By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
There is no sugar-coating the fact that the end of the Mets’ season early Monday morning came during an animated dugout conversation between Matt Harvey and Terry Collins.
There is also no getting around the fact that the anti-Collins faction, the ones who wanted to see him fired long before the Mets ever lost the 12-inning, Game 5 of the World Series, will grow ever more in number, ever more vocal in their distaste of the 66-year-old manager.
They would be wrong.
It’s just that sometimes things don’t work out.
Some, mostly those who will quickly forget exactly where the Mets stood after a particularly devastating loss to San Diego on July 30, will now place Collins in with Grady Little, and on the surface they might have a point. But this was not that situation. This was not Little throwing away the 2003 pennant to the Yanks in the eighth by acceding to a fateful head nod from an obviously spent Pedro Martinez.
The Red Sox fired Little after that, deservedly so.
Collins will come back next year, just as deservedly as Little was cashiered, because Harvey was perfectly good to go out in that fateful ninth inning. In fact, his confrontation with both pitching coach Danny Warthen and his manager illustrated the readiness, competitiveness, and tough-mindedness that is Matt Harvey.
Perhaps the naysayers will see that once the emotions settle from one of history’s most improbable runs to the World Series.
Of course, Collins’ previous actions in Game 4 will extend his time on the public’s pillory for a time. There, he did make a mistake. Two actually. He left Steve Matz in too long in the sixth, and left Tyler Clippard in too long in the eighth. The result put him in Sunday’s elimination perdicament.
But the Harvey decision was solid, even though Jeurys Familia was warmed up and ready. Even though that his first instinct was to go with his closer, the guy who already had two blown saves in the series.
Harvey had given no indication that he couldn’t finish. He had earned the opportunity. Baffling the Royals with his four-pitch repertoire, he had nursed the single run Curtis Granderson’s leadoff homer afforded him through six innings, and then appeared invincible when Lucas Duda’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning brought in Granderson with a second run.
A leadoff single in the seventh was the only mark on his seventh and eighth.
When Warthen came to him with the message that his night was done, 70 percent of his pitches had gone for strikes. He had struck out nine Royals on a team that simply does not strike out.
He had plenty left in the tank.
And so, the conversations.
“No way. No way!” he was seen saying to Warthen.
And then he strode away from the pitching coach, down the dugout to Collins.
“No way you’re taking me out of this game,” Harvey said, giving one the distinct feeling that if Collins did pull him, he would do so at his own peril. The crowd, in full throat for Harvey, might have done the dirty work itself.
Perhaps Collins figured he had gone with his gut twice before and lost, so why not reverse course? Whatever. It didn’t work.
History will forever remember what happened next. Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer lined an RBI double to left for the first run.
Collins did come out after that, and Familia actually did his job. But Hosmer’s fantastic base running on Salvador Perez’ grounder to a pulled-in David Wright tied the game.
The official report will say the Royals scored five in the 12th to win their first world championship since 1985.
The critics will say Collins lost it for them in the ninth, when he ran Harvey out to try for a complete-game shutout.
They will be wrong.
Harvey deserved to go out there.
And Collins, despite his first instincts, was right to send him back out.
It wasn’t a dumb move.
It’s just that sometimes, things just don’t work out.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino