It was a great World Series, despite lasting only five games. Kansas City, based on their 4-1 victory over the Mets, appeared to dominate the series, but that obscures how even it really was. The Mets led in several games, forcing the Royals’ dramatic comebacks and late- (and extra-) inning drama.
Game 5 proved to be the clincher for Kansas City. Three outs from forcing Game 6, New York Manager Terry Collins had a decision to make. His starter, Matt Harvey, cruised through the first 8 innings, allowing no runs to the vaunted Kansas City offense. Yet, his pitch count was up and Collins had Jeurys Familia, his dominant reliever, at his disposal. Appearing to decide in favor of handing the game and the Mets two-run lead to Familia, Collins sent word to Harvey that his night was over. Good job, Matt. You’ve allowed us to live to play another day.
The manager made a decision and that was it.
Only it wasn’t.
Harvey stormed excitedly to Collins’ location in the dugout and demanded he be allowed to pitch the 9th inning. Collins conceded. Harvey walked the first batter, gave up a double to the next. Familia entered, but an error by first baseman Lucas Duda allowed the tying run to score. In extra innings, the Mets lost.
Collins made his decision, then made the ill-fated reversal after listening to Matt Harvey, who naturally wanted to finish what he started. Harvey is a professional athlete with lots of adrenaline and ego, who felt he would cruise through the 9th as he had done the previous 8. As any player would, Harvey wanted to keep playing, to keep attempting to help his team, to show what he could do.
Collins caved to Harvey’s demands and it cost him and his team.
Coach, here’s the lesson:
Don’t listen to Matt Harvey.
You have lots of Matt Harveys around you. Here’s how to resist their demands.
Make decisions based on facts, not emotion. I’ve never seen something good result from a decision based on pure emotion. Usually, our emotional decision making is as erratic as our emotions. Look past the emotion–past your anger, elation, pride, pain, or whatever you’re feeling–and look to the facts. Your emotion might tell you to respond one way, but the facts of the situation (and the facts of what will happen if you decide based on emotion) often dictate a different response. This isn’t a call to stoicism, but a call to refuse emotion as the ultimate factor in what we do, what we say, and how we respond.
Refuse to let your best players run the team. Harvey thought he was invincible. It would have been an insult to remove him after 8 scoreless innings. Collins should have insulted him anyway. Instead, he let a great player do the manager’s job. Players play. Managers manage. Coaches coach. Parents parent. Be sure you know everyone’s job and act accordingly. You’re the coach. Make a decision and let even the best players deal with it.
Don’t take the pulse of the parents and fans. Citi Field’s sellout crowd chanted Harvey’s name. They cheered wildly when he returned to the mound for the 9th inning. Then, they all sat in silence when Harvey proved ineffective. Fans are fickle. Parents are more so. If you’re coaching largely based on their wishes, you’ll be blown back and forth every minute of every day. Collins would have been second-guessed for not leaving Harvey in the game, had Familia blown the lead. But he would have been hailed as courageous if Familia had closed it out and forced Game 6. Make decisions. Don’t conduct popular opinion polls.
Expect criticism for unpopular decisions. Harvey wouldn’t have been happy. The fans wouldn’t have been happy. But Collins was right in his first estimate, that it was time to bring in a reliever. Criticism kept him from making the right decision. There’s no sense in reveling in the fact that people criticize you. Being criticized isn’t always a sign of great leadership. Sometimes it’s a sign that you’re being rude. But, sometimes criticism is just a natural part of leading and making decisions. Expect it. Deal with it. Move forward.
Own your poor decisions. Collins admitted that leaving Harvey in the game was the wrong move. I admire that. This one decision didn’t cost the Mets the series. He could have stood on that logic, but he didn’t. He owned his poor decision, didn’t blame his players, and will likely be better in the future.
Don’t listen to Matt Harvey. He’s not the coach. You are.