NEW YORK — Terry Collins’ decision to leave Matt Harvey in the game for the ninth inning last night will be long-discussed in New York. Maybe second-guessed by some though, as I said last night, it’s hard to second guess. Maybe there were good arguments against it and maybe those good arguments were right. But there was a lot of emotion and drama and gut instinct to it all as well. On the part of Harvey. On the part of Collins. On the part of fans watching. Everyone.
The first question asked to Collins in the postgame press conference was, not surprisingly, about that decision. And Collins, somewhat surprisingly given how managers tend to defend their pitching decisions, admitted that it was all about his heart:
I told him that we were going — that was enough. And he just came over and said, “I want this game. I want it bad. You’ve got to leave me in.” I said, “Matt, you’ve got us exactly where we wanted to get you.” He said, “I want this game in the worst way.” So obviously I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players. And I trust them. And so I said, “Go get ’em out.” And he went out and the lead-off walk started it off.
But if you’re going to let him just face one guy, you shouldn’t have sent him out there. When the double hit, that’s when I said, I’ve got to see if we can get out of this with only one run. And it didn’t work. It was my fault.
You have to give Collins credit for not hiding behind “what [he] saw out there” or “matchups” or alleged inside information the Mets and their scouts had or some mildly condescending reason that, in some small way, would work to defend against criticism. We hear that kind of stuff from managers all the time and it’s right enough of the time to where we are, in effect, more hesitant to criticize.
I’m not going to second guess Collins. I think I would’ve done the same thing he did in his place. Kudos to Collins for believing in his pitcher and standing up for that belief after the fact, knowing that the less-enlightened segments of society would pounce on him and Harvey for it in particularly obnoxious ways.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.