NEW YORK — Three days later, Terry Collins keeps getting asked the same question.
Collins was going to relieve Matt Harvey with a two-run lead and World Series Game 5 heading to the ninth inning on Sunday night, then allowed Harvey to persuade him not to make the change. Harvey gave up a walk and an RBI double, closer Jeurys Familia came in and allowed the tying run to score with help from a shaky defense, and the Kansas City Royals went on to win in 12 innings to take the title.
So what would Collins do differently?
“I would have brought in Familia. That’s what I’d do different,” he said to laughter. “Other than that, I would have not done anything different.”
After the Mets first World Series appearance since 2000, Collins was rewarded with a two-year contract. General manager Sandy Alderson approached Collins on Monday, the sides finalized the deal Tuesday and announced it at a news conference Wednesday.
Collins said Sunday night he would have trouble sleeping for a few days. He received about 20 supportive texts from baseball people, and that helped ease the self-second guessing. Collins thought back to an exchange after the game with pitching coach Dan Warthen.
“He said, ‘Look, everybody agreed with what you did,”’ Collins explained. “I said: Everybody but me.”
“To be honest, it was a no-win situation,” Collins went on. “If I bring in Familia and he gives up two, you’re an idiot.”
That left Collins to think: “You know what, we made a decision. It didn’t work. Let’s get ready for next year.”
At 66 the oldest manager in the major leagues, Collins said the challenge will be greater. He told the players that early Monday morning after the final out.
“We will now be the hunted. There will be targets on the backs,” he recalled. “Next year that effort has got to be more, because it’s going to be that much harder. No longer are we going to sneak up on anybody. ... We’ve got to walk out there with a little bit of a swagger that we’re legit and this wasn’t a fluke.”
New York ended a streak of six straight losing seasons since Citi Field opened, finished at 90-72 to win the NL East by seven games over second-place Washington, then beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in a five-game Division Series and swept the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series.
Led by a Fab Four in its starting rotation – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz – the Mets hope for a streak of successful seasons, when Michael Conforto takes a more central role in the offense and is joined by top prospect Brandon Nimmo.
“We’re not going to get old in front of our eyes,” Collins said. “We’re going to try to avoid that because we’ve got some good young talent coming, and that young talent keeps energy on this ballclub.”
The news conference was cut short when general manager Sandy Alderson collapsed while talking with reporters. Alderson was able to walk away, and the Mets said he fainted, caused by a combination of skipping breakfast and time under hot television lights.
“Terry, I think, is appreciated by the players, even by this group as well as the fans because of his authenticity,” Alderson said.
“Terry tries to be as honest as he can be without throwing people under the bus, and his ability to communicate and maintain the level of commitment in the clubhouse regardless of circumstance, I think, has always been a tremendous strength on his part.”
Collins said this contract may not be his last. He already was thinking about spring training, saying because of the late end of this season, his starting pitchers may skip a turn or two when the exhibition season begins.
“Maybe even when the years starts, not to worry about somebody going seven or eight (innings) out of the gate,” he said.
Still, he doesn’t expect any innings limits on the Fab Four. And Alderson said he doesn’t anticipate trading any of his starting pitchers for offense.
“Can’t see it happening,” Alderson said. “You never knows what comes up, but I think it’s unlikely.”
Payroll is expected to go up, but expect changes.
Slugger Yoenis Cespedes, acquired from Detroit at the July 31 trade deadline, is a free agent. So is Daniel Murphy, who hit home runs in six straight playoff games, then made a pair of key errors at second base in the World Series. Alderson said the Mets will decide Friday whether to make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Murphy -- an offer that if rejected would result in New York receiving an extra high draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
Finding offense to complement the rotation and more bullpen depth is key.
“Our starting pitching is second to none. We have the quality. We have the depth,” Alderson said. “We have to make sure that we have the health, to the extent that that’s possible to ensure.”
After the Royals lost to San Francisco in Game 7 of last year’s World Series, Kansas City players said the defeat motivated them through 2015. Collins hope his players have a similar reaction.
“There’s going to be a huge challenge next year to return and to use that feeling, that hey, look, we don’t experience this again, as a motivational factor when we get to camp,” he said.