David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Terry Collins, at 66, is an analog manager in a digital sport. And however long he continues to hold that position for the Mets, who are expected to give him a contract extension in the coming days, that won't change much.
But in showing us his human side nearly every day for the past eight months, Collins reminds everyone that there is a risk involved in doing that. Ditching the plan and putting your faith in a player, as Collins did for Matt Harvey on Sunday night, is a creaky limb that many managers would rather not climb out on.
"Sometimes you let your heart dictate your mind," Collins said.DatabaseMatt Harvey's career startsVoteMets 2017: Keep 'em or dump 'em?
So instead of Harvey for seven and Jeurys Familia for two, as the Mets had mapped out, Collins changed things on the fly. Not only did Harvey get the eighth inning, but Collins bent the rules for the ninth, too. And listening to the manager explain himself afterward, it was not a purely baseball decision.
"He's been through a tough summer," Collins said. "He's been beaten down, and I just trusted him."
With the Mets on the brink of elimination but three outs away from forcing a Game 6 in Kansas City, Collins believed Harvey had earned the chance to go for the shutout. We agree it was the right call, but only Collins would think in those terms, of Harvey deserving the opportunity to finish what he started.
And it would have been impossible to find a single person inside Citi Field on Sunday night who felt differently. How do we know? By the volume of the "WE WANT HAR-VEY!" chants that bellowed throughout the building.
Inside the Mets' dugout, Harvey implored Collins to let him go back to the mound. Beyond the stairs, above the roof, a stadium screamed for it.
Collins heard the chants, as did the other Mets.
"I think he would have had to fight about 44,000 people," David Wright said, "if that bullpen door opened."
So Collins took his leap, and it ended up being a swan dive into an empty swimming pool, hitting bottom when Harvey had to be removed anyway and the Royals rallied for two runs to force extra innings.
Sticking with Harvey -- rewarding him, essentially -- backfired on the manager, leaving him to face the music alone in the conference room as the players gave their sides in the clubhouse.
The scene took us back to Johan Santana's no-hitter in 2012. Afterward, Collins broke down in tears, fearful that he might have damaged the lefthander's career by allowing him to throw 134 pitches after shoulder surgery.
Everyone else around the Mets, from the front office down to the dugout, was ecstatic. It had been the greatest night in Citi Field's brief history -- the first no-hitter for the franchise. But Collins couldn't help but worry about his pitcher. Santana got the glory, but at what price?
On Sunday, Collins paid dearly, and the Mets received nothing in return. Harvey was stopped three outs short of attaining legend status, and to make matters worse for Collins, the Royals exploited that opening to win the World Series.
Going with Harvey for the ninth wasn't a tactical error, but allowing him to pitch beyond the leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain had to be considered an emotional misstep for the manager.
When Eric Hosmer finished Harvey with a double, driving in the first run and putting the tying run in scoring position, the damage had been done.
"This was my fault," Collins said.
There have been other times this season when Collins has delivered a mea culpa, but leading up to the World Series, his managing in the postseason had been almost flawless: knowing when to retrieve his starters, using Noah Syndergaard out of the bullpen for the NLDS clincher, squeezing the most from Bartolo Colon in a relief role.
Aside from on-field duties, however, Collins has excelled in the other important areas that come with being a manager or coach in New York. Deflecting unwanted attention from his players, absorbing the bulk of the distractions, putting on the Mets' TV face for a demanding, insatiable public. These are not easy responsibilities, yet Collins has grown to master them, a critical skill for this franchise as it continues to build from this unexpected World Series trip.
"They learned how to get through this," Collins said of his Mets, "and they're going to be a lot better because of this experience."
In some ways, Collins will be, too.