Everyone seems in such a hurry to be rid of manager Terry Collins in New York.
OK. Then what? Then who?
A tough guy, like … Collins.
A guy whose teams play hard, through injuries and roster holes and semi-committed ownership, like … Collins.
A guy who could lead a club to a World Series, like … Collins.
A guy willing to wear all that sprays up on a manager of a team in New York, that carries himself with integrity, that loves the game more than you do, that earns every day honestly, that in the end had no better idea how to keep a young star pitcher whole than anyone else did and could not heal David Wright, like … Collins.
At 68, Collins, whose contract is expiring, looks done in Queens, disputed reports on Tuesday that he was going to retire in order to make it easy on Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson, or not. Ever the fighter, ever the organizational man, he would not seem to have it in him to surrender (his chaotic Los Angeles Angels departure notwithstanding.) But, perhaps, there is no winning against inevitability (and no contract), no saving the job if Wilpon has been convinced otherwise, and in that eventuality those who celebrate Collins’ departure will almost certainly agree with the new man’s every pitching change for the next three or four years.
And that man will be Ron Gardenhire, if he’s up to it. Or Alex Cora, who definitely is. Robin Ventura, perhaps. Chip Hale is getting plenty of love. So are Kevin Long and Bob Geren and Ron Wotus. There are vibrations in Atlanta that say Ron Washington, the erstwhile Rangers manager, could replace Brian Snitker. But, if not there, then perhaps New York. Imagine Wash in New York.
We tend to separate our managers into those who embrace the new analytics, those who embrace the new analytics for the sake of getting the job and those who will tell you the only statistic they know are wins and losses. They are the ones who already have jobs and long-term contracts. Some in the first two categories are basically saying, I’m good if the general manager wants to make out the lineup every night, even if it’s dumb and I have to defend it anyway.
The game has changed. The job has changed. The soul of the job, however, has not. There is a skill to getting nine or 10 men – of 25 – to play their butts off for three hours every night for six or seven months. To having those men be accountable to the other men in the locker room. To finding nine or 10 the next day, too. And the day after. It’s a surprisingly difficult job in some cases. It’s also about 98 percent of the job, which rarely includes acquiring the 25 from which nine or 10 are chosen, so you get what you get, and sometimes that’s great and other times you wind up in fourth place in the NL East no matter what.
So, yes, these last few games are probably it for Terry Collins. That’s fine. Maybe it was time. A new man is coming. And if the Mets and their fans are lucky, he’ll care as much and be every bit as capable as Terry Collins.
So, launch angles and home runs and what pitchers can do about it. More than a few scouts believe the new frontier in the battle against uppercut swings is high fastballs, and there’s anecdotal evidence pitchers already are going there. Says one: “The north-south guy – the two-plane breaking ball or split, elevating the fastball – that’s where the hole is now, and not just heaving the ball to the vicinity of the glove. That’s why Kershaw is getting better, not worse.”
This might take a while, of course, as pitchers have been advised since Little League to keep the ball down, and now we’re talking mechanics and release points in addition to strategy. Still, when shifts arrived hitters went home and devised a strategy to beat them, basically choosing to go high when everyone was screaming at them to spray the ball the other way or — gasp — bunt, and now pitchers must go home and answer back. That could mean more fastballs up and down rather than side to side, and the curveball over the slider, and the comeback of the splitter, assuming everyone’s elbows agree to hold up.
If things fall where they appear to be falling, the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox are about to play at least seven games against each other over 11 days, and as many as nine games over 14 days, and that’s a lot of time to get to know one another.
As it stands, the Cleveland Indians will get the winner of the New York Yankees-Minnesota Twins game, which would have the Red Sox and Astros in the division series. The Astros are still chasing the Indians for the best record in the American League, and the Red Sox still must finish the Yankees in the AL East. The likelihood, however, is the Red Sox and Astros for four games this weekend in Boston, then three days off, then two in Houston, a day off, two in Boston, and you get the picture.
So, you, of course, play to win. You also play to be ready next Thursday for Game 1. The Red Sox are banged up (see Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, Mookie Betts.) You also strategize to keep certain pitchers away from certain hitters, to avoid familiarity. For that reason, Dallas Keuchel probably won’t pitch in Boston in spite of his turn coming up Sunday. (There’s also the matter of regular rest for Game 1.) Chris Sale is on the schedule to start Sunday. Unless there’s something to gain, however, and the Red Sox would be expected to clinch the division by then and also have little chance of catching the Astros or Indians, it would make little sense to expose Sale. The same might be said of certain bullpen matchups.
Thursday: Brad Peacock vs. Eduardo Rodriguez
Friday: Charlie Morton vs. Doug Fister
Saturday: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Drew Pomeranz
Sunday: Collin McHugh vs. Chris Sale
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