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Keidel: Terry Collins Still Regrets Sending Harvey Back Out In Game 5, And That's A Shame

By Jason Keidel
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Tom Verducci recently wrote a Sports Illustrated feature on Mets manager Terry Collins, painting a 50-year montage of his baseball life.

The axis of the piece, of course, was his decision to leave Matt Harvey in Game 5 of the World Series.

The move failed, of course. The Mets lost the game and the World Series. But to suggest it was because of that single decision is silly. The Mets lost that series on perhaps six different occasions. No team in the history of baseball had lost more late-inning leads in one Fall Classic.

All the throaty, backseat historians who assert that Collins should have yanked Harvey from Game 5 of the World Series are the same ones who were chest-out in the stands, shrieking "Har-vey!" and clapping until they couldn't feel their fingers at the sight of of the young ace bounding back to the mound.

And let's not act like Collins had Sandy Koufax in the bullpen. Or Mariano Rivera.

For all his October dominance, Jeurys Familia fell from his throne in the Fall Classic. He surrendered a home run in Game 1. He surrendered two hits and a run (though unearned) in just two-thirds of an inning in Game 4. So in two appearances before Game 5 he'd surrendered three hits, a homer and two runs in two innings.

So in one move the Mets fell from orbit to obit. That's just the capricious nature of sports. You can make the right move and the wrong result slaps you in the mouth. Just because a tactic fails doesn't mean it's flawed.

Kudos to Collins for having the stones to stick with his guy. Kudos to Harvey's hubris. You don't get to be the big man in the Big Apple with a crisis of conscience or an opaque self-image.

Had Harvey completed the shutout, you'd be begging the Mets to build a Matt Harvey statue in front of  Citi Field, if not in center field.

Collins made a decision based on instinct and the aggregate experience of 50 years in baseball. Would 51 years have made him a better manager? Would it have spawned a better decision? Unfortunately, some fans have misinterpreted the move to mean that Collins has lost touch with the modern metrics of baseball.

"Old school" has become a euphemism for rigid, for cigar-chomping geriatrics who still dwell in the Dead Ball Era. Give me a good eye over a spreadsheet. Collins has clearly lost touch with the nouveau cultures and egos of today's player.

Nonsense. The intimate SI piece proved the reverse, that Collins learned acute and acutely painful lessons from his Homeric journey across the American map. That includes a player revolt in Anaheim that all but forced him to resign and to be resigned to the notion that he'd never get another managing gig.

One of baseball's charms is its historical prerogative, its quirks, its mutating dimensions. Managers, scouts and executives rely on an amalgam of metrics, from physical gifts to guile. Football teams enter a game with up to 15 scripted plays, no matter the down and distance. Baseball can't be like that, with too many variables based on the last batter.

And it wasn't as if Harvey was struggling up to the ninth inning. After seven innings, he'd allowed just four hits on 93 pitches. He extended the shutout after eight, retiring three batters on nine pitches.

Verducci was quick to frame Harvey's plunging potency after the 100th pitch -- .206 batting average against before hitting the century mark, while .373 thereafter -- and the fact that he had not thrown a complete game in 115 starts as a Met. But there's still no physical or metaphysical wall between the eighth and ninth innings.

Often a manager pulls a pitcher with the next start in mind. But this was Game 5 of the World Series, with six months of rest ahead. And you don't have to be Ken Burns to recall a time when the orthodoxy didn't work in a big-game situation.

Not to mention, Harvey was supposed to pitch 180 innings in 2015. Entering Game 5 against the Royals, he'd thrown 208. Were the pundits or the public clamoring for Collins to sit Harvey for the rest of the World Series? Where was all the outrage before he took the mound in the first? Either the rules apply or they don't.

Collins largely learned his craft at the hip of Jim Leyland, baseball's last Marlboro Man. The baritone skipper of the Pirates and Tigers (with stops in Florida and Colorado) whose resume needs no defense, had no issue with Collins' loyalty to Harvey.

Collins doesn't share his mentor's confidence. "Certainly the Harvey decision is the only thing that stays with me," he told Sports Illustrated.

That's a shame. Collins showed the blue-collar toughness we so admire in Gotham. Not one New Yorker had a dream bubble that included the Mets in the World Series last year. Collins' career arc had one more big-time stop because he believed in himself when no one else did.

It's so easy to lament the decision four months hence. It's a shame Collins regrets it today, because it took guts, faith and fidelity to send Harvey back out.

In fact, Terry, if you are faced with the same situation in the next Fall Classic, do the right thing. Do it again.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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