From Terry Collins’ perspective, the average day with the Mets this season is an exercise in Murphy’s Law. You know that one: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The past two nights, it turned into an episode of Daniel Murphy’s Law: a corollary that says the worst will happen when your biggest nemesis and former friend is in town.
The point is, the Mets’ manager has never seen anything like this year, and he has seen plenty since he debuted in pro ball as a minor-league infielder in 1971. He sure had never witnessed anything like the scene Friday, when his All-Star starting pitcher suddenly and mysteriously lost six mph off his fastball and said his arm had pretty much died on him for the night.
“You know that some guys can go through a dead-arm thing, but they would pretty much start the game at 92, 93, and not 98,” he said before last night’s game while reporting that doctors had found nothing more wrong with Noah Syndergaard than fatigue.
It sure looked and felt bad when Syndergaard left the field Friday night, coming as it did after the news that Matt Harvey is gone for the season for surgery on a shoulder condition and Yoenis Cespedes had gone out with a strained quadriceps. You couldn’t — and still can’t — blame anyone for fearing the worst about Syndergaard. Really bad news for Mets pitchers (including Harvey) often has arrived at first disguised as a minor problem.
Cespedes probably will be OK in a few days, the manager said. But who can say for sure? The Mets have lost David Wright, almost surely for the season, and Lucas Duda for a long stretch. Travis d’Arnaud missed a bunch of games, too. Zack Wheeler had a setback.
It is like Jeff Van Gundy once said when he was coaching the Knicks: “I don’t know what it will be, but the next crisis is right around the corner.”
These should be happy, exciting days for Collins, the baseball lifer who finally will get to manage Tuesday night in the All-Star Game. Instead of savoring that prospect, his time now is occupied holding his breath about Syndergaard, crossing his fingers for the elbow of Steven Matz (Sunday’s starter) and figuring out how to win last night with Logan Verrett starting against All-Star Max Scherzer. That didn’t work, as the Mets lost, 6-1, and Murphy destroyed the Mets again with a home run, double, single and four RBIs.
In all of his years, Collins has had no experience in dealing with a crazy matrix like the 2016 season. What he has is the experience that tells him, “Just deal with it.”
“I’ve never coached for anybody who went through some of the things that I’ve been through. I think in my years in the minor leagues, you had to cope with stuff because sometimes you didn’t have any players,’’ said Collins, who led the Dodgers’ Triple-A Albuquerque team 32 years ago. “In 1984, I had 17 guys. I had to activate myself and my pitching coach to get through the season, and I was the manager.
“You end up coping with what you’ve got. That’s why I don’t go in the room afterwards and tell Sandy [Alderson], ‘We need this, we need that.’ He knows what we need. I just look at who’s in the clubhouse the next day, look at all the numbers and what they kind of dictate. I’ve learned enough through the years that you can’t feel sorry for yourself in this game. You’ve just got to realize, ‘Hey, tomorrow I’ve got to go out and grind it out and do the best I can.’ ”
In his case, the grind means finding playing time for the hot bat of Wilmer Flores, closing his eyes whenever Antonio Bastardo is on the mound and figuring out who can start in place of Harvey and, heaven forbid, Syndergaard.
The All-Star Game? He will start thinking about that on the flight to San Diego tonight.
“All I’m trying to make sure of is that Jeurys Familia will be on the plane,” he said of his All-Star closer. “Because for all I know, today he’s going to step on his shoelace and break his wrist when he falls down.”
Collins has never seen that happen before, which might mean he is due.