On-Base Perception

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The context behind Terry Collins' comments about fans (which really weren't about fans at all)

Terry Collins watches batting practice before a game

Terry Collins watches batting practice before a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. (April 19, 2013) (Credit: AP)

ST. LOUIS -- Mets manager Terry Collins is getting hammered on sports talk radio today, which is predictable since he ventured into choppy waters by invoking fans in his defense of the way he's handled the Jordany Valdespin situation.

But what can't get lost in the noise is that within the context of the conversation yesterday, it's clear that Collins' main point wasn't to rip fans, but to reinforce the idea that he has a much better sense of what's going on in his own clubhouse.

Here's how it went down toward the end of Collins' media session yesterday. It turns out that I asked the question that provoked the response that has drawn the ire of some fans. I asked it because of an exchange the previous day, when Mets general manager Sandy Alderson appeared on WFAN radio with Mike Francesa:

Me: What do you say to the people that look at the situation and say you guys left the kid out -- that you hung him out to dry -- for lack of a better term?

Collins: You know what, again, Marc, I don't answer to fans. They don't play this game. They have no idea what goes on, they have no idea what goes on in there. They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level. And it's the same thing we saw last year when David was possibly exposed to being injured. I'm not running him out there. If he had done something, he takes it. And that's what he knew he was going to take some medicine. That's all part of the game. You've got to go face it. And I'll tell you one thing. Jordany knew they were going to throw at him. He knew it. You've got to go take your medicine. That's a part of being a big guy in this league.

Me: There's a perception that...

Collins: I don't care what the perception is. All I know is what goes on here. I've been doing this for 42 years. I don't care what anybody on the outside thinks. I know how to get it done in the clubhouse. I've been getting it done a lot longer than a lot of people. So, he's fine. He handled it great. I thought the way he about it -- he went to first base, he didn't throw his bat anyplace, he went down to first base, and now it's over. Now we move on. OK? That's a big story right there.

Another reporter: Gotta ask.

Collins: Yeah, I know. That's what I'm saying. When there's nothing else to write about you've got to ask stuff like that, so...

With context, you can see that Collins could have replaced the word "fans" with "people" -- as I did in the question. He could have also selected  "sports talk radio hosts", or "bored reporters," or "#MetsTwitter," or "no good meddling kids." It was a tertiary distinction at best.

The primary point, and it's a reasonable one, is that Collins believes he has a better handle than most on how clubhouse business should be conducted. But there is also another element to this story, one that Alderson brought up during his conversation on WFAN on Monday.

Said Alderson: "Well, everything that goes on is not verbalized or overt within the media. There's a lot that goes on within the clubhouse."

Of course, the very nature of the clubhouse makes this true. There are often times, as Collins said, when people may have "no idea what goes on in there." For instance, until recently, perhaps folks had no idea that:

1. Valdespin did not attempt to squirm out of his pinch-hitting appearance on Saturday, when everyone in the ballpark knew that he was owed a beaning for celebrating his meaningless homer the night before. He asked out of a possible second at-bat, and he might have had good reason: he had been smoked on the forearm by a 94 mph fastball. And I'm told that hurts. A lot. "What he did is play the game right," catcher John Buck said. "He took his lick. It was professional of him to take it."

2. Valdespin was apologetic to at least one veteran teammate who confronted him immediately about how his deliberate home trot wasn't the smartest idea -- though far from nefarious. "He was amped up," said Buck, just the latest to have a similar conversation with Valdespin.

3. Buck was among the teammates to make sure that they pulled Valdespin aside to warn him about the possibility of retribution -- even going so far as to tell him to wear the extra padding on his arm -- disputing the notion that he got the benefit of zero support from his own.

4. "Support" in the context of a major league clubhouse is something that's best handled behind closed doors. "We're not doing it in front of everybody," Buck said. "But it's New York, everybody wants to know that... We definitely had a talk. You know how David [Wright] is. I'm pretty much the same way. I'm not going out of my way to show my teammate to show the world that I'm talking to this guy. I care more about Valdy than the perception of everybody seeing that I talked to him. I took him aside when nobody else was looking and talked to him."

5. In one way, it would have been hypocritical for the Mets to throw at a Pirates player in retaliation for hitting Valdespin. After all, the idea of endangering others is exactly why some of Valdespin's teammates have grown tired of his antics. Throwing at a Pirates player would be engaging in the sort of behavior that veteran players have been trying to caution Valdespin against.

"If we start throwing at people, and beaning people, we're putting other people in danger as well," Buck said. "Baseball has a way of historically monitoring itself so that stuff doesn't get out of hand. This 2013 Mets team isn't going to change that."

Indeed, all of it becomes a bit clearer with some context.

Tags: Terry Collins , Mets

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