NEW YORK -- Terry Collins had one more card to play, with his New York Mets squad taking on water and playing their worst baseball of the season. So on Thursday, he played it. After an embarrassing 9-0 loss at Citi Field gave the Arizona Diamondbacks a three-game sweep, Collins called out his team to the media in a near four-minute rant.
He questioned the players’ effort, their respect for the game and their passion to play. He said that if they didn’t have the constitution to pick up their level of play, that he would cull Triple-A Las Vegas for players who did. Then he stalked out of the interview room without taking a second question and gave the players a 20-minute talking-to.
It was the only thing that he could do. If the Mets don’t start playing better, the organization’s next move could be replacing Collins.
The Mets have lost 11 of their past 15 to drop to 57-57, falling to .500 for the first time since April 20. They’ve dropped out of the running for the NL East title at 10½ games back of the Nationals and sit three games out for the second NL wild card with three teams standing in the way. Three of their four starting infielders and slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes are on the disabled list. Top starter Matt Harvey is lost to season-ending surgery. A significant trade doesn’t seem on the horizon. And the organization won’t sit and do anything when the expectation was that they could return to the World Series.
Collins’ decision to not answer a question after the rant might have been a tactical one. That next question could have been about his job security or whether the players were still responding to his leadership.
Collins wasn’t in the batting orders that produced only five runs in three games and was shut out on Thursday for the first time since June 28. He wasn’t part of the batteries that allowed the Diamondbacks -- including Thursday’s starting pitcher, Braden Shipley -- to steal 13 bases in the series. And he didn’t throw any of the pitches that went for big Arizona hits. But managers of underperforming teams get fired. That’s just a fact.
The Mets are in a stretch of the schedule where they should be making hay by beating up on bad teams, but instead they’re sliding. The Diamondbacks were 21 games under .500 when they arrived. The equally out-of-it San Diego Padres are in next for three games before the Mets go to Arizona for three more. New York has so far met this opportunity by coming up small.
“I don't care who is not here. There are no excuses here. They are major league baseball players,” said Collins, his intensity escalating throughout the diatribe. “I don't care where they came from. I don't care how they got here. The names on their back and on the front of their uniforms say they are a major league baseball player. It starts with them. When you come and when you owe what you do, you have a responsibility to the fans, our fan base, the organization and to yourself -- the respect for this game to come out and grind it out.
“Everybody's been humbled. And those who get out of it stay here a long time. Those who don't? ... They keep getting a little time here and a little time there, but they don't stay. I want the ones who can stay.”
“There has got to be passion to come and play,” Collins continued. “There has got to be a sense of, ‘This is what I do for a living -- the people who pay to see me play are going to see my best effort.’”
Collins didn't single out a player or a group of players for blame, but he did heap credit on second baseman Neil Walker and pointed out the way he ran out a fly ball and was at second base when it came down.
The players didn’t describe Collins’ lecture to them as a dressing-down. Walker said there was “no berating,” but more encouraging them to play the way that got them to the majors. And Kelly Johnson said, “We have a good group of guys that can take it and learn from it, hear it, and use it to get better. When you have a group that pushes back and goes in different directions, that's when things go downhill. But we don't have that group.”
Walker said a couple of players added their voices to Collins’ in the meeting.
Collins finished his interview-room rant by saying, “Starting tomorrow we're going to get after it. And those that don't want to get after it? I'll find some who do, because in Las Vegas there is a whole clubhouse of guys that want to sit in this [clubhouse].”
There’s a little more than seven weeks and 48 games remaining in the season and injured players should start returning in about a week. Even though they looked like toast for the past three days, the Mets really are not done. But the wins need to start coming or Collins could be. He's now done all he can do.