|Mets Manager Terry Collins hugs pitcher Johan Santana after|
Santana had thrown the first no-hitter in Mets history last night.
Many Mets have come close before. As we watched we knew we'd seen this movie before, but still we hoped we'd see the improbable. We'd see 50 years of history vanquished.
While Santana did the hard work on the mound, one man had a very difficult call to make as the game wore on: manager Terry Collins.
The Mets have been a revelation this year and a lot of the credit must go to Collins. The team has a self-belief and never-say-die attitude that was totally lacking in the talented, but under-performing teams in the years before Collins took over.
The Mets used to be considered soft, quick to buckle when the pressure was on. Now the Mets are bulldogs, a reflection of their manager.
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Collins, a college football player at Eastern Michigan, has a football mentality when it comes to playing baseball and playing with injuries. He doesn't care for the molly-coddling that seems so much a part of the modern game.
That brings me back to Santana. Nobody is closer to Collins in that bulldog mentality than Santana.
Collins managed the Mets last year without Santana, who missed all of 2011 after major shoulder surgery. He's back this year and Collins and his team of coaches have managed Santana perfectly. No pitcher has ever successfully come back from the operation Santana underwent. For that reason, Collins' main issue with Santana is holding him back, removing him from games when Santana would rather stay in.
That's why last night must have been such torture for Collins. He has set a limit for Santana of 110 pitches per game. Santana went past that limit with 5 outs remaining in the game.
Collins left Santana in. He threw 134 pitches to complete the game. I'm sure this morning Collins, with the euphoria fading, is wondering if he made the right decision. Did he hurt Santana? Did he hurt the team's chances of having a magical 2012? Did he risk too much for the sake of a number?
That's what makes baseball great and strange at the same time. I don't think there is another sport where a manager would take such a chance that had no bearing on winning either a game or championship. That's what Collins did last night, however.
I can't speak for Santana, but I bet he feels it was a risk worth taking. I think I can speak for the fans, however, when I say that we all wanted last night. No matter how the rest of this year plays out we won't second guess Collins' decision to leave Santana in to finish last night's game. We wanted that moment, a moment we thought we would never see.