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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Mets manager Terry Collins is often criticized, but this time he deserves some credit

New York Mets manager Terry Collins looks on

New York Mets manager Terry Collins looks on from the dugout against the Los Angeles Angels in an MLB baseball game at Citi Field on Sunday, May 21, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Terry Collins probably doesn’t know what trolling is. But he sure seemed to troll the heck out of his critics Monday in the sixth inning of the Mets’ 4-2 win over the Brewers at Citi Field.

Collins, under fire from fans and possibly even his own front office, let pitcher Robert Gsellman bat with two outs and the bases loaded with the Mets leading 3-2.

Instead of going for the jugular with the red-hot Neil Walker available on the bench, Collins decided to gamble that keeping Gsellman in the game at 89 pitches and avoiding his poison pen a little longer was more vital than trying to score one or more extra runs.

First-guess from the press box: It was the absolute wrong call. Giving Walker a chance to blow the game open would have been a better move than banking on one more inning of Gsellman.

Reality: It worked perfectly.

Terry Collins: tactical genius.

Gsellman walked on a close 3-and-2 pitch for his second RBI of the day to give the Mets a two-run lead. He then retired the Brewers in order in the seventh. Paul Sewald struck out two in a perfect eighth and Addison Reed survived after allowing singles to the first two batters in the ninth as the Mets won on a cloudy Memorial Day.

Collins, who was criticized for taking Gsellman out too [/DROPCAP]early in his previous start, said he never considered pinch hitting for him in the sixth.

“We needed another inning out of him,” Collins said. “We had a couple of guys who weren’t available today . . . We were a little short because of the last couple nights.”

Is this the same guy who was on the verge of blowing out more than one bullpen arm already this year?

Some criticism of Collins’ bullpen management, according to a recent published report, has come from Mets brass. This decision was so easily second-guessable if Gsellman doesn’t walk and then gives up the lead in the seventh.

But that didn’t happen. It’s a reminder that whatever call the manager makes, it’s the players who make him right or wrong.

Before the game, general manager Sandy Alderson debunked the idea that he personally was unhappy with Collins’ handling of the relievers. He almost went as far as to call it fake news, to use a phrase that’s all the rage in the non-sports world.

“I would hope in the future that when people write about my views of Terry that they’ll actually ask me about my views,” a salty Alderson said.

Still, in Gsellman’s most recent outing, Collins removed the righthander after six innings and 84 pitches against San Diego with the Mets leading 5-3. The bullpen frittered away the lead and the Mets went on to lose, 6-5.

Collins has never distinguished himself in the whos, whats and whens of bullpen use. Not this year, and really, not in any of his seven years as Mets manager.

It’s not one of his strengths. He has others, most notably the ability to survive in the quasi-political world of the Mets’ front- office hierarchy, where not all of the oars in the boat are always pulling in the same direction.

After all this time, if you think Collins is a bad manager, nothing is going to change your mind. He isn’t. He always has the courage of his convictions. More often than not, his moves have worked out, and Collins was in a joking mood Monday because the Mets won. That’s what it’s all about in the end.

“You take the body blows,” Collins said. “That’s what this job’s about. I do my ab work every day so that I can get through all that.”

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