ST. LOUIS -- Inelegant in its wording? Most definitely. You cannot win taking on the fans, especially in New York.
But New York Mets manager Terry Collins' underlying point of view about the Jordany Valdespin-hit-by-pitch-issue-that-just-won't-go-away is not incorrect. And his statement is not the final nail in the coffin as manager.
Collins -- angered by a story incorrectly alleging Valdespin pleaded not to be forced to step into the batter's box as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates for fear of being hit by a pitch -- briefly lost his composure pregame Tuesday.
The manager said: "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."
The CliffsNotes version is this: Valdespin pimped an inconsequential, ninth-inning, pinch-hit homer Friday, angering the Pirates.
A day later, in a lopsided game in which Collins intended to remove David Wright, the manager had the option of using Mike Baxter or Valdespin as a pinch hitter in the seventh. If he held back Valdespin for fear of him being hit, Collins likely would have had to use Spin later in the game anyway -- and as the last position player available. And if Valdespin were hit by a pitch later in the game and hurt, Collins may have had to use a pitcher in the field to finish the game.
So, after a debate on the bench about whether Valdespin would get hit by the pitch, with bench coach Bob Geren believing the Pirates would pass in what was a 10-1 game, the Mets sent Valdespin up to bat in the seventh.
Yes, Collins believed there was a decent chance he would get drilled.
And Valdespin did.
"Jordany knew they were going to throw at him. He knew it," Collins said. "And you've got to go take your medicine. That's part of being a big guy in this league."
But here is where things between a decent chunk of the fan base and the baseball-playing community really diverge:
The Mets and Pirates viewed Valdespin getting plunked as the end of the incident, the retribution for the previous day's incident. ("Now it's over," Collins said. "Now we move on.") Fans, at least many of them, wanted that to be the start of something -- the Mets hitting Andrew McCutchen, perhaps, which would result in Wright or someone else getting drilled in an escalation.
So when Collins said he doesn't answer to the fans, he meant he doesn't answer to those who don't know the game's dynamics as well as he does as a baseball lifer. Of course, it was no-win wording that led to predictable backlash.
Collins resents any assertion that he wanted Valdespin to get hit. He said had Valdespin been subject to more payback in future at-bats in the series, the Mets would have hit every Pirates batter who came to the plate.
But the incident was over in the seventh inning. It's how baseball handles things.
It also has been inaccurately viewed that the Mets let the Pirates handle their dirty work in trying to get Valdespin into line.
And that's where the behind-the-scenes stuff that Collins said fans are not privy to enters the picture.
I'm told Collins and some of the players have tried to convince Valdespin to conform. And when I say conform, I don't mean becoming a bland robot. I mean acting within acceptable industry standards, such as not taunting opposing All-Stars.
If only Collins had said "people outside the clubhouse don't understand the full dynamic" rather than saying he doesn't care what the fans think, the disagreement with observers would have existed, but not quite at this intensity level.
If you think Collins has lost the clubhouse, you would be wrong. And GM Sandy Alderson affirmed again this week that there is no consideration of switching managers now.
Collins may pay the price at the end of this season (or even before) because of the team's record. You have to sell something to the fans about 2014. But the change would merely be cosmetic and do nothing to remedy the underlying flaws. The Mets would be a woeful team no matter who managed it this season.
As for Valdespin, I'm certain the Mets would have gladly sent him packing right now if they could only find a place. You can't trade a lifetime .239 hitter with Valdespin's reputation, and Triple-A Las Vegas doesn't make sense when the Mets can barely fill out a roster with major league talent as it is.