How can you have a “must-win” game in April?

Associated Press

Still sort of wondering about that Mets game yesterday. They won, which is cool. But the circumstances of the win and the stuff surrounding it all is a head-scratcher.

After the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said “Huge win! That’s one we had to have!” And then added “We couldn’t sacrifice another game. Had to win this game to get ourselves going again.” Which I would normally take as sarcasm — a reaction to panicking members of the media, who we mentioned earlier in the week — but in this case he was apparently serious.

Serious by his acts in the game, for one thing. He used reliever Jim Henderson in the seventh inning in a day game after a night game in which he threw 34 pitches on his reconstructed shoulder. Henderson’s velocity was off and he got into trouble, but other relievers got him out of it. Then he used Jeurys Familia who, in addition to being sick this week, has been used a lot. And he went with him for a five-out save. Those words were not sarcasm, then. He really considered the Marlins on April 13 to be a must-win game.

Which, OK, he’s the manager of a pennant-winning team, he can approach a game any way he wants to. But what is vexing here is that, apparently, he considered this a must-win game not because of what he saw in the situation, but because of what he heard from that same, often hysterical New York media. Here’s Collins:

“The perception is that there’s no energy here, which is completely not true. That we’re not prepared, we’re overconfident or we’re not taking things seriously. I heard that last night, and it made me sick to my stomach that people actually think that this team that accomplished what they did last year would have any semblance of that type of makeup. So I said: ‘You know what? We got to win this game today. We got to show people we mean business here.’ And that’s why I did what I did with Jeurys today.”

I’m not sure how to read that in any way other than “the media said we look bad, so I showed them.” He turned a getaway day game against the Marlins into a “must-win” and pushed the redline on a couple of relievers to do it. Which is an absolutely remarkable thing to do simply to shut the media up. A thing, I think, that can only really happen in New York.