Terry Collins’s 57-69 Mets, 3-1. Given that the 2012 Astros have been playing like the 2012 Mets not just for a half but for a whole season (except when they’ve played the 2012 Mets, in which case they might as well be the 1975 Reds) and that DeFrancesco is a local product who slogged through the minor leagues forever before getting what amounts to his big break when he was named Brad Mills’s successor last week, why shouldn’t somebody be a little extra happy in Flushing for one evening?
So Tony’s players doused him with champagne and Tony’s family and friends jammed into his office and Tony offered up giddy quotes about how “we’re going to change the attitude, we’re going to change the momentum,” which might indicate a lot of champagne flowed, considering all Tony’s team did was beat the Mets. But what the hell, a lot of people in the man’s life were happy for him.
“I’m sure my phone has got a few text messages,” DeFrancesco smilingly told reporters.
Terry Collins’s phone, on the other hand? His voice mailbox was pretty nearly full.
“Hello, Terry? This is Gil Hodges. I understand you’re having some trouble with those darned Astros. Don’t worry about it. In my best year, we lost to Houston an awful lot, yet things worked out for us. What you need to do is remind your players they’re to conduct themselves like professionals at all times, even when they’re mired in a slump. I found it helpful to march slowly but purposefully from the dugout and remove my left fielder when he wasn’t necessarily giving his all, even though my left fielder was batting .346. According to the statistical printouts I still receive up here, your left fielder is batting…hmm, must be a typo. It says your regular left fielder is batting .148. If that’s not a typo, Terry, I assume you’ve already marched slowly but purposefully from the dugout and removed your left fielder not just from left field but from the premises. And if you have a regular left fielder hitting .148, I also have to assume you have bigger problems than I can advise you on. You’d need a bigger miracle-worker than me to help you out with players like those. Good luck.”
“Is this Terry Collins? Yeah, hi, this is George Bamberger. I just wanted to thank you for managing the first Mets team in 30 years to not score more than two runs in seven consecutive games. Kind of nice for me not to look like the only stooge in the room anymore. No offense, huh? Hey, ‘no offense’ — that’s pretty funny, right? Seriously, pal, you might wanna think about taking a break next year. I told Frank Cashen I didn’t really wanna manage the Mets, but Frank was an old friend and talked me into it. Said I’d be working with the pitchers mostly. You know why? I had no hitters! I guess you know how that song goes. I’m lookin’ at the numbers and see you and me have similar stories. My team in 1982 got off to a nice start and everybody was really happy with the job I was doing and then…poof, there went that ‘magic’ crap. We lost 15 in a row that August. Try not to do that if you don’t wanna get hooked on the Maalox like I did. OK, bye.”
“Terry? Joe Frazier here. Ah’m real sorry it’s come to this. Managin’ in New York can be thankless and Ah’ll bet nobody’s thanked you lately for nothin’. ’Course when your team can’t score, can’t catch a break and the front office can’t give ya no help, it’s like tryin’ to trap a possum with raccoon bait. When mah Mets began tumblin’ downhill in 1977, Joe McDonald went out and got me Lenny Randle. He’s the fella who done punched his old manager in the face in Texas. Turned out to be mah best player for mah last few weeks at Shea Stadium. Maybe you gotta play your new guy Kelly Shoppach more or somethin’. He didn’t punch his old manager in the face, just stabbed him in the back, ah hear. Ah dunno. Ah never did, really. Hey, keep after ’em.”
“Hello? Hello? Terry? Hello? Uh, I don’t know if this is working. If it is, this is Wes Westrum. Listen, uh…hello? Ohmigod, isn’t this connection awful?”
“An’ I wanna say that furthermore when ya gotta team that ain’t scored more than a run in a week that ya gotta shake things up, that ya can’t keep runnin’ the same nine men out t’ the field an’ expect different results because Mister Webster defined that as insanity an’ I’ve been called some things in my time an’ insane was certainly among them, though they called me worse than that in Boston when I was managin’ the Bees as they wuz known at the time an’ they said ‘there goes Casey, his Bees don’t sting, they just stink,’ an’ they cheered might-ee-ly when I got hit by that cab an’ couldn’t come to the ballpark no more even though it was the only hit I saw all year that wasn’t given up by one’a my pitchers, but I learned not to take that kinda jibe personally because it all comes with the territory an’ when ya manage in New York City, the territory is hee-yuuuge an’ furthermore ya gotta chance to make a fine livin’ an’ get those endorsements even though sometimes the commissioner comes down an’ brings the hammer on ya because ya wear yer officially licensed uniform in a commercial for the sponsor’s product which may be meant for adults but ya gotta set an example for the kids who’re watchin’ but when yer team plays like my team did ya can be forgiven for takin’ a nip now an’ then between innings though I was always partial to playin’ the youth even though they stuck me with the old an’ infirm when I come outta retirement an’ I wuzn’t gettin’ any younger an’ our games wuz makin’ everybody age rapidly but not as rapidly as we wuz losin’, but that’s gonna happen in this game an’ what ya gotta do is take everybody’s mind off how yer trimmin’ the attendance an’ remind ’em of just how Amazin’, Amazin’, Amazin’, Amazin’ the club really is an’ hope nobody stops an’ asks what ya mean by that because between you, me an’ the center field flagpole, I never did but nobody ever asked an’ that’s maybe how ya distract yer writers long enough so yer youth can gain experience an’ come along slow fast an’ then yer a genius like I wuz when I had some players but until then ya gotta shake things up, an’ another thing…”