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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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Always Look for the Gray Exterior

First off, why do I always have to recap the losses? I need to speak to management.

If you thought a 15-6 start meant a moratorium on asking what Terry Collins is thinking, well, you weren’t checking in with Mets Twitter as tonight’s game got away.

Why pitch to Giancarlo Stanton when you don’t have to? Why have Ruben Tejada bunt with Daniel Murphy on second and no one out? Why, after it turned out Terry gave Ruben the choice to bunt or swing away, let Ruben Tejada choose to do anything? Why leave a struggling Carlos Torres in for the fatal pitch with Michael Morse? WHY GOD WHY?

I asked all of those questions myself, and agreed with some of the insta-rage when things went badly. But not all of it. Deep sigh. Where to start?

How about with the fact that Rafael Montero pitched pretty well? Unlike the loss in Atlanta, he mixed his pitches effectively instead of trying to set a record for most consecutive fastballs thrown. And the confrontation with Stanton came down to one missed location — Montero had craftily worked Stanton in and out on both corners, but one pitch drifted a little too far and one of the best hitters in the game didn’t miss it. The end result wasn’t good, but it seemed like a step forward for a pretty talented young pitcher.

As for Tejada bunting, well, I wasn’t against the idea. (I’ll take Tepid Endorsements for $100, Alex!) You’re trying to maximize the chance of scoring at least one run and thereby accepting less of a chance at a big inning, but with a cold Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Anthony Recker and the pitcher’s spot behind Tejada I was OK with trying to grab the lead and keep it for six outs. What I wasn’t OK with was Tejada bunting horribly so that Murph was a dead duck at third. The next time I’m for that idea will be the first.

Then there were Torres’s labors. Carlos walked Martin Prado, popped up Stanton, walked Marcell Ozuna and then gave up the liner up the middle by Morse. Ironically, for all that Terry’s been guilty of riding relievers into the ground, the problem might have been that Torres hasn’t worked enough recently and so wasn’t sharp. As for Terry preferring a veteran trying to figure it out on the fly to Erik Goeddel or Hansel Robles (let alone Jeurys Familia), what can you say? Definitely conservative with a hint of mustiness, but not out-and-out crazy.

Maybe I’m just tired, but I find it hard to get too worked up about managers’ decisions and tics. Managers do a lot more damage consistently giving innings and at-bats to bad players then they do selecting matchups and bunting in specific situations, and these days the Mets seem to be keeping Terry on a tight leash in terms of personnel by denying him the likes of Eric Young Jr. and Bobby Abreu. (No, I wouldn’t put Michael Cuddyer in that group — dude can still hit, and has had some terrible luck so far this year.) A good manager might get you a win or two over a season and a bad manager might take one or two away, but over 162 games that’s probably too little to worry about compared with the drift you’ll get from simple luck. (The same goes for batting orders, which simply don’t matter enough to get worked up over.)

Managing is also one spot where I think we get too hung up on quantitative analysis as the ideal lens for everything. We can’t see what managers are doing in the clubhouse, in their offices, and on the field during workouts, and having never spent eight months as a traveling band of baseball players we don’t know the importance of all that — we have to rely on beat writers’ reports and then infer stuff from there. I can’t quantify the value of Collins having a heart to heart with Dillon Gee about his unpleasant winter, but I’m glad he did it. Along the same lines, I don’t know what a guy heralded as an instructor’s doing at 5:30 pm before games, or how he navigates players’ expectations about their roles, decides when to give them days off, selects when to push them into spots they may not be ready for and when to pull them back, and so forth.

I can’t measure any of that stuff, but it has to have some effect on the Mets and whether they win more than they lose. So is Terry good at that stuff? It seems to me that he is. Is the effect of all that more important than the cumulative effect of in-game moves that make me throw the remote? I wish we had a way to measure that.

As for losing to the Marlins in front of Loria and his Red Grooms sculpture, I don’t need a quantitative lens. Because that sucks any way you measure it.

14 comments to Always Look for the Gray Exterior

  • Daniel Hall

    In the category of Splendid Spring Trades, I’ll take $200: This pitcher was traded for a fellow hurler wearing a funny hat when the Mets were in most dire need of qualified left-handed relief.

    While sitting with my “good morning, don’t cry” coffee the last few mornings, I witnessed the first two career outings of Cory Mazzoni as a Friar. It was frightful. The Astros stuffed him for six runs across two innings in two days.

    I am really, really, really glad we got Alex Torres. Funny hat or not.

  • Dave

    My main concern about last night’s game emerged before it started, and that was why were the Mets using what looked like a split squad lineup? Did a few guys beg off the bus ride to Jupiter or something? No knock on Eric Campbell, but show me a lineup with him hitting cleanup and I’ll show you a postgame presser with lines like “we’ll get ’em tomorrow.” Yes, give guys a day off, but not all at the same time, and not when you have a 6th starter just called back up about whom questions linger.

  • Daves Mets Dugout

    Collins Motto: “Live by Carlos Torres. Die by Carlos Torres”. I agree with Dave, Campbell should not be hitting cleanup. I questioned that lineup as soon as I saw it… Oh well still in first.. LGM!

  • Pat

    What is it with the lousy bunting skills up and down the lineup? It’s plagued the Mets for years that they seem less able to execute a proper bunt when they need one than any opposing team they play. The pitchers screw it up, the position players leave it out of their tool kits, and the result, again and again, is rally roadkill instead of smart, effective small ball. Why don’t they make guys learn to bunt well any more?

  • BlondiesJake

    Once again you are spot on. And once again TC stands for Totally Clueless when it comes to situational managing. The bunt in that situation could in fact raise the expectation of a run, but by a mere .015, which means even if it works you have sacrificed an out for almost nothing. The runner is already in scoring position, so it’s not like you’re counting on Tejada, Niewenhuis or Recker to get an extra base hit. And considering the latter two both had a knock already, they were “hot” at the plate (compared to what they had done previously in 2015…yes, that was a joke).

    Having said all that, it just seemed like a game the Mets were bound to lose. Hopefully with Colon, deGrom and Harvey coming, they now throw together a small win streak (which as pointed out by Studius Metsimus, they haven’t done all year…no back-to-back wins outside of the big 11 game streak so far in 2015)

    • Rob E

      That is a completely unfair criticism of Terry Collins. How does trying to bunt over a guy who is on second with no outs in the eighth inning of a tie game qualify as clueless?!?!? I’ve seen that exact play the whole 40+ years I’ve watched baseball.

      It failed….that’s not Collins’ fault. And even if it was successful and Nieuwenhuis struck out with a guy on third and one out, that ALSO wouldn’t have been Terry Collins’ fault. At some point, if a team is going to be GOOD, the players have to execute.

      They’re 15-6, and this is all I’ve heard about Terry Collins this year: 1) he’s a dope for starting Colon Opening Day, 2) he’s an idiot for batting deGrom eighth when they lost the second game of the season, 3) he’s a moron for starting Danny Muno against the Yankees & Pineda.

      If not for the fact that Jon Niese is just as despised, Collins would have been blamed for THAT game as well. I don’t think Terry Collins is any kind of groundbreaking manager, but he has done and is doing a decent job, and it’s about time he stops getting crap for a team that’s off to a 15-6 start. Maybe he’s made some bad moves; he’s made ALL the moves. And they add up to 15-6, not 0-6. That should mean SOMETHING.

      • Dennis

        Great points Rob! Of course every Mets win is because of the players, and every Mets loss is due to Collins’ ineptness and his fault. I never knew there were so many genius ex-managers here on this site who know exactly what its like to manage baseball at it’s highest level of competition. Unbelievable. I can only imagine what the criticism would be if they were 6-15!

      • BlondiesJake

        In case you missed it, Rob and Dennis, I said Totally Clueless when it comes to situational managing. I do think TC deserves credit for the start, especially with how mentally strong the team appears this year. But I also think it’s fair to call him out for strategic deficiencies, one of which is his reliance on bunting.

        Just because you’ve seen that bunt play used 40+ years doesn’t make it a good one. Of course it’s not his fault Tejada screwed the bunt up and it wouldn’t be fair if the other guys failed to bring him in. But the strategy behind it is flawed and calling him out on it and any other manager who does so is fair.

        Likewise, batting a pitcher 8th unless he’s a better hitter than the position player is just a bad concept. You want your better hitters to get the most ABs possible. It’s that simple. It’s why your best hitters are at the top of the order and why you bat the power hitters in the 2-3-4 spots where there’s the best chance of them driving runners in because they would automatically get a chance to do so if anybody reaches base in the first inning. At no other time in the game does that hold to be true.

        I had no issue with him starting Colon Opening Day and was glad it worked out. Even if it hadn’t, the long term rotation plan based on that made complete sense.

        And I also have no issue with him playing Muno and others. Regular guys need time off…it’s a long season.

        Hopefully this makes it clear where I’m coming from re: Collins. You may not like it, but we can agree to disagree.

        • Rob E

          Jake, we can agree to disagree, but I honestly don’t see the flaw in trying to get a guy to third with one out in that situation with a a guy like Tejada at bat. There are a LOT of “traditional” baseball plays that have flawed thinking behind them….this one seems pretty reasonable to me. Tejada’s got to get the bunt down.

          The night before they had a very similar situation with Cuddyer up (he popped up right before Murphy’s bomb), so it’s not like Collins is just “button-pushing” in those situations.

          • BlondiesJake

            Rob, you may not see a flaw, but the stats show it’s a bad play, basically giving away an out, the most important commodity an offense has. And I actually had the numbers wrong, as a team has a better chance at scoring with a runner on 2nd and no outs than it does with a runner on 3rd with one out. The play is a bad one, no way around it, whether we agree or not.

  • David Brandley

    I don’t argue balls and strikes or fair or foul (although the rules committee has taken care of that problem). I will argue lineups. I totally agree with Dave–split squad lineup. It’s almost as if Terry and Gee shook hands on that at the end of their “heart to heart”–“OK, I’m pitching Montero, but guaranteed he’ll lose unless he goes 3 for 3 with 4 RBIs.” Leaving Torres in was indefensible. He had nothing. It’s only one game, but we need every game. Yes, I’m sure Terry is great with the players. That’s part of his job, managing. So is making effective lineups and sound tactical decisions.

  • Harv Sibley

    Perhaps just an off nite with the B team on the field, but did anyone notice the one field player without a hit? And the player that could not cut off the grounder left of 2nd base, striking out with men in scoring position, and the player who bunts like a brick wall? Could be that Tay-had-us was just rusty, but when you look at those events, you can understand how small ball wins games, and lack of small ball leaves you with nuttin’

  • mikeL

    i fell asleep and awoke to torres giving away the store.
    where was hansel, the fireballer who was brought up and shuf the yankees down with efficiency.
    and yes thd tejada bunt ag was excruciating!
    lagares’ base-clearing heroics gone to waste.
    c’mon bart, let’s go 5-0.

  • kd bart

    The most important aspects of a manager’s job happen off the field. It’s dealing with the 25 personalities in the clubhouse. It’s keeping them all active, engaged and pointed toward the same goal. Nothing destroys a team quicker than the notion of factions forming in the clubhouse and/or players tuning out the manager. Think of it as a recipe. The ingredients mixed right equal a superb meal. Mixed wrong, an awful concoction.