This evening, Mets manager Terry Collins participated in a conference call with Mets bloggers. The transcript is as follows:
Matthew Cerrone: I’m a notorious optimist. I’m excited for the team. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. What do you think this team’s weakest link is?
We have had so many positives this spring – one thing which concerns me the most is keeping our good players on the field. They have had a history of having some bad injuries. Hopefully they are past those and we can get the amount of games and at bats we need for the team to be successful.
Greg Prince: Its been 12 years since you last managed. A lot I am sure seems familiar, but I’m sure a lot might be new. Regarding roster decisions, is the satisfaction the same to tell someone he’s made the team? How hard is it to tell someone they didn’t make it?
I’ll start with the positive side. So many players who have made the team have played Major League Baseball before. But take Brad Emaus or a Pedro Beato, and to see their eyes light up is special. Its the goal for everyone who has ever played. Then there are some of these guys who came in on a minors deal, like Blaine Boyer – he’s never been so excited, and said he’s never wanted to make a team like he has with the Mets here. That’s the fun part. However, its never fun to release a player. There is no good way to put it. Physically they’re gifted enough to be invited to an MLB camp, and they can do it again.
Kerel Cooper: A lot of talk this off-season has been how good the Phillies are and their rotation. You can talk about the Braves, Nationals, and Marlins all having improved. Do you think there is an extra sense of motivation to get off to a good start?
Its very important to get off to a good start. It breeds confidence in the club and the fans. I think wins in April are just as important as the ones in September. I think we have to get out of the gate on a positive note and thats why I am so excited about how we’ve played over the last ten days. We’ve got a lot of ways to beat the opposition.
Michael Baron: Of all the players you’ve managed this Spring, who would you say has been the most professional in camp?
It’s such a hard question to answer. Everyone has handled things so professionally here. It’s hard to hand pick one person; from the rookies to the veterans. Right now, I’d have to look at the Carlos Beltran situation, and the day he decided to go to RF. He did what was best for the team, and that was really impressive coming from a guy like that.
Ed Marcus: How do you feel regarding the importance pitch counts?
There are many studies done about pitch counts – every game is different – a lot has to do with the other team’s approach. I don’t think in certain occasions, there is a real concern about pitch counts.
Mike Silva: You have some nice outfield depth – do you view Scott Hairston or Willie Harris as long term replacements, if necessary? Or do you think someone like LucasDuda or Fernando Martinez can do the job?
One of the reasons Harris and Hairston are here is because they are good core players. They know how to come off the bench, and you won’t miss a beat. If Bay was out a week or ten days, you could platoon those guys, and get a lot out of them. I think they’re more valuable to come off the bench than a younger guy might be.
Shannon Shark: Managing a season vs. a game – how do you approach the bullpen over the course of the season?
I learned from Walter Alston – he told me don’t be afraid to get beat every once in a while, instead of burning the bullpen out in a game you can’t win. I think you need to read your bullpen enough to know who is rested and can give multiple innings on a given night.
Steve Keane: This Spring, camp has been upbeat, although there have been a few bumps in the road. It seems the players have fed off your enthusiasm. Over the course of the season, there will be losing streaks, and in the past, those spread and festered. The Mets, over the past few years, haven’t been known to be mentally and physically tough. How do you combat that?
Not everyone has the answer. People think there is a process we go through to get through it. In a losing streak, a lot of guys get concerned with individual stats, and we need to combat that. Its all about communication, and making sure they continue to believe in themselves. Not sitting back, and waiting for things to happen.
Michael Branda: How can you make sure this team is as consistent on the road as they are at home?
I will address this Friday. The crowd has nothing to do with it. When you play in New York, there is a huge response from the fans. You have to used the negativism as a strength. We have to prepare ourselves differently (for road games). We will try to address it in a different manner, and do a better job of it.
Matt Artus: Clarify the use of Francisco Rodriguez – Is he a one inning pitcher, or more? How often will he pitch in non-save situations, and/or high pressure situations prior to eighth inning?
I doubt you’ll see him in the seventh inning, although you might see him in the eighth inning. A lot of times you have to get that big out in the eighth inning. Also, the more you use a closer multiple innings, the less you’ll have him later in the week. Rodriguez is on board for more than one inning at a time. Probably won’t be more than two innings.
Mike Donato: Regarding the regulars, ie Carlos Beltran, David Wright, etc. who have to be “managed” the whole season. How are you going to manage their workload?
Carlos and I have already discussed the upcoming ten day period, and resting that leg, so he can continue on a positive note and his legs can get stronger and stronger for the hot months. Even if he’s on the bench, he can come up and make a big difference. We hope to have him in five out of seven games to start off. Regarding Reyes, he goes out there, gives all he has, and I want him out there a lot so I have to be wise enough to maybe give him days off before an off-day. One thing we have to do, because we aren’t very deep, is to make sure we are ready to compete later in the summer.
Caryn Rose: Some players have described you as a “players manager”. How do you feel about that, and what does that mean to you?
I think it means a lot – in the past, I was probably not a players manager. Through the years, I have realized the importance of constant communication, and never taking anything for granted. That is done with experience – from my first few years, I was worried about only managing the game, and thinking everyone was on board with it. I look at it as a compliment.
Jason Fry: Following up on Caryns question and learning as a manager – what have you learned this Spring?
Ive been thinking about that a lot – how to put the players into the most positive situations to be successful. This team is good, and they believe in themselves, and its important to make sure that continues. Everyone goes through down times. It happens with every baseball team. The minute it looks like they’re getting frustrated, I have to bring the positive makeup.
Joe Janish: Regarding offensive strategy – you have a couple of sluggers in a big park which isn’t conducive to the long ball. Whats your overall strategy in using stolen bases, bunts, and “small ball”?
Every game is different. You have to manage the game according to where you’re playing. You have to change your philosophy. We have to be smart about it, and use Citi Field to our advantage. We have to adjust according to the conditions on a given day. It’s all according to the game situation, and then maybe where you’re playing.
Eric Simon: I feel like big league managers have really lost the art of arguing with umpires. Can you talk about your approach to arguing calls and, for you, what causes a situation to escalate from a simple exchange to an animated kerfuffle?
Once in a while, number one, it’s part of the game, and one of the things that’s changing in this game is how umpires take offense to the fact that you’re going to come out and argue, and I think they believe that because instant replay is now a huge part of our game today. Years ago when the manager/umpire argument was all part of it, and they understood it, and they listened a little bit more, they had some comments, but now they try to defend themselves to the max, and there was also a few years ago, when Sandy was in charge of the umpires, the big thing was, ‘hey, get the thing right’, and there were more conferences among umpires to get the play correctly. Today, one of the things they’ll try to do is talk you into some arguments, they might be mad because you’ve been complaining about balls and strikes all night long, so they’ve had enough, so now once in a while they’ll talk you into coming out and having a big argument, really, a lot of it leads to how you approach it when you go out there to argue.
I’m an emotional guy, I have a great intenseness, I truly believe in my players, I truly believe in supporting my players, and once in a while you go out there and you say the wrong thing, but I’ve also been out there where the umpire will bait you into saying the wrong thing too by saying something back, and that’s where I think umpires today are changing a little bit. Years ago, umpires would never do that. They’d let you have your say, they’d give you some return stuff, and hey, let’s move on, let’s go play the game because it’s all part of it. Today they need to protect themselves by having the ability to eject the manager or the player, sometimes a little bit before it’s necessary. I think ultimately everybody has to understand that those people that sit on those seats, they come to see the players play, so there needs to be a little bit more patience on their part.
Scott Mandel: Looking at the roster over the years and now, it seems there is a great dependence for one player to be in the lineup, and when that guy isn’t there, it affects performance as well as having a psychological effect. How do you make it more of a well rounded offense?
There are players on this team which bring so much offensively, and when they’re out, the rest of the lineup struggles to figure out how to score runs.The guys who will replace guys who are resting, I will expect that guy to pick up his play. I don’t want them to say ‘well, Jose’s not here so we can’t win’. It’s going to take all 25 guys here to be successful.