May 15

Terry Collins Spins Into Damage Control

Terry Collins is a smart guy who made some pretty out-of-bounds comments Monday night. Some might even call them stupid.

COLLINS: Spins into damage control.

COLLINS: Spins into damage control.

I leaned in that direction when I came down on Collins for ripping the fans in his response to a question on if the Mets were leaving Jordany Valdespin out to dry after his actions last weekend.

“I don’t answer to fans,’’ Collins said reporters in St. Louis. “They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there. They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level.’’

Collins also went on to say he didn’t care about the perception of the Valdespin incident, ranging from the player celebrating his meaningless home run in a blowout loss, to the manager anticipating the payback plunking, to the player’s dugout tantrum.

There’s no mistaking what Collins meant, but it should be noted this could have been alleviated had he danced around the question and later vented his true feelings in an off-the-record session with the New York traveling media. Had he done so, Collins’ comments wouldn’t have left his Busch Stadium office.

Speaking on WFAN this afternoon, Collins was in full damage control, saying: “The New York fans are maybe the most knowledgeable fans that I’ve ever been around.

“When the question was asked, it pretty much was … Look, as much as I respect everybody’s opinions, it’s my opinion that counts and what’s best for this club. I can’t be influenced by outside people who aren’t here, and that’s pretty much all I meant. Certainly I misused the words. I shouldn’t have said ‘fans.’ I should have just said ‘people.’ ’’

However, what are fans, if not people?

Collins might have meant fans and media lumped together when he said “people,’’ but either way, why take on a foe when you don’t have to?

If you want to give Collins benefit of doubt, which I don’t have a problem with, you have to recognize his frustration and the pressure he’s under. His is not an easy job, made harder by the cards Sandy Alderson dealt him. We can go on item-by-item of all Collins doesn’t have to work with, and then add the headache that is Valdespin.

To understand fully what Collins is dealing with, you have to hear what Valdespin said last night. Valdespin was sent up to pinch-hit in another blowout loss. After taking a couple of pitches, he stepped out of the batter’s box and took a deep breath.

When asked after the game what he was thinking about, Valdespin said what he would do if he hit a homer.

Yeah, after hearing that, I’m willing to give Collins a pass on Monday’s comments. He deserves it for having to deal with Valdespin.

May 15

Thoughts On Terry Collins Blasting the Fans

COLLINS: Lashes at fans.


Terry Collins did what no manager should do, especially one with a career losing record likely to be made a scapegoat for what figures to be the Mets’ fifth consecutive losing season.

Collins, who has been erratic and puzzling on several issues this season, took on the exceedingly frustrated Mets’ fan base Tuesday night, basically calling them clueless and he didn’t care for their perception of his team, which is rapidly falling out of relevance before June.

Not surprisingly, the catalyst for Collins’ anger was the lingering Jordany Valdespin issue. Neither Collins nor general manager Sandy Alderson has been able to get through to Valdespin, and both handled his self-glorifying home run and subsequent beaning poorly.

If the Mets were winning, it would have gone away. Because they are not and in the midst of a stretch that could blow up their season, Valdespin is an issue.

After Valdespin’s homer last Friday in a blowout loss, Collins alluded to the possibility of the temperamental outfielder getting beaned as payback. Collins spoke of baseball’s unwritten code, and how Valdespin’s attitude is the norm and he couldn’t do anything about it.

Basically, he left it up to the Pirates teach his player a lesson, when what he should have done was rip Valdespin’s actions. Collins could have also told Pirates manager Clint Hurdle he would handle Valdespin.

By not doing so, Collins invited the Pirates to throw at his player. After the plunking, Collins pretty much said, “that’s baseball,’’ and Alderson took the same milquetoast approach.

No Met approached Valdespin after his dugout temper tantrum, and only David Wright offered any verbal support. The perception is the Mets don’t have Valdespin’s back, and several nameless quotes say he is universally scorned in the clubhouse.

Collins was asked whether Valdespin is on an island and told reporters in St. Louis: “I don’t answer to fans. They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there.

“They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level. … I’ll tell you one thing: Jordany knew they were going to throw at him. He knew it. And you’ve got to go take your medicine. That’s part of being a big guy in this league.’’

If Valdespin knew he would get hit – and his reaction suggests he might be oblivious to the baseball code – then why would he put his player in that position?

Telling Hurdle he would handle things might have prevented the rib-banging pitch.

There are varying perceptions of the incident brought on by how Collins and Alderson handled things. Shipping Valdespin’s butt out the next day would have sent a strong message to the Pirates as well as his clubhouse his hot-dogging would not be tolerated.

The perception of that would have been clear and decisive. If nothing else, it would have shown Collins and his front office were in sync.

Instead, Collins put himself in position to handle another question of which its answer could grease the skids on his exit.

“I don’t care what the perception is,’’ Collins said. “All I know is what goes on here. I’ve been doing this for 42 years. I don’t care what anybody on the outside thinks.

“I know how to get it done in the clubhouse. I’ve been doing it a lot longer than a lot of people. He’s fine. He handled it great, I thought, the way he went about it. He went to first base. He didn’t throw his bat any place. … He did it the right way. And now it’s over. Now we move on.’’

Easier said than done, because Valdespin did not handle it the right way. No, he didn’t throw his bat or charge the mound, but he did slam his helmet, which prevents moving on.

Collins then went on to make excuses for Valdespin, saying he had a tough background. He also said Valdespin has to be careful not to alienate his teammates, which might already be the case.

One day, Collins spoke of baseball’s code and another made excuses for his polarizing player. You can’t help but wonder how Valdespin’s teammates might be annoyed by that defense.

Valdespin was not in the lineup Tuesday, and for a team struggling for offense, the perception is clear he’s on the outs. So, why is he still here?

Yes, Collins has been in the game for over 40 years, and in that time one would have thought he would have learned a few things.

One, managers are hired to be fired, so don’t align yourself with a seemingly lost cause like Valdespin, because by the time he gets it, you’ll be gone.

Secondly, this fire keeps on burning because Collins refused to put it out. He knows he could have given a neutral answer with the Cardinals media in the room, then after the session gathered the New York writers into his office for an off-the-record briefing. That way, his ripping the fans never gets out.

Finally, don’t take on the fans, as they always have the last word. That word is “boo,’’ and Collins will hear it loudly if things don’t change fast.

Thoughts from Joe D.

I get emails all day long asking me why don’t we let the story die. My answer to them we are not the story, the Mets are the story and we do what we’ve been doing which is to report and debate things as they happen.

Two weeks ago there were plenty here who told me that it was a non-story when I wrote that there was something amiss between Jordany Valdespin and his teammates in the clubhouse.

I picked up on that during the start of Spring Training when two players came into the clubhouse to find their lockers and said, “Thank god I’m nowhere near Valdespin’s locker.”

“Joe D. you are reading too much into things.”

I commented on the jokes that were made when Valdespin was hit right in the groin and lied on the ground in pain.

Then there was the pie.

All I did is what any rational and reasonable person who reports would do and connected the dots.

Now it’s a full blown controversy and the only story that anyone is talking about.

How can you hope it goes away when the General Manager only two days ago added more fuel to the fire by saying he wasn’t hung out to dry, and then learning that Valdespin ask out of going to the plate a second time after being plunked the first time. A fact that Collins even admitted to shortly after he ripped into the fans.

The Mets create the stories and it’s on the Mets to stop feeding us the stories, not me. I don’t have the power to keep players, coaches and management from saying things that are better left unsaid. I can fault the players for saying silly and inappropriate things, but when management does it how can you find that to be acceptable and professional behavior.

I agree with Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post regarding Collins who said:

Collins probably knew, as soon as he said this, he shouldn’t have said this. He knows the fastest way to be packing your belongings in boxes — faster than losing games in bunches — is to take on fans. Fans are undefeated. Fans are a franchise’s lifeblood. Fans …


Well, fans allow you to stay relevant, long past your expiration date. I’ve believed, and written, that Collins deserves a full and fair accounting before his time is done here. But Collins has also found trouble in Houston and Anaheim when the losing became too much for him. In both cities, he lost the players, and that’s bad enough (and judging from the listless way the Mets mailed in another game with the Cards last night, 10-4, that may be happening again).

My big concern right now is that the Mets are blind to their own problem. That means nothing is being done to keep more incidents like this one from taking place. The best way to fix a problem is to admit you have one. So far management seems to think everything is hunky-dory when it’s clearly not.

How many dog houses does Terry Collins have and why was Ruben Tejada apparently in one of them last night when the manager decided to scratch him from the starting lineup before last night’s trouncing at the hands of the Cardinals?

That factoid came from Eddie Coleman who is not known for exaggerating the truth and conjuring up false storylines. Eddie is as straight as an arrow.

Is there anyone else residing in these dog houses aside from Jordany Valdespin and Ruben Tejada and when are their parole dates?

I don’t make the stories, I just talk about them and ask the tough questions and am usually the first to do so. Ahh… the benefits of having an independent Mets site.

May 13

Mets Better Off Without Valdespin

Two weeks ago I wondered why Jordany Valdespin wasn’t getting more playing time. Now, I’m wondering why I bothered to care.

Why should I, or anybody else for that matter – outside his immediate family – care about Valdespin, of whom GM Sandy Alderson recently said is testing his limits of tolerance?

Answer: There is no reason.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

The Mets finished in fourth place last year and are in fourth now. They are a season-high six-games below .500, and after losing three of four to Pittsburgh, are about to start a stretch that could flatten them for the season.

Bottom line: They can lose with or without Valdespin.

Valdespin’s actions over the weekend illustrate he’s a me-first player. His posing after a homer in a blowout loss defined “bush league.” His post-homer comments put that assessment in bold.

“When you hit the ball, you got to enjoy your hit,’’ Valdespin said. “Every time I hit the ball, homer or something, I enjoy that. Every hit, I’m enjoying, my family’s enjoying, my friends enjoying.’’

Kind of says it all about him, doesn’t it?

Mets manager Terry Collins, thinking old school, acknowledged payback could be coming, but his response was inadequate and weak. It made me wonder why he should be manager.

“We’ve talked about this individually and as a group,’’ Collins said. “In the game today, you have to turn your head on some things. It’s done everywhere. Do I like it? I don’t know if it really matters. I can’t change the game.’’

Maybe not, but he damn sure can change his little role in it. Collins’ answer and willingness to put up with Valdespin’s histrionics, shows how dysfunctional the Mets are as an organization.

Valdespin styling after a meaningless home run was the epitome of selfishness and Collins knows it. While it might be the way of the world elsewhere, the only appropriate thing for Collins to say was: “Other managers can put up with that, but I won’t tolerate it on my team.’’

That Alderson didn’t say the same and send him down as punishment was also weak. In Alderson’s Sabremetric world, is there an adequate measure for Valdespin’s actions?

The next day Collins suggested there could be payback, and that it might be directed at David Wright was sobering. That the Pirates didn’t retaliate against Wright was a classy gesture on their part. Go after the real culprit was their reasoning.

They were right to plunk Valdespin, and I don’t want to hear any more Pollyanna crap about a fastball to the ribs wasn’t right. That’s the baseball code.

In that code you take your punishment and shut up. However, Valdespin went berserk in the dugout and slammed his helmet, drawing more attention to himself.

Wright, as captain, did an excellent soft-shoe trying to defend his teammate, although his words seemed hollow, as if deep down, he knew he didn’t believe what he was saying.

I wonder if Wright would have been so generous had the Pirates went after him in retaliation, or if Valdespin’s slammed helmet ricocheted and hit somebody in the eye?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Valdespin had no business being incensed, as he was the one who created the mess. His anger also indicates he either wasn’t aware of the circumstances or didn’t care. Valdespin doesn’t get that this is a team sport and not about him.

His actions scream “look at me,’’ as if he were a NBA diva. However, Valdespin doesn’t bring enough to the table to warrant the Mets putting up with him. They can finish fourth with or without him.

I prefer the latter.

May 12

Mets Waste Another Matt Harvey Start



Terry Collins said the Mets are a different team with Matt Harvey, and that he gives them a presence a chance to win once every five days.

That makes it is especially troubling when they waste one of his starts, as they did in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Harvey, who flirted with perfection in his previous start Tuesday against the White Sox, has given up two runs over 16 innings in his last two games. After winning his first four starts, he’s had four no-decisions in his last four, giving up just five runs.

“He did his job,’’ Collins said of Harvey. “He can’t do the hitting for us. We needed him to take us deep into the game and that’s what he did. Matt did exactly what we wanted.’’

In defeat, the Mets lost three of four to Pittsburgh – a team they thought they should to beat, or at least compete against – and finished their homestand 2-4. They didn’t score more than three runs in any game of the homestand, and scored four or fewer runs in 15 of their last 17 games.

Since beating the Dodgers, April 24, the Mets have gone from 10-9 to 14-20. The Mets will try to get better Monday when they begin a four-game series at St. Louis, which has the best record in the National League.

RECORD/STANDINGS: 14-20, 4th place NL East.

ON THE MOUND: Harvey did not have his best stuff, but gave up only two runs on five hits in seven innings. He walked two, but struck out a season-low four. It was still a quality start, and one the Mets would take every time.

“That’s what we’re going to come to expect from that guy,’’ Collins said.

The Mets’ bullpen wasn’t able to pick up Harvey, with the Collins inexplicably letting lefthander Scott Rice in to walk Andrew McCutchen with one out in the eighth.

AT THE PLATE: Collins juggled his batting order once again, making it 30 different lineups in 34 games. For the first time this season he had Ike Davis and Lucas Duda back-to-back. He said he’ll leave it that way for the immediate future.

Duda homered, but Davis continued to give them nothing, striking out two more times, including taking three miserable swings on balls out of the strike zone with one out and the tying run on third in the eighth.

THEY SAID IT: “It was a disappointing at-bat for him,’’ Collins said of Davis’ strikeout in the eighth.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters the past two games.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jon Niese (2-4) is the schedule rotation as the Mets begin a four-game series Monday in St. Louis. That’s a combined 4-15 before Harvey starts again.

Following the Cardinals, the Mets have a three-game series at Wrigley Field before three games each against Cincinnati and four against the Yankees.

May 11

Jon Niese’s Injury-Related Bad Habits Root To Rout

Including today’s 11-2 flameout loss to Pittsburgh, the Mets have lost Jon Niese’s last five starts, with him giving up 22 runs and not getting out of the fifth inning in three of them. He has not come close to resembling what the Mets think he should be, and that’s the No. 1 starter in their rotation.

The first game in that slide, April 18 at Colorado, and the one preceding it, April 12, at Minnesota, were played in temperatures in the high 20s. Manager Terry Collins said the cold might have had a residual effect on Niese. Niese beat the Twins, but was given double-digit runs of support.

“I think there might be. He’s had some stiffness in his back,’’ Collins said when asked if there is a connection between working in the cold and his following ineffectiveness. “He’s had trouble getting loose and (prior to his May 5 start at Atlanta) he didn’t have a good bullpen session.’’

The only thing surprising about this issue with Niese is the injury wasn’t worse and there haven’t been more weather-related injuries. This has always been one of my pet peeves about playing in lousy weather. The owners have such steep investments in their players, and yet they have no qualms about playing games in precarious conditions. This is also an issue the Major League Baseball Players Association has glossed over. Playing conditions have never been high on the MLBPA’s pecking order in negotiating with the owners.

It’s usually about money and drug testing, but working conditions somehow get ignored.

Niese, who gave up eight runs in 4.1 innings today, said to compensate for the soreness and stiffness he developed the bad habit of dropping his arm angle during his release. Consequently, hitters have been able to pick up the ball out of his hand earlier.

“I think it’s to the point now where I created a bad habit with dropping down my arm angle, and I’m kind of opening everything up,’’ Niese said, adding he wasn’t bothered by pain today. “It’s something I’m going to work on in the bullpen to get it back.’’

Niese said there’s no deception in his delivery and hitters aren’t chasing the pitchers they normally might. They are able to pick up his release point earlier, and that split second makes a tremendous difference to the hitters.

Niese is hopeful of working his release point issue out in the bullpen this week before making Thursday’s start in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright.