Another Gut-Punch Loss …

An article by posted on May 6, 2014

terry collins

I am slightly peeved after last night’s game. I believe last night’s game should have been a win for the Mets. All the signs were there, good starting pitching, just enough offense. It felt like a routine victory, but the win was snatched out of our jaws like a buckshot duck pulled from a lab’s teeth. Now I know how hunting dogs must feel.

Last night’s loss was not “routine,” it was not a simple “L” in the standings … it was demoralizing.

In my 20 years in education I’ve learned that one of the most important gifts you can give a child is a belief in their own abilities, confidence and resilience, the courage to keep trying. The worst thing you can do is to take that that confidence away.

Losses like last night’s are the kind of gut-punch defeats that bring your momentum to a grinding halt and erase any good vibes and confidence that may have been brewing in your clubhouse, particularly among younger impressionable players who could go either way, players who haven’t learned how to win yet.

Players are only human. They want to believe in themselves and they want to believe they can win, however, because they are human there resides in them an instinct for self-preservation. That instinct dwells in all of us.

Confidence can be a very precarious thing, especially in young players, so these games early in the season are huge in a “set the tone” kind of way. Yet Terry seems to throw book and manual out the window more often than not with a head-scratching move to the pen or a head-bashing-into-drywall non-move (even after your reliever has walked the first two men in the 8th inning of a 3-run game).

He over-manages when he should stand pat (did he really have to bring in poor Lagares into this late inning debacle after saying he needed the day off to rest?), and he stands staring at a seagull a thousand miles away when he should make a move.

Sometimes I wonder whether Mr Catatonic, Art Howe himself, might get more wins out of this team than Collins and his cantankerous tinkering. Which brings up an interesting quote from an S.I. piece from a few years back:

Howe “was hired to implement the ideas of the front office, not his own,” as then-A’s GM Sandy Alderson told author Michael Lewis in Moneyball. Perhaps that’s why even the best-paid managers in baseball — Torre, La Russa, Piniella — make roughly as much as a well-paid set-up reliever.

Studies consistently show that managers don’t have much of an impact. Between 1-4 percent (at the most) of an overall team’s performance might be traced back to calling a bunt or use of bullpen or in-game strategy. This amounts to a 5 or 6 game swing over the course of a full season. Unfortunately these numbers-based studies fail to take leadership and guidance into account.

Managing is impossible to measure using a sabermetric/advanced metric type approach for similar reasons to why it is so difficult to measure “clutch” performance.

Playing time distribution for instance doesn’t matter a lot with most managers because the effect of one player (out of 9) playing a few additional games in a platoon over the course of a season is marginal. On the other hand, how that player is handled from a development stand point, how he might be treated so as to maximize his growth and his mastery of his position, how well he is taught his role, is not only incredibly important but exceedingly difficult if not impossible to measure.

Also, if those 3 or 4 games that a manager does have an impact on come early in the season or at a critical juncture, then their effect could be extremely damaging to confidence and momentum, especially to a young team struggling to find it’s way. Perception is everything in this instance, believing you will win, often gives you a much better chance of actually winning.

Think about it, if someone presented two tasks to you, one perceived hopeless and one with a real shot at a positive outcome, and if the two tasks both had identical and significant rewards tied to them, which one would you be inclined to undertake? Collins seems to have a knack for blowing games that have an “in the bag” feel to them, which is hugely demoralizing.

The most important thing for this very young team is that they learn to win.

It won’t be easy to build that sort of confidence after all the losing the Mets have endured the past few seasons, and games like last night’s don’t help. It seems like every time they get on a roll Terry will pull out one of his lost-in-space lineups, every time a hitter gets hot he’s on the bench, every time a reliever seems on the verge of getting on track (Familia for instance) Collins wont use him and will instead use the tired guy with the dead arm. My guess is he thinks he’s being “unconventional” when in fact he’s just being … well, wrong.

I don’t know Terry Collins personally. I never got to speak with him in the clubhouse or on the field during batting practice, He seems like an OK sort, and he appears to have a good rapport with his players. But he manages my beloved Mets and his unconventional “gut” approach seems to result in a loss every 5 or 6 games. So maybe he should either go back to the manual and think about managing a little more by-the-book, or move on to whatever pastures he’s got lined up for himself.

Something has to give. Losing begets losing and before you know it, it will be getting late early. We all tend to divest ourselves of our own confidence and our own abilities when things that seem to be going well blow up in our faces. It’s why fans stop showing up at the ballpark when the team loses. We pull back for our own sanity’s sake.

So games like last night’s go beyond the simple “L” in the win/loss column … they put doubt in our minds, and that’s a tough thing to undo. This team is clearly capable of winning. The defense is improved, the starting pitching has been at times dominant, and even the bullpen has had it’s moments.

Management needs to get the kinks out and settle into a winning pattern and start proving the doubters wrong … and management needs to start focusing on preventing setbacks like last night’s late-inning debacle at all costs.

mmo

About the Author ()

I’ve been a Met fan since August 1969 when a fire resulted in the Red Cross placing my family on the 6th floor of a building in Willets Point. I could see Shea from our balcony and I knew something big was going on. I followed them through the dark years and the resurgence of the 80’s only (sadly) to miss the fall of 86 because I was in Boot Camp. I've been serving penance ever since in Minnesota where I'm an SLP. I've written a lot about the Mets in an effort to share with my kids (and anyone else who might listen), a sporting tradition that made much of my childhood worthwhile. Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewBalasis

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