Terry Collins will talk to his team prior to Monday’s full squad workout, but says he won’t go the underdog route, as COO Jeff Wilpon did last spring. The underdog angle is usually a good angle, but the Mets haven’t had a winning season since 2008, so it is safe to say they are familiar with the losing perspective.
Collins pulling a Knute Rockne tomorrow won’t do anything for the Mets. His message must be firm and simple.
It should begin the basics. “Gentlemen,” he should say, “you have the rare privilege of playing major league baseball. Make the most of this opportunity. We are a rebuilding franchise and are looking for players who produce and play hard. One thing I will not tolerate is a lack of hustle. I want to you be on time and hustle. There’s never an excuse for not running.”
Collins should let it be known a lack of hustle will be met with being benched.
Secondly, Collins should tell his troops there is also never a reason not to play fundamental baseball. Errors are part of the game, but mental mistakes such as throwing to the wrong base or wasting at-bats is not acceptable. For the pitchers, pitch selection has to be stressed. If a pitcher doesn’t like the sign put down by the catcher, then don’t throw the damn ball.
Prior to every pitch, a baserunner, pitcher or batter should know his responsibility. All too often in the past few years Mets hitters have thrown away at-bats and pitchers haven’t been able to finish hitters and innings.
Bernie Williams once told me one of the hardest things to do in the sport is to concentrate on every pitch, to ask himself what he should do on that pitch. And, to do it over and over again. It is something winning players and winning teams are able to consistently do.
If the Mets are to take a step toward credibility, it must first begin with learning how to concentrate and think the game.