Being the massive nerd that I am, I have spent a lot of time building narratives out of the Mets day to day struggles. Perhaps the most fitting of these narratives is that of Terry Collins, the Tragic Hero. It makes perfect sense; tragic heroes are defined by their one fatal flaw which ultimately leads to their demise. Terry fits this bill perfectly, as illustrated by his bullpen management on Sunday when he elected to leave Robert Gsellman in for about three batters too long, which was just enough time time for the game to slip away.
The problems began in the 7th inning, as Gsellman had cruised through the first 6 innings without having to work especially hard. He entered the 7th having only thrown 84 pitches, but the wheels started to fall off very quickly from there. Gsellman quickly ran out of gas, showing diminished velocity and generally looking less sharp with all of his pitches. He allowed the lead-off hitter Tommy Joseph to reach on a hard-hit single past a diving James Loney, which was immediately followed by a laser shot into left field by Aaron Altherr. It was at this point, probably a batter or two late, that Terry and company got the bullpen working, and Dan Warthen went out to the mound to buy time for his relief pitchers to get loose. But, they would choose to leave Gsellman in for one more hitter, who would serve a single into left field to load the bases with no outs. It was at this point that Terry would replace Gsellman with Hansel Robles, putting Robles into a terrible spot with no margin for error, and watched in horror as Robles would allow all three of his inherited runners to score, and even allow one of his own omn route to a 5 to 1 loss to the Phillies. Terry completely botched the crucial part of the game in which the starter has to be pulled in favor of the bullpen, which in turn cost the Mets the game. This is Terry's fatal flaw, which will, and has in the past, led to the Met's demise.
This is nothing new for Terry. It seems to be a lesson he wants to avoid learning at all costs, one that has led Mets fans to more than their fair share of heartbreak. This stubborn refusal to learn is best illustrated by remembering the Mets ill-fated trip to the World Series, especially Game 5 when this fatal flaw put his team's championship aspirations out of reach.
I remember the game vividly and think about it often, like a nightmare that comes out of the woodwork at night to keep my awake into the morning. Matt Harvey was dominant, throwing 8 shutout innings and striking out 9 Royals, a feat made all the more impressive giving the Royal's ability to put the ball in play. He was the Harvey I always think of when I hear his name: dominant, tough, and ready for the moment- his shot at baseball immortality. He had the crowd fired-up all night, especially when he ran out onto the field for the 9th inning, having talked Collins into letting him return to the game instead of going to his closer Jeurys Familia to shut the door and force a Game 6.
In the months since this game, I've heard many people say that they wanted Harvey to come out for the ninth, always understandably saying that the Collins error in judgment occurred after allowing a four pitch leadoff walk. I was less optimistic, turning to my Mother and saying some version of "welp...I guess this is happening." However you feel about Harvey starting the ninth is justifiable, as it was everything that happened after the lead-off walk that cemented this game as one of the ultimate-Terry fuck-ups of all time. Collins opted to leave Harvey, clearly gassed after 8 innings of utter dominance, in the game to face Eric Hosmer. It was at this point that I started screaming at the television. "Terry you [EXPLETIVE DELETED] IDIOT GET HIM OUT OF THE [EXPLETIVE DELETED] GAME," I yelled at the top of my lungs, waking my father up in the process. To the surprise of no one but maybe Terry himself, Harvey immediately surrendered an RBI double to Hosmer before being replaced by Familia, who, having no margin for error, would allow Hosmer to score the tying run. The Mets, of course, would go on to lose the game and the World Series because Terry famously "let [his] heart get in the way of [his] gut." Harvey gave the team somewhere around a 90% chance of victory with his performance, and Collins somehow let it slip through his fingers.
This moment, along with all of the other countless times in which TC left his starter in a few batters too long, has proven to be his fatal flaw on multiple occasions, one that will in all likelihood lead to his eventual firing. We have all seen this story unfold before- time and time again- in much the same fashion as it did last night. It has proven to be the one constant amid all of the changes the team has seen throughout his tenure, and it is relatively embarrassing that the Front Office still lets him get away with repeating the same old sad song year after year.