After losing to the Pirates Wednesday night, Terry Collins had it. His post-game rant was the same kind of fiery that management perhaps expected when they lauded his passion. Collins walked the fine line between criticism and motivation with statements like these:
I don’t have the answers. I’m searching. I’m wringing the rag dry, coming in here, having to look at you guys looking at me like I’m a stinking fool. I told these guys, ‘We’re good enough, but we have to play the game right.’ We just can’t continue to make foolish mistakes.
He could perhaps give his owner a lesson in how to express frustration without putting down your employees. Reaction in the blogosphere mirrored the reaction of fans on twitter: "Go get 'em Terry." But a speech is just words, and any link to production will most likely be post hoc reasoning. Now that the team won Thursday, let's resist the urge to point to his speech Wednesday and say, yeah, this win, this win was built on that rant.
That doesn't mean that Terry Collins didn't find some redemption this week. And one piece of redemption came from that rant itself. In a time when it seems that the owner has resigned himself to having a snake-bit team that cannot win, the manager said no. He said no, we can do this, and I'm angry as hell and I'm not going to take it any more. That's welcome fight.
But perhaps more redeeming was his work in Thursday's game, particularly in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Ronny Paulino singled to center. It was no sort of brain-buster to start Paulino against a left-handed pitcher, since he owns a fantastic .338/.390/.485 line against southpaws in 500+ career at-bats. But leaving him in against a righty he'd never seen before was a 'move' of some sort. He didn't over-manage and let his player play out his start.
Willie Harris ran for Ronny Paulino. Well, Wille Harris is on this roster for some reason, right? He's relatively fleet of foot, and Paulino, well let's just say he's not. This kind of move might have backfired if the game had gone to extra innings and Collins had burned a player, but the advantage gained late in the game with a speedy man on first and no outs in a close game, a day after a bad loss - that seems worth it. At least in retrospect.
Chris Capuano hit for Jason Isringhausen. We've established that we don't love the bunt. But, we've also established that if we are going to bunt, then you want a pitcher doing it. Collins' gambit here had a bit of brilliance in it. Isringhausen has 104 career at-bats as a reliever, Capuano more than twice that. Capuano had been successful on 18 of 29 sacrifice attempts in his career. Isringhausen on 8 of 12, but his last in-game attempt came in 1999. Well done, Collins.
Jose Veras balk, Willie Harris to second. Well, Collins didn't do this. And actually, this is another warning to avoid post-hoc reasoning. Because if Veras hadn't balked, Capuano would have fouled off his second attempt and would have been in trouble. That Capuano immediately went over to his manager to discuss their next move after Harris made it to second does mean that Collins was thinking ahead, though. Collins actually anticipated that moment, and may have had the green light going for Harris. Unless Collins just yelled over to his pinch-bunter, kudos to him for thinking ahead, chess-master style.
Josh Thole hit for Chris Capuano. Pinch-hitting for a pinch-hitter got the attention of fans on twitter. Some liked it, some thought the game was spiraling out of control, some questioned Collins' sanity. But since a bunt was no longer on, Capuano was now a liability. He could has used lefty Jason Pridie to gain the platoon advantage, but kudos for thinking of Thole. With the count already against the batter, Collins just wanted a contact hitter to make sure he moved the runner over. Oh, and he needed to put his catcher in anyway since he pinch-ran for Paulino.
Jose Veras wild pitch, Willie Harris to third. All Veras, but with all the waiting around, and pinch-hitters and pinch-runners, it's not surprising Veras lost control a little bit.
Josh Thole walked. Well, Thole did that on his own. Well done young man.
Ruben Tejada hit sacrifice fly to center, Willie Harris scored. That's one run on one hit. Score at least some part of it to the manager.
Jose Reyes walked. Nice.
Justin Turner fouled out to first. He made contact, but not the good kind. Collins clapped and was generally supportive. Which is, what, 60% of a manager's job?
Carlos Beltran walked, Josh Thole scored, Daniel Murphy to third, Jose Reyes to second. Two runs now.
Daniel McCutchen relieved Jose Veras. Not a good day for the Pirate reliever.
Jason Bay struck out swinging. Facepalm.
So, for those keeping score at home, that's three walks, one intentional walk, two unsuccessful sacrifice bunt attempts, a balk, a pinch runner, two pinch-hitters in one at-bat - and two runs one one hit. And one manager redeemed in the eyes of his fanbase.