After reaching the World Series last year, the New York Mets, with perhaps the deepest and most talented rotation in baseball, were supposed to be right back there again in 2016 – or at least back in the NLCS battling the Chicago Cubs for the right to go to the Fall Classic.
Three-quarters of the way through the season, however, that doesn’t appear likely. The Mets, at 60-60, trail the Nationals (70-49) by 10.5 games in the NL East and trail the Cardinals (64-56) by four games in the NL Wild Card. Of course, injuries to your best players – including Matt Harvey, Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright – will do that to a ball club.
So why is Terry Collins getting so much heat?
“The role of the manager is wildly overrated in baseball,” CBS Sports senior baseball writer Jonah Keri said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “If you compare it to other sports, if you have Bill Belichick, that could completely swing your whole season. If you have Gregg Popovich, that can change your franchise. I don’t buy that in baseball. I’m not saying that Bruce Bochy is not a good manager or Joe Maddon or Buck Showalter – you can pick your favorite guy. But the variance from the best guy to the worst guy is just not that significant. It’s not like one guy is out there playing chess and everybody else is out there playing checkers. People aren’t bunting with their cleanup man or whatever. We’re all using the same pitch counts for every starting pitcher. It’s roughly the same.
“So I don’t think (Collins has done a bad job),” Keri continued. “I think the Mets probably overachieved last year. I just think a lot of things went right, and as you said, there were a ton of injuries this year. Guys just don’t perform as well. That happens. Michael Conforto is an example.”
Conforto, 23, is hitting .218 with a .297 OBP, 11 homers, 33 RBIs and 78 strikeouts in 84 games this season.
“I thought he’d be a beast,” Keri said. “He looked really good at the start of his career and ended up spending much of this season in the minors, as one example. It happens. Is that on Collins? Not really. Collins’ reputation is the guy who’s a very likable person in the clubhouse and otherwise and pushes buttons just as well as anybody else in terms of who do I use in the eighth inning. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
As Keri pointed out, baseball is a fickle game with fickle results.
“Whoever your favorite manager in baseball is – let’s say you think it’s Bochy – yeah, they’re winning (the) World Series every even year, but every odd year they’re missing the playoffs,” he said. “Buck Showalter, who’s supposed to be a tactical genius – and I think he’s an excellent manager – the Orioles in 2012 and 2014 surprised the league. But you know what? In ’13 and ’15, they weren’t particularly good. This stuff happens. There’s no consistent formula to managing. If you hire or fire a manager, it’s basically a scapegoat move. It’s saying, ‘Well, we don’t know. We throw our hands up in the air. I guess we’ll just fire this guy.’ That’s pretty much what it is.”