By Joe Rini
“It gets late out early,” so goes the Yogi Berra-ism about the perils of early-evening shadows in the outfield. Yet, one might say a similar shadow is hanging over the 24-32 Mets, who perilously trailed the first place Nationals by 11.5 games at the end of the weekend. With that in mind, I asked manager Terry Collins prior to the game on June 2, a 12-7 defeat to the Pirates, how the team finds a balance between not panicking yet also playing with a sense of urgency.
Collins said, “One of the things that’s helped us is the core of this team went through what we did last year…They’re a veteran club and there’s no reason to panic. We’re very, very aware that we have a lot of games to play and one hot streak can get you right back in it. What we’ve got to do is set our minds to it and go out every night and play as good as we can play.”
Looking forward to the return of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, Collins added, “Our pitching is starting to look better than it had been which helps us a lot. We came into the season thinking we were going to ride our pitching. That has not been the case.”
Prior to the game on June 2, I also had a chance to chat on the field with Mets bench coach Dick Scott about his current role on the coaching staff and the prior role he held as the Director of Player Development for the Mets from 2013 to 2015. Scott moved from chairing Player Development to the dugout seat next to Terry Collins in 2016 and “synching up with TC” was the term he used to describe the process of learning to work with Collins.
A typical game can start with them chatting about how long they need the starter to go before tapping the bullpen although as Scott noted, unlike football, a manager can’t script the first 10 plays of a game and each game has a flow. The plan might be to get at least five innings from the starter, but if he only goes four, they need to get someone ready in the bullpen.
I asked if he felt like they were matching wits with the manager in the opposing dugout and Scott said yes as he mentioned how they’ll have meetings before the start of the series to go over things like which batters the opposing managers would pinch-hit for. Scott added that while everybody feels badly when the team loses, he said the manager really feels it or in his words, “The manager wears the losses.” Scott chuckled that he had a sense of how a manager “wears the loss” when he had to step in for Collins after an ejection with Scott’s decisions riding on every pitch.
When I asked Scott what skills a Director of Player Development needed, he answered, “What skills doesn’t he need?” as he described a 24/7 job that could encompass everything from front office duties like dealing with agents and contracts to working on the field in uniform with minor league players. He said some teams separate the roles but he preferred to also have an on the field role.
Speaking both as someone who signed out of high school with the New York Yankees organization following the 1981 amateur draft and as a former player development director, Scott said although the lure of money may be tempting, the jump from high school ball to the minor leagues is steep and many young high school seniors might benefit from more seasoning in junior college instead of immediately jumping to pro ball. He also described the importance of team psychologists in helping young players deal with issues ranging from homesickness to personal issues that demand immediate attention.
Listening to Scott’s words and tone as he expressed concern for the minor league players entrusted to him, he’s the kind of person a parent would want their son to play for.