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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Zen of Bartolo

I called the Mets boring yesterday, and I’ll stick with that — if the Mets are exciting, it’s generally because something horrible is happening to them, and more often than not the horrible thing that’s happening is their own fault.

But there is an exception: Bartolo Colon is not boring.

He’s not exciting either, and that’s the joy of him. The man may look like a sumo wrestler, but his craft is jujitsu, waged at a distance of 60 feet six inches. What Colon does seems like it shouldn’t work — he throws almost exclusively fastballs, varying the speed between not particularly impressive and average. It should be a recipe for chronic failure — you can see that in the frustrated faces of hitters heading back to the dugout — but most of the time it isn’t.

It helps that Colon has very good control, of course. And his taxonomy of fastballs is united by natural movement, which helps too. But mostly Colon baits hitters into outthinking themselves. He throws his fastballs in and out, up and down, slow and less slow, and more often than not hitters remain a step behind him, until somehow it’s the sixth or the seventh inning and they’re 0 for 3 against the guy who looks like a beer leaguer.

Occasionally Colon takes the mound without his precise location, or the ability to dial his fastball up or down minutely. When this happens he is as ordinary as all those hitters imagine he must be, and tends to be gone rather quickly. He doesn’t beat himself up excessively about such days — they’re a hazard of his variety of work.

Colon does other things you might not expect, too — such as field his position extremely well, moving with surprising grace and quickness.

He even, every once in an enormous while, gets a hit. He has 11 of them, in fact — and on June 18, 2014 he collected a double off Lance Lynn of the Cardinals, slapping a ball down the third-base line that hugged the corner.

No, I don’t believe that last part either. It sounds like that tale of Mister Koo and the day he defeated Randy Johnson, or Al Leiter tripling while all of Shea laughed merrily.

Colon doesn’t get too worked up about any of this. Oh, you’ll catch him wearing a slight smirk after a particularly hopeless AB, or even jiggling his belly for comic effect when he thinks no one’s watching. But mostly he lets others tell the jokes, just like he makes hitters do the work.

Once you accept the Zen of Bartolo, the rest of the world can seem like a frantic and somewhat disreputable place. Which brings us to Terry Collins.

The Mets skipper took Colon out of Thursday’s game after eight innings despite the big man having thrown only 86 pitches. (Albeit in jungle-like heat.) Jenrry Mejia promptly got into trouble, then appeared to have dodged the worst of it, getting a double-play ball before giving up an infield single that brought up Matt Adams with the tying run on first. Collins then pulled Mejia in favor of … Dana Eveland?

Now, if after the game Collins had talked about not being wedded to the traditional closer’s role, that would have been one thing. But instead he said he was concerned about Adams’s recent string of game-winning hits and wanted a lefty to face him, despite Mejia being better against lefties than righties. Small-sample size stuff, in other words, and not the way one molds a young pitcher into a closer. Yes, Eveland got the final out and secured the win, but the entire process was suspect: There was no reason to take Colon out, and not much of a reason to take Mejia out. It felt like Collins was managing for the sake of it, acting like a kid mashing down all the buttons on the videogame controller.

If that was annoying, his pregame comments were downright disturbing: Asked why Wilmer Flores was being used so sparingly, Collins said “we’ve got to start winning. We don’t have time to develop players right at the moment. … Unless the time comes where all of a sudden, hey, we’re going to go with our young players and get them better, right now we’ve got to try to win some games.”

Wow. Earth to Terry: Your team’s bad. The entire season should be about developing players, because the Mets aren’t winning anything that matters. One wonders if Sandy Alderson needs to have another talk with his manager about the organization’s goals and how to achieve them. (Hint: It doesn’t involve anyone named Young being a starting outfielder. Yeah yeah, I know Eric Young Jr. had a good game today. Fantastic — since his value’s now so high, trade him posthaste.) Or perhaps Collins is just getting frustrated — understandably — and frantic.

If that’s the case, I’d suggest he take some deep breaths and watch Bartolo Colon go about his business.

13 comments to The Zen of Bartolo

  • Dave

    TC’s comments sounded to me like the anxiety of an old baseball guy who knows what happens to managers with losing records for 4 consecutive years, especially those who have just been given a vote of confidence from their equally unsuccessful GM. But at this point, changing managers will have about as much impact as sending den Dekker down and replacing him with Niewenhuis.

  • Gabe

    The pitching changes at yesterday’s game (where I was sitting in the upper deck—it was indeed hot!) displayed a strange split personality. If winning is what’s important, leave Colon in; if it’s development, leave Mejia in. But as ever there is no reliable philosophy in place.

  • The Jestaplero!

    The Mets are two games – whoops, make that three – over .500 when Eric Young leads off. I don’t need to write the next sentence. Look, I know I know, I see the man play, I read his stats…I’m just sayin’.

  • Tristram Shandy

    Playing to win now has to be on orders from SA, right? I refuse to believe that he would not have corrected Collins, if he believed otherwise, “Psst, Terry. We will be lucky to win a 3-game series this year. In fact, I’m trading half the team by mid-July. Play the kids now!”

    This one has to be on the front office.

    • Possible, but I don’t think so — recall that the last time Flores being out of the lineup was an issue, there were some FO comments and suddenly Flores was playing.

      I suspect it’s more Terry panicking and pushing buttons, and Sandy sighing.

      Another possibility, which is more disturbing but might make the most sense: Jeff yells at everybody, all the time, issuing contradictory orders.

      • metsfaninparadise

        Do you think Sandy’s sighed enough to be ready to move on from Collins, but is being held back because he’s Fred and Jeffy’s friend-of-a-friend?

        • No.

          I think Terry’s a tactical caveman, a good teacher and a good clubhouse soother/motivator. Pretty much all MLB managers are tactical cavemen, so 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, particularly considering Terry has another year on his contract.

          If he had a decent roster, the things that drive us crazy would be mild/moderate irritants.

          • metsfaninparadise

            I think Terry is way below average as a tactician-what’s below caveman? I also don’t think of him as a particularly good teacher these days, considering the number of poor decisions the team makes in the field and on the bases. It also seems sometimes as if his head isn’t in the game-when you’d expect a take sign or a hold on a baserunner, or a purpose pitch, there’s nothing. I disapprove of some managers who call the whole game from the bench-throws over, etc, but Terry seems to eschew interfering with the players’ free will once they leave the dugout. And why do you think he’d get the most out of good players, when he can’t get the most out of mediocre ones?

            PS–I can’t believe ANYONE is still defending Collins

          • Unanswerable questions. Terry can’t make Murphy and Duda into baseball geniuses, because a resurrected John McGraw couldn’t manage that. But we don’t know how much more hopeless they’d be without him. What we see now might well the best guys like Murph, Duda and Tejada can do.

            As for getting the most out of good players, that’s not the point. Average performances from good players will beat out good performances from crummy players. The manager’s ability to solve quadratic equations, compose a sonnet in period-appropriate French or bark like a seal isn’t going to alter that equation very much.

            I’m not a huge fan of Terry’s by any means. But I think making him the focus is a mistake because a) nearly every other manager’s going to be a tactical numbnuts as well; b) the Mets aren’t paying Terry for a year of doing nothing; and c) through z) the real problem is a lousy roster that’s a product primarily of the Wilpons’ financial woes and refusal to be honest with their FO.

          • Terry Collins has become the uniformed embodiment of this miserable era. The sooner he’s gone, the sooner I’ll have something to be happy about, Metswise, for at least a few days.

  • Lenny65

    They “don’t have time” to develop young players? What in the blue hell does THAT mean? So the plan is to just stick with whatever isn’t working now? They’re going to remain “competitive” by fielding a non-competitive lineup? Good plan there, Mets. If they’re not even going to try, just admit it but don’t spit on our cupcakes and call it frosting.

  • metsfaninparadise

    Unfortunately I missed most of the game and I never get to see the pre and post-game interviews that are de rigueur for any serious Collins hater. I agree, what he said about Flores is heinous. Seriously, if they were worried about winning there are a lot of things they could and should have done differently, including actually giving a potentially slugging shortstop a real chance rather than letting him rot on the bench and stunting his growth. However, I have no problem with Collins’ 9th inning pitching change yesterday. Adams was batting .374 against RHP and .140 against LHP.

  • Seth

    A well-written examination of Bartolo Colon — a Colonoscopy, as it were. The WOR announcers were having lots of fun yesterday, that’s for sure.