A season-plus in, Terry Collins has been perfect pitch for Mets
- Updated: May 9, 2012
On November 16, 2010 I penned a post entitled: “The Forgettable Four,” in reference to the men commonly believed at the time to be the front-runners for the vacant New York Mets managerial job. Terry Collins was fourth on my list of desired candidates. Here’s more specifically what I had to say:
Terry Collins: I’ve read a lot, watched a lot and listened a lot. I am not a Terry Collins fan. Is he a passionate baseball man? Yes, I think that is abundantly clear. Is this a man who exhibits an ability to flourish in the NY market? To me, it looks like he would have trouble merely surviving. The traits of defensiveness, extreme emotion and a lack of flexibility outlined by writers and former players, do not bode well for this team or this city and its fans. I just don’t feel it. Completely unscientific. Gut. Wrong.
A week later, the team named Collins the skipper. Well, turns out I (and plenty of other “real” pundits) was dead wrong. I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN FURTHER OFF FROM WHAT HAS BEEN THE REAL TERRY COLLINS EXPERIENCE (CAPS for emphasis and to express my sincere apologies to TC). Terry Collins has been more than any Mets fan could have imagined, and he deserves a heckuva lot more attention than he’s received.
A season-plus into his tenure, Collins has steered the Mets to a 95-98 record. Those numbers may sound pedestrian. However, for anyone who’s followed this team for the past two years, those figures are downright staggering. At the mid-season mark in 2011, I wrote that Collins deserved Manager of the Year consideration. If the current campaign ended today, I’d say the same thing unequivocally. Collins has managed to get his team to play hard night in and night out. Well they haven’t always been as fundamentally sound as he clearly would like, their don’t-quit gene is more prevalent than in a number of its Mets predecessors. And you bet that’s a reflection on their manager.
Collins steered the 2011 Mets through a ridiculous string of injuries, plenty of trade rumors, star departures and a handful on minor leaguers trying to pass for pros. He kept them largely around the .500 mark until a virtually unavoidable late fade. This season he’s guided the Mets to five games over .500 after completing a sweep of the Phillies tonight (again, in comeback fashion). He’s doing it with one star (David Wright) and what is by and large a collection of scrap heap guys and an overwhelming number of players that have never even seen the better half of an MLB season.
Tejada. Nieuwenhuis. Torres. Duda. Valdespin. Nickeas. Baxter. Gee. Davis. Murphy. These are all guys that spent large chunks of last year either nursing injuries and/or playing for teams whose games weren’t even televised. Now, they are all adopting legitimate roles on an 18-13 ballclub. 18-13? Tonight, Rob Johnson started at catcher and Justin Turner at shortstop. Scott Hairston, Andres Torres and Vinny Rottino patrolled the outfield. THINK ABOUT THAT.
What’s even more impressive is that Collins has demonstrated the ideal personality and temperament to navigate this new reality. He’s a wonderfully likable balance of traits that seem so well-suited to the situation. He’s fiery and focused. He’ demands a great deal of his players and defends them with an equal amount of vigor. He’s placed confidence in his guys and confided that his expectations are still high. He is an educator and an energizer. He is both builder and believer.
Collins also been a sound tactical manager, something that should not be understated. How do I judge that? By the always-scientific WTF index. In other words, there are relatively few moves that Terry makes where I think either aloud or in my inside voice “what the f%!k is he doing??!!” Sure, there are moments where I question decisions. But the motivation behind them is still clear, and it’s usually quite simple to determine what is driving the move. The WTF ratio was significantly higher with Bobby V. on account of his frequent Little League-inspired every-guy-has-to-play philosophy. Slick Willie also offered his fair share of bewildering head scratchers. For Jerry Manuel, the WTF index consistently ran at record highs. Some of those moves are mysteries that simply defy explanation.
Terry Collins has eradicated any of the early fears from fans and the media. His lack of “flexibility.” His time away from the Bigs. His age. His ability to relate to the players. Every misguided belief or assumption has been shot to sh*t. Collins has been a revelation. He’s been integral in creating a team that fans want to watch — and want to stay with to watch win. He deserves immense credit, as does Sandy Alderson who’s had our unwavering trust since day one. Things can always turn. No manager is right forever. Plus, these are the Mets. But, for these Mets…in these times…Collins has been the perfect pitch.