In the end, it came down to this: manager Terry Collins has more confidence in Eric Campbell, a player who hasn’t had a hit since May than he does Jay Bruce, the player whom the Mets hoped would carry them into the playoffs.
Campbell came through with a RBI pinch-hit single in the eighth, but the Mets still lost, 5-4, to Atlanta Tuesday night, and you have to wonder – as Bruce must, also – that he’ll be of little, or no use, to them in the remaining 11 games.
And, after that, do they see a reason to bring him back next season?
There’s no disputing Bruce has been horrid ohis last 24 games, hitting .167 and .125 with RISP. There’s also no disputing he was leading the National League in RBI with 80 when the trade was made.
A manager has a myriad of tough decisions to make, and with this one was the balance between trying to get a player going and winning the game.
“It’s one of the worst things you can do as a manager is to pinch-hit for a star,” Collins said. “My job is to win the game. … I think he’s extremely frustrated. All he cares about is to be a good teammate and help this team. I sure he’s dumped a lot of pressure on himself.”
Collins said he spoke with Bruce before that inning and told him he would use a pinch-hitter, to which he said the player told him: “You do what you have to do.”
Bruce left the dugout as Campbell came to the plate, which isn’t a good image. But, he was probably thinking he didn’t want to have the cameras focused on him for the rest of the game.
Later, it was clear Bruce wasn’t happy, but he said all the right things.
“It was very difficult,” Bruce said about being pinch-hit for. “It’s the first time I was pinch-hit for. (Actually, it is the ninth time according to ESPN). I always think I’m the best choice, but he’s the manager and it his decision and I respect that.
“Coming over here, it has been tough for me. I’m worried about the team. I have plenty of time later to think about myself but now isn’t the time. I’m ready to play. I’ll be ready every day.”
The thing that bothers me about the decision was not that Collins hit for Bruce, but his inconsistency in his decision-making. There have been too many times when logic dictated he do something, but did the opposite. From leaving Matt Harvey in too long to not resting Yoenis Cespedes, to a half-dozen other things, Collins’ track record is inconsistency.
So, did the Mets lose Bruce?
If Bruce is a man of his word, they didn’t. But, that leads to the question whether the Mets’ lack of confidence reached the point where they don’t want him anymore.
Unquestionably, Collins’ decision on Bruce was the game’s primary storyline. The others were the Mets’ offense and a look at the wild-card race.
OFFENSE STRUGGLES VS. TEHERAN: Perhaps it is an overstatement to say Julio Teheran owns the Mets, but it wouldn’t be wrong to indicate he’s in their heads.
The Mets managed one run on five hits in seven innings against Teheran. Who knows? Had he stayed in for another inning perhaps the Bruce issue wouldn’t have surfaced.
“He’s good, he’s an All-Star,” Curtis Granderson said. “He has some really good stuff.”
Collectively, the Mets have scored 21 runs over their last eight games. And, with the topic of struggling hitters, Cespedes is hitting .179 over his last ten games and struck out to end the game.
WILD-CARD UPDATE: The loss coupled with St. Louis winning in Colorado dropped the Mets and Cardinals to a tie.
Meanwhile, with Miami winning over the Nationals, the Marlins moved over .500 and remain in wild-card contention. The Mets are in Miami for three games next week.
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