A season-plus in, Terry Collins has been perfect pitch for Mets

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.

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About the Author: Cecilio's Scribe is the founder of The Legend of Cecilio Guante and a generally pessimistic fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. A fine NYC-based gentlemen who hones his marketing skills as his primary trade by day. Husband, chef, father of a newborn and after-hours blogger by night. Proud alum of the mighty Big Red of Cornell. University. Hot sauce devotee. Staunch protester of the continued wussifcation of American sports. Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick.

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  1. Michael says:

    The phrase, ‘these are the mets’ makes me laugh. There have been hard times for this team, but to compare them to the cubs and other sports teams that have won nothing for decades is getting surreal..and misinforming

  2. Nate W. says:

    Your comments about Collins before they hired him were spot on. Those factors just haven’t led to of his demise or really been a problem much at all. They all still sit there right below the surface waiting to be an issue. Lets just hope they can stay there, the media plays nice nice, and his motivation continues to be his most obvious feature.

    • LCG says:

      i’d like to think that some of the preconceptions were just that…think maybe it’s a different story if this team is more loaded with veteran stars. based on their makeup, he seems like the right guy at the right time. like i said, things can always change quickly

  3. Val Veeta says:

    I couldn’t agree more. When Collins was hired, I didn’t understand it, and I thought Wally Blackman would be the perfect guy to mold the youth movement that would become the Mets. While I still think Wally will manage the Mets in a few years, Terry has been the perfect fit for these rebuilding years. He had a great quote the other day about managing.g young players, they will either thrill you with their energy or make you pull yourhair out with their rookie mistakes. Thanks to his insistence on focus and fundamentals, its been a pleasure to watch the Mets without cringing. If the Mets can sustain their excellent play, I think Terry will be a candidate for Manager of the year again this year.

    • LCG says:

      Thanks, Val. Appreciate the comment. As much as i love backman, his schtick is almost getting to be too extreme. i want to pull for him, but we’ll see. for now, terry appears to the man for the task at hand. couldn’t agree more that this season has been surprisingly pleasant. i came in with zero expectations, and it’s been nice to give a sh*t for a bit.

  4. scott from peekskill says:

    Last night Keith mentioned that the Mets have “aggressive patience at the plate.” I believe this has been TC’s influence and the whole line up seems to be listening to him and it works.

    His use of the bullpen has been awful at times though and his line up card makes no sense at times and then at times it is insightful and nuanced. I like his use of Murphy at #5 and his slow descent of Ike down the order has been a work of art and not just a sudden jolt. I truly believe he understands the needs of his players.

    I predict his next move is going to be an ejection from a game when the umpire squeezes the strike zone again. I can’t believe he didnt do it in Miami or last night against the Brewers, but it is coming.

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