Decision to leave Harvey in shouldn't haunt Mets' Collins
NEW YORK – Terry Collins told me, in his postgame interview on FOX, “I’m going to second-guess myself for a long time.” He shouldn’t. He can’t. He did what every right-thinking manager would have done.
“No way,” Matt Harvey said over and over again in the dugout, to Collins, to pitching coach Dan Warthen. No way he was coming out with a 2-0 lead after eight innings Sunday night and the Mets facing elimination from the World Series. No way he was yielding to the bullpen after retiring six straight hitters and 17 of 20.
The crowd at Citi Field was chanting, “We want Harvey.” The Mets’ closer, Jeurys Familia, already had blown two saves in the series. If Collins had removed Harvey for Familia and the Mets had lost, the second-guessing would have been worse. Much worse.
The Mets lost anyway, of course. Lost after Harvey allowed a leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain and RBI double by Eric Hosmer to start the ninth, prompting Collins to turn to Familia. Lost after first baseman Lucas Duda made a wild throw home on a potential game-ending double play, allowing Hosmer to score the tying run.
Lost the game, 7-2, in 12 innings. Lost the World Series, four games to one. Lost for any number of reasons that had nothing to do with Harvey - shoddy defense, as evidenced by Duda’s poor throw and impotent offense, as evidenced by the team producing only four hits in 37 at-bats in Game 5 and batting .193 with a .552 OPS for the Series.
Yet Collins continued kicking himself in the postgame interview room, saying, “I let the heart get in the way of my gut.” Saying it was “inexcusable” not to go to Familia when the original plan had been to use him for two innings. Saying, “I won’t be sleeping much the next couple of days, I’ll tell you that.”
He is a manager, a manager with a conscience, a manager who knew that Harvey already had thrown 102 pitches, just 13 shy of his season-high, and 215 innings, 35 beyond his supposed limit.
Well, we all saw Harvey in the dugout. We all heard the crowd. And we all know how frustrating it can be to watch starting pitchers removed from dominant performances when the visual evidence does not support the move.
Now, should Collins have pulled Harvey after the walk to Cain on 3-2? Better question, but Collins would say later, “If you’re going to let him face just one guy, you shouldn’t have sent him out there.” I don’t agree – Collins easily could have told Harvey, “You get one baserunner, that’s it.” But Familia also could have blown it if he had inherited one baserunner instead of two.
The decisions on Familia the previous two nights are the ones that should haunt Collins, who used the closer with a 9-3 lead in Game 3, then failed to get him in the game quickly enough in Game 4. The decision on Harvey? Collins was eloquent in explaining his thinking afterward.
“When you looked in this kid's eyes, when he came off that inning, and I mean, he's been through a tough summer. He's been beaten down, and I just trusted him. I said, ‘You got it. You've earned this. So go get 'em.’ So it's my fault. It's not his. That's who he is.
“I know better than that. I know that he wants the ball. He never wants to come out, and he was pitching good. He was throwing the ball great. We got in the spot where we wanted to get to, and we talked about it all day yesterday and all day today. This was my fault.”
Nope. Not buying. Harvey was adamant about staying in the game. Collins takes pride in trusting his players. This wasn’t Grady Little sticking too long with a tiring Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS. Harvey was on a complete and utter roll.
He wanted to be Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 Series; when I asked the Twins’ Tom Kelly that night what it would have taken to remove Morris from his 10-inning masterpiece, the manager replied, “A shotgun.” This was Harvey’s chance to make that type of statement, to back up his machismo.
“I wanted the ball. In that situation, I did everything I could to go back out there,” Harvey said. “(Collins) obviously wanted to go to Familia. The way the game was going, the way I felt, I felt I wanted to control the game and go back out there for the ninth.”
It all would have ended just fine if Duda had made an accurate throw - Harvey would have earned the win, Familia the save, and the Series would have returned to Kansas City with the Mets trailing, three games to two.
The day before, Collins had told Harvey that he could “take back New York” with a big performance in Game 5, put an end to all the doubts about him that arose during his innings-limit controversy.
Harvey did his part, and Collins did, too. No way Harvey was coming out of that game. No way Harvey should have come out of that game. Collins needs to accept the unfortunate truth. It’s baseball. Just baseball.