All it took was one question from the media for Terry Collins to finally unload a season’s worth of frustration.
After his National League Champion Mets were swept by the worst team in baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks to drop them to .500, Collins fielded the first question of the post game press conference calmly and professionally.
Three minutes and 16 seconds later, he finished answering the question and walked out.
After weeks of playing lackluster baseball and leaving the fans questioning if the players even care anymore, the Mets fell to the Diamondbacks 9-0 on a hot afternoon with their Ace, Noah Syndergaard on the mound.
“Terry, as a manager, where do you go from here?” the reporter asked innocently enough. “Is this (losing)something that you need to talk to them (the team) or do you rely on your veteran players to try and change things up in the clubhouse?”
Collins answered with the normal baseball cliché of, “It’s both. In the past we’ve relied heavily on our veterans in the clubhouse.” Of course, he also took complete responsibility as any manager would. But then the train began to tip off the rails.
Collins wasn’t going to beat around the bush anymore and use injuries as an excuse, although his Mets have had more than their fair share of them.
“As I have said so many times, I don’t care who is not here. There are no excuses here. These are major league baseball players. I don’t care how they got here or where they came from. The names on the back and the name on the front say they are a major league baseball player. It starts with them.”
And he was just warming up in the bullpen.
“You owe a responsibility to the fans, our fan base, the organization, and to yourself to respect this game and come out and grind it out, whether it’s hot or freezing cold. And that is where it’s got to start.
“I know hitting is hard – believe me. If it was easy, we’d be watching you guys play. It’s just not easy. But they got here because they grind out at bats. That’s how they got here. That’s how this organization has been built in the last few years, so we know it’s possible.”
Unlike some of the things he has said at previous press conferences, Collins refused to give slack to any of his players who are not performing well.
“Yes, some guys are having a bad time. You can’t say ‘Woe is me’ at this level. You cannot do it. Everybody is too good here. Nobody feels sorry for you. Everybody’s been humbled and those that get out of it, stay here a long time. Those who don’t, you keep looking up and they keep getting a little time here and a little time there, but they don’t stay.
“I want the ones who can stay.”
As the manager, Collins took responsibility for writing out the lineup card and deciding who pitches and when, but he finally acknowledged what everyone else has been whispering quietly about the last few weeks – the Mets lack of passion.
“I know one thing, there has got to be a passion to come and play. There has got to be a sense of ‘This is what I do for a living and the people who pay to see me play are going to see my best effort’.”
Now he was starting to heat up.
“We are going to get our ass beat again – don’t ever mistake it because that’s part of the game here. You are gonna get beat and you are gonna get beat bad sometimes. But you need to pick yourself up and move on. That’s what baseball players do.”
He used the example of 2B Neil Walker, who broke out of a slump recently, raising his batting average almost 30 points, busting it out of the box on a fly ball to left in a game they were losing 9-0.
“He (Walker) ended up past second base – that’s how you play the game. You don’t throw your hands up and stop at first base or the 45 foot line – you play the game correctly.”
A room full of journalists was completely silent as Collins paused to collect his thoughts.
“We’re all responsible – every single one of us, the coaches, me, the players. There is no one guy to blame, no one to point a finger at. I don’t do that, I have never done that. I am a team guy, I believe in team.”
Nearing the finish line now, Collins took it to the next level.
“I know one thing, starting tomorrow, we’re back fresh. Starting tomorrow, we’re gonna get after it. And those that don’t want to get after it; I will find someone who does. Because in Las Vegas, there is a whole clubhouse of guys who want to sit in this room – and I’ll find them. That’s all I got to say.”
If he were on stage, he would have held out the microphone and dropped it. Instead, he got up and left. It only took 3:16 to challenge his players to understand what it will take to be on his team over the final 48 games.
The Mets, who have lost 11 of their last 15 are still just 2 games back of the Marlins for the second Wild-Card spot. They managed just five runs and 17 hits in the three game series against the Diamondbacks, who came in at 45-66. They haven’t won consecutive games since before the All-Star break.
Now the 49-68 Padres come into town for three games before the Mets head out on a 10 game road trip with three more in Arizona, four in San Francisco and three in St. Louis.
It’s hard to imagine that their entire season comes may come down to the next 13 games. Let’s see if his players respond to the manager’s challenge.
Paul DiSclafani is a featured author at “A View From the Bench”, an official affiliate of MLB.com. “A View from the Bench” is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.