Why Is Collins Telegraphing His Spring Training Decisions?

An article by posted on January 24, 2011

It’s hard to imagine Spring Training is only 22 days away when you look out your window and it looks and feels like you’re living in Alaska… or Buffalo, where Terry Collins introduced Tim Teufel as the new manager of the Bisons.

One of the things I absolutely love about spring training is watching all the battles as players openly compete to win specific roles or even a spot on the 25 man roster. There’s something thrilling about watching players give it their all in a tight battle with one of their teammates to become the opening day rightfielder or the team’s fifth starter. The best player ultimately wins the job (sometimes), while the loser is sent packing to the minor leagues or in some cases even released – never to be heard from again. That’s baseball.

It looks like this spring training will be different… much different…

Since being named manager of the Mets two short months ago, Terry Collins has been proclaiming the winners and losers of many of those expected spring battles even before one pitch was thrown or the crack of a bat was heard. Why? I don’t get it…

Athletes love competition, it’s in their blood, it drives them. Why have all these spring training invitations when you’ve already told most of them through the media that they basically have no chance to win a job?

Was it absolutely necessary, even if it was the best thing, to let the world know that Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda will begin the season in the minors? Was it further necessary to have them read that they’ll be playing new positions as well; Tejada at shortstop, and Duda going back to first base?

Was it that imperative to name Mike Pelfrey the opening day starter in January rather than letting him earn that right by out-pitching R.A. Dickey in February and March? That’s exactly what Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel did last winter when they named Mike Pelfrey the number two starter, only to eat their words when they broke camp after Jon Niese and John Maine out-pitched Pelfrey relegating him to start the fourth game of the season. Some would argue that it was intended to boost Pelfrey’s confidence, but  what message does it send to Dickey who was by far the better pitcher in 2010, that he was a fluke?

Why can’t we just have everybody show up to Port St. Lucie like in the good old days? Shouldn’t you take the best 25 players up north after all is said and done – after spring training has run it’s course and served it’s primary purpose?

Did we really have to announce the first six players in the batting order now?

Doesn’t Terry Collins want to wait until he sees the players exhibit their strengths and weaknesses first hand, before figuring out how all the parts are going to fit together?

Making out you lineup card in January is something usually reserved for bloggers and fans, not the actual manager – especially a brand new manager who has yet to even meet all of his players.

On Sunday, he even went as far as saying there’s only one spot to decide, second base.

“Look at our lineup. I’ve looked through National League lineups. we have as good a lineup as anybody. We’ve named the first seven spots already. Only second base is up for grabs.”

Josh Thole is entering the season as the starting catcher after having amassed a total of 225 at-bats over parts of two seasons with the Mets. Thole, 24, will not have to worry about going to camp to win a job as it has already been decided based on his overwhelming career to date. Seriously speaking, has he acquired that much respect with his career totals of 3 home runs and 26 RBIs that he is already considered to be a lock behind the plate after such a small sample size?

Maybe if Thole was some prized prospect and organizational phenom (Jesus Montero, Buster Posey), I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but Thole has never been considered that type of a player. He was so weak offensively as a first baseman, that the Minaya regime felt that the only way for him to have even the slightest value was to try and transform him into a catcher. Thole was only batting .267 in Buffalo last season before he got the call. It just doesn’t make any sense. I wonder how Ronny Paulino feels now that he knows he won’t be competing for the everyday job after saying he was looking forward  to a chance to start? Sorry Ronny… the kid gets the job… He’s earned it.

In less than half a season in Buffalo, Lucas Duda had scouts drooling. After 264 at-bats he had 17 home runs and 53 RBIs while batting .314. His .389 OBP led the league as did his ,999 OPS. It wasn’t a fluke… In Binghamton, Duda posted a line of .289/.411/.503 in 161 at-bats before getting bumped to Triple-A. After the Mets called him up, Duda struggled during his first 13 games collecting just one RBI and zero home runs. But in his next 16 games, Duda busted out big time batting a robust .340 and collecting six doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs to close out the season with a big bang. His reward? A one way ticket to Palookaville.

Look, I’m not saying that any of these moves wouldn’t have happened eventually anyway, but the point is that you just never know what is going to happen, so why not just let it play out on the field instead of at a press conference while standing in front of a dozen mics and recorders?

If we are going to do things differently, then lets do things differently, because all of this is all too familiar and exactly how Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel played it. In fact I’m still having nightmares of when Jerry Manuel proclaimed Jose Reyes the number three hitter.

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About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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