A day after Terry Collins all but said that his players had quit, having answered a direct question about it with the response, "You'll have to ask them," Collins did in fact ask them. He was pleased with what he heard, and he changed his mind.
Collins backed down from, and apologized for, his steamed comments and insinuations after a 16-1 loss to the Phillies Thursday. The embarrassing defeat cemented and symbolized the Mets' second-half collapse, and the manager had seemed concerned that the players were not sufficiently embarrassed. After he spoke with each individually Friday, he was satisfied that they were indeed as angry and frustrated as he had been.
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"I don't want to ever challenge anybody's integrity," he said. "That's wrong. My players are professionals. They didn't get here without being guys who played their hearts out all the time. Sometimes you say, what can I say that will maybe make them mad enough to say, 'I'll show that little [punk]?' It might have been the wrong way."
Then again, he wasn't all smiles and backslaps. Collins did remove Lucas Duda from the game Friday -- "manager's decision," not an injury, was the official word -- after he did not run all out on a bloop that fell between three Marlins fielders in the first inning of the Mets' 7-3 win at Citi Field.
"I was frustrated up there at the plate and it carried over to my running," Duda said. "It is what it is. I didn't hustle and he took me out."
For Collins, it was all about context on a team that had lost nine straight at home and 11 of 12. "If we had won 10 out of 12 or 15 out of 20, I could have turned my head. I couldn't turn my head tonight," the manager said.
It was the Mets' good fortune to be playing the Marlins, the standard bearers for underachievement this season. They looked disheveled and distracted, especially in the field, allowing three unearned runs. By contrast, the Mets looked sharp. Scott Hairston had a triple and his 18th home run, Ike Davis hit his 28th home run and Jonathon Niese improved to 12-9.
How many Mets will be sent packing, and who will stay? Collins seemed reassured Friday afternoon. "I heard a story years ago about some players who didn't think the manager cared during tough times because it didn't seem like he was angry. I don't want that said about me," the Mets manager said.
He wasn't angry with Duda Friday night, but he did make his point. "After what happened last night, what's happened the last six weeks," the manager said, "something had to be done."
Notes & quotes: Friday marked the 11th anniversary of the first game in New York after 9/11, an emotional night capped by Mike Piazza's winning home run against the Braves. "I've watched the video many times. It was amazing," said Sue Lucchi, head of ballpark operations, who worked that day. "It was a day in my life I'll never forget. We were a part of something big" . . . The Mets did not reconsider their decision to shut down Josh Edgin, even though he would like to have ended on a better note than having allowed home runs to Ryan Howard two nights in a row. He said he will use those as motivation . . . Manager Ozzie Guillen on the Marlins' strong physical conditioning: "We drink coconut water every day, we eat salad, organic food. And we're in last place."