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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 [1] 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 [2] 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 [3] and the day he defeated [4] Randy Johnson [5], or Al Leiter [6] tripling while all of Shea laughed merrily [7].

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 [8].

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 [9] 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 [10] with the tying run on first. Collins then pulled Mejia in favor of … Dana Eveland [11]?

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 [12], 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 [13]: Asked why Wilmer Flores [14] 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 [15] 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.