"I went against just about everything I stand for, and that's taking a chance to hurt your whole ballclub for the next four months for an instant decision of glory in one inning," Collins said. "Is it worth it? I believe in the organization and I believe in the team, and I'm not here to destroy any of it. In my heart, I was very, very excited for Johan, very excited for everybody, but I kind of felt like I had made the wrong move."
Collins thinks long-term with every decision he makes, but it becomes even more important with his ace returning from shoulder surgery and still unsure of how far he can actually push his $137 million left arm.
Collins received a vote of confidence from general manager Sandy Alderson and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, but he continues to struggle with his decision as he waits for Santana to see how his shoulder responds and formulates a plan to move back the left-hander's next start a day or two.
"When I went home last night and sat down, all I could think about was, 'How am I going to get this guy to pitch again in the near future, the next five days?'" Collins said. "We can't rush him back. We have to make sure he's going to be OK."
Santana insisted he felt fine a day removed from his second consecutive shutout -- the first came on only 96 pitches against the Padres, also at Citi Field. But he recognized it will take a few days to recover and throw a bullpen session, and he is not against delaying his next start to ensure his shoulder is healthy.
There was just no way that was affecting his decision on the mound.
"More than thinking about risking anything and my next start, it was more about 'It's there,'" Santana said. "I didn't mean to make this happen, but I'm not going to let it go away, because I may never have a chance to do it again. Rather than thinking about something ahead, I was just trying to do my job then."
Collins said his heart told him to take Santana out after he said in his pregame news conference that he would limit the 33-year-old to about 110 pitches.
But the second-year Mets manager was aware of the history -- that after 50-plus seasons of sending the likes of Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez (who threw two no-hitters at Class A under Collins) to the mound, the franchise had never had a no-hitter -- and that risk was just as great.
"If this guy goes down, it would be pretty drastic for us," Collins said. "But also to understand there's history in the making and in the moment, in that particular moment, he wasn't coming out. I wasn't taking him out."
There was a point in the game where Collins admitted to thinking it might be best if St. Louis just got a hit, but he also realized he was taking part in "one of the most exciting evenings I've ever spent in baseball."
And he realized pulling Santana would not be easy.
"The fight that would've taken place on the mound had I taken him out would have been a bigger story than the no-hitter," Collins laughed.
So he sent Santana to the plate in the seventh inning, and when the starter took the mound for eighth inning, it was his game until the Cardinals recorded a hit.
They never did.
"I knew Mets fans were waiting for this," Santana said. "This is theirs, too."