Harvey won, the Mets lost, a painful lesson learned

Mets fans wanted it, Matt Harvey wanted it, Terry Collins did not. But somehow the manager of the New York Mets lost out and Harvey returned to the mound to try and close out Game 5 of the 2015 World Series on Sunday.

Debating the facts of whether or not Harvey should have gone back out for the ninth inning is irrelevant. Fourth time through the order, pitch count, high intensity pitches, command, velocity, none of that matters. The manager of the ball club made a decision and he didn’t stand by it.

Collins and Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen are good baseball men. That is to say they know the game and they know how to make good informative decisions. They were both drafted in 1971 and they both started coaching in 1981. That is better than 80 years of professional baseball experience between them. They have pretty much seen it all and they had seen enough of Matt Harvey after eight shutout innings. 

Warthen delivered the news to Harvey. It went something like this: "Great game, Fama has the ninth."

Jeurys Familia is the Mets closer, and he is a good one. A couple of hiccups this World Series didn’t change that, he was still their guy in their biggest situations. Matt Harvey however, wanted it for himself.

He pleaded first with Warthen. "No way. No way," he repeatedly said to his pitching coach. He knew his efforts were futile and that Warthen was powerless to make a change so he moved on to the decision maker, Terry Collins. "No way. No way,"€ Harvey continued with his manager. Collins said something back. "€œI’€™m (bleeping) going back out there," Harvey would say emphatically, walking away from his manager and dismissing the notion that somehow this was Terry’s call.

A shutout in Game 5 is a game Mets’ fans would have been talking about for years, regardless of the whether or not they went on to win this World Series. Harvey went from a guy who a few weeks ago was worried about how many innings he was going to pitch in 2015, to being a guy who wanted them all in Game 5. He wanted to be the man at the center of this moment. He and Terry Collins will forever be the talk of this game, but for all the wrong reasons.

Managers will tell you that when they talk to a starting pitcher late in the game and are deciding whether or not he should come out, they are not listening to his actual words. They are looking at body language, they are listening to tone and they are trying to read whether or not their pitcher really wants to stay in. There are a lot of faux heroes in these situations. Nobody wants to be the guy that says, "I’™m tired, I’€™m OK coming out of this game,"€ and so some guys fake it.

This was not one of those moments. Collins wasn’t trying to decide whether or not he wanted to take Harvey out based on his body language or tone. He and Warthen already decided he was done. They also already decided Familia needed a clean inning after his first three World Series appearances saw some struggles.

But somehow Harvey got what he wanted. Collins relented and Harvey went back out for the ninth. He dictated how this situation was going to play out, not Collins. In the end Harvey allowed a leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain and an RBI double to Eric Hosmer to start the inning. He was taken out. Familia, with a near impossible situation: runner on second base, no outs, up 2-1, blew his third save in this World Series. The Royals won the game in 12 innings and were crowned World Series champions.

There will be a lot of sleepless nights ahead for Terry Collins. He made a decision, he didn’t stand by it and the Mets were sent home. Even after 44 years in the game, you are always learning.

Collins will never be talked out of a pitching change decision ever again. What he’ll be hoping for though is a second chance at assertiveness in the World Series. Those don’t come around too often.