I had an interesting exchange with a couple of friends over the weekend when I voiced my exasperation with the Mets and Terry Collins in particular. They contested my belief that Collins is to blame for some of the perplexing lineups that have come our way of late. These lineups are odd, they defy explanation, people stare at them like they might look at a 32 inch long humanoid footprint in Yosemite or a strange slimy spotted creature washed up on Coney Island Beach. You can tell Met fans on the subway by their red foreheads these days — from all the face-palms. But anyway, these friends of mine argued that Collins is a puppet, he doesn’t make up the lineup cards, they assert Collins is like an elderly lap-dog who can still do a back flip for a chunk of kibble, or maybe some hard candy.
This makes no sense to me. You see, I’ve seen Collins actually filling in the lineup card. I’ve seen him walk it out to the umpire before the start of the game. The notion that Sandy Alderson makes up his lineups seems far fetched, they aren’t even in the same city sometimes… In fact sometimes they’re in different time zones. And then there’s the minute to minute developments that only someone on the ground with the team would be aware of. Maybe a door from an overhead bin on the airplane hit Duda in the head and he needs to go on the concussion DL. Maybe Tejada’s girlfriend breaks his heart with a “Dear Juan” text right before the game. Maybe Chris Young gets a black eye tossing a can of corn around the hotel lobby. Maybe Abreu comes down with another case of the Shake Shack shingles. How is Sandy Alderson in his office in New York supposed to know this stuff? I mean isn’t Alderson busy obsessing about how to get guys to take more pitches? I imagine him with one of those accountant’s hats with the transparent bill and an old adding machine with the handle you have to crank.
Maybe it isn’t Sandy Alderson at all… Maybe it’s something far more sinister… From deep in the bowels of Citi Field… DePodesta! Now here we have something! DePodesta in his bomb-proof underground saber-command-center surrounded by guys with taped up glasses and pocket protectors and wall to wall computer screens. Only, wait, that doesn’t make sense either… there isn’t a computer simulation on the planet that could crunch numbers in such a way that it would spit out Chris Young over Lagares, or Tejada over Flores for that matter. Saberists traditionally don’t care for stolen bases right? Why would they choose to play Eric Young?
There’s something very strange going on here. (cue the Twilight Zone music) Maybe, just maybe Sandy Alderson takes time from his numbers-cranking to pick up his rotary phone and call DePo to tell him he needs to play Granderson because he just realized that based on his calculations the team owes him $60 million dollars, and, he goes on to tell him he may as well play Chris Young too because the team owes him $7.25 million. But wait, that still doesn’t explain Eric Young playing instead of Lagares, or Tejada getting the nod over Flores. Holy spreadsheet Batman, what we have here is a true bat caper!
Let’s review for a second. First we have a GM that has made it abundantly clear he believes managers are “middle management” and has little regard for their ability to make any real difference on the field. Then we have an assistant GM who is known for the depth and sophistication of his numbers and statistics apparatus. Then we have a manager who appears clueless at times (if you look really hard you can see the strings attached to his arms), who makes panicky, ill-conceived, in-game decisions, and who, very much like his rash and nonsensical in-game strategy, produces equally perplexing lineups.
Here’s what I think baseball fans. I think this amounts to a breakdown in communication. I think Sandy Alderson is in charge of the daily business operations of the New York Mets. He answers questions and meets with his lieutenants and arranges press conferences when he needs to, but my guess is he doesn’t have as much to do with baseball activities as we think he does, I think that falls to DePodesta, Ricciardi, and Ricco. I also think DePo routinely fires up his stat-machine, crunching all manner of numbers together to come up with favorable match-ups (like just about every front office does), whereupon he will email said match-up data to his field manager — a Mr. Terry Collins — and this is where it gets weird.
Collins will look at this data and right away know he can’t play Abreu because of the Shake Shack shingles for instance … so he crumples the email printout and throws it into his trash bin. He doesn’t have to listen to that pencil necked geek, he’s not even the GM, who does he think he is? He’s never even played the game! And there you have it, communication breakdown. At some point Sandy will probably have to call Collins and explain to him that the “match-up data” has to be followed to the “T,” that “recommendations” aren’t really recommendations, they’re more like “orders you have to follow or your going to get fired, kaaay?” Until then we may continue to be treated to the most bizarre assortment of lineups this side of the Milky Way.
That’s the best I can come up with folks. Honestly, I do believe the Mets have a stats office that churns out match-up data, but I also think from a practical stand point Collins has to have the final say because he’s on the ground with the team, so … somewhere, there must be a disconnect because like I said earlier, I can see playing Granderson because of his salary (and history of producing) … maybe even Chris Young (although not as much), but Eric Young? Tejada? Doesn’t make sense does it?
Can’t have it both ways. You can’t blame a front office for relying too much on advanced metrics then turn around and blame them for making lineup decisions that fly in the face of any possible combination of advanced metrics imaginable. Something else is at work here folks… And inquiring minds want to know!