WASHINGTON - After spending much of this weekend as a social media punching bag, Mets manager Terry Collins shot back at his critics, who have blasted him for his hesitance to play Juan Lagares in centerfield every day.
"He has been an everyday player," Collins said during an animated session with reporters before Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Nationals. "He got in a little bit of a funk. It's not like I sat him for seven days. I sat him for two days, for cripes sake. We're getting a little carried away here. Somebody gets a day off and it's like the sky's falling."
Lagares, a defensive wizard who started fast at the plate, had not started in four of five games until making consecutive starts against the Nationals beginning Saturday. Collins said the time off was used to refine Lagares' swing and better position him to succeed in the future.
It was also a concession to a Mets offense that has struggled to score runs -- even though Lagares is hitting .302.
The manager has drawn plenty of heat for essentially mothballing one of his most productive players in favor of other outfielders who have arguably brought less to the table. The fallout from the decision has taken on a life of its own among the team's vocal supporters and critics on social media, who believe that Collins is making a managerial mistake by taking playing time away from Lagares.
For Collins, his outfield juggling act remains, with Curtis Granderson, Eric Young Jr. and Chris Young all vying for time in the outfield alongside Lagares. With three spots for four players, the Mets must designate an odd man out on a nightly basis.
"This is what the market is here," Collins said. "If I give Grandy a day off, he's 'benched.' If I give CY a day off, he's 'benched.' If I give Lagares a day off, he's 'benched.' That's not the case, that's not really the case. But I know you've got to sell newspapers."
Lagares went 1-for-4 with an RBI single Sunday, which followed his stellar return to the lineup Saturday, when he was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBIs. He also added a leaping grab at the centerfield wall to rob Jayson Werth of a sure home run.
"Juan's a good player," Collins said. "He's going to play. He's going to play a lot. He may not play every day. That doesn't mean he's not the centerfielder. He's going to play because he brings a lot to the table."