Much ink has been spilled on Terry Collins’ sparing use of young outfielder Michael Conforto, who showed great promise in his rookie season last year. He would no doubt be just the injection of youthful non-injured-hitter the 2016 Mets’ lineup needs. But few have dared to look beneath the shroud of sabermetrics to see the truth of what has really happened—the bond and breakage between Collins and Conforto is much bigger than baseball; is in fact the stuff of myth! Or, at least, the stuff of primetime drama.
Clubhouse of Cards
Collins invites the rookie to his home to have a threesome in order to secure a bond of trust, allegiance, and obedience. But the very next day at Nationals Park, Conforto repeatedly fails to make contact with the ball while facing Gio Gonzalez, refusing, too, Collins’ command that he bunt. Enraged by this unabashed display of betrayal, Collins burns Conforto’s favorite BBQ restaurant to the ground. He tells the press Conforto is being optioned to Vegas but actually relegates him to the clubhouse janitor, where Conforto wields an angry mop and considers whether and when to divulge the manager’s secrets.
During Spring Training, Collins invites the players over for a picnic at his beachside rental—he’s heard a theory that bonding is important to a team’s performance. In a tragic motor-boating crash with Conforto at the helm, Collins’ younger sister is lost at sea. Conforto tries to save her, but he cannot, the heartbreak compounded by the unrelenting beauty of the Floridian coast.
Though they all mourn the incident as an unfortunate accident, it’s clear that Colllins’ grief has fermented into something more. Meanwhile a narrative voiceover, which seems to appear and vanish at will with little regard for the rules of good storytelling, booms overhead suggesting that Collins has a sinister plan for revenge in mind. Upon hearing the voice, the rest of the team advises Conforto to quickly develop a mechanical defect in his swing so that when they fly off to Queens, he can stay safely in Florida, or even better, be sent to Vegas. It’s easy to do; his guilt has wrecked his mental game. For now.
As the rest of the team boards the plane, a child claiming to be Bartolo’s appears on the tarmac. He is handed a stack of 50s and never heard from again.
Collins receives a heart-in-throat call at 4 AM in early May—Michael Conforto, dressed as a woman, pretending to be mute, and having stolen an egg and cheese on a roll from a bodega, has been arrested. The police chief strikes a deal: send Conforto to Vegas, and he won’t let the press hear a word of it; he really wants to screw his brother-in-law in their fantasy baseball league. Eager to avoid a PR headache, Collins eagerly obliges.
Was it an alliance double-crossed? Did one eat the other’s food? Give their position away by popping his Bubblicious with too much gusto? Are they just on one another’s last nerves after too much time in the underground shelter? Who knows—it’s the goddamn zombie apocalypse, why is baseball even still a thing?
After being rescued from a bunker full of weird religious sex stuff, Conforto happily reintegrates into society by way of living on the cheap in the closet of a garden apartment in Bed-Stuy, which he shares with an effeminate Broadway hopeful. His roommate, who has an upcoming audition, is up late preparing his operatic scales and Conforto–kept awake by the singing–oversleeps and is awoken by Collins banging on his front door.
The landlord, assuming Collins is another goddamn gentrifier, accosts him by jumping from her second story window onto his back, backing off only when Collins lets out a string of swears so vile it is clear he is definitely not a dreaded yuppie. She has, however, broken Collins’ collarbone, and for the trouble, Collins banishes Conforto back to Triple-A once more. Conforto skips contentedly into the sunset with his knapsack, glad to return to the magical land of shiny palaces, acrobats, and all-you-can-eat buffets.
Collins drafts Conforto into being his assistant in a grand plan to cook meth and sell it to pay for Bobby Bonilla and a little extra spending money in the wake of Madoff. The two work surprisingly well together in the business, but when Collins’s cousin, an NYPD detective, starts to notice his strange behavior, Collins quickly draws out and shifts the blame to Conforto. Conforto is sent back to Vegas, and rehab, until it all blows over.
Upon a return from Vegas, Collins schedules a series of public appearances to generate buzz and goodwill, but every morning Conforto shows up to greet the media with another insane neck or knuckle tattoo. The internet is aflutter with the new badass images, the MLB is breathing down Collins’ own untattooed neck, and from the stress he breaks out in an unsightly flesh-eating rash. The umpire takes one look at Collins and ejects him from the game. “Go home and get some rest; this is bad for the brand,” says the ump. Unwilling to leave, Collins is dragged from the field, cursing Conforto as he goes.
The then 22-year-old has a strong showing in his 2015 rookie season, slashing .270/.335/.506 across his first 56 games in the majors, and joining the hard-slugging Mets in their run-up to the World Series. Shockingly, though, he appears in only 94 games in 2016, batting .215/.304/.409, spending most of the season on one long perpetual plane ride.
Or so we think. Conforto’s actually been playing for a team in an alternate universe this whole time, one for which he hits .422/.483/.727 with nine home runs in 33 games. Collins, trapped in the digestive goo of a faceless monster in the Upside Down, is helpless to recall him back to Queens.
In fact, Collins, trapped in the digestive goo of a faceless monster in the Upside Down explains quite a lot.
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