Terry Collins, Manager of the Year. Let that one marinate in the ole cranium for a moment or two. Sound ridiculous? Let me tell you why it’s not.
OK, I’d be remiss not to start with a huge disclaimer: these are the Mets so lots of things can happen the rest of the way. Tons. Good, now that’s out of the way. The bottom line is this. Terry Collins (perhaps quietly beyond those that watch this Mets squad day in and day out) has steered a glorified canoe down a raging river of a first half and is threatening to somehow emerge better-than-unscathed on the other side.
The New York Mets are 39-39 today. And while .500 may not seem like much of an accomplishment to Mets “outsiders,” what Collins has done in Flushing to date is undeniably admirable. One could make a very legitimate argument that “amazing” is a more appropriate adjective for the job he’s done thus far.
There are certainly differing schools as to the relative importance of a manager as it relates to team performance. And, yes, the players are ultimately the ones who do the throwing, catching and hitting. But even if you subscribe to the camp that weighs the influence of a manger more lightly, there is still at least something to be made of a skipper’s ability to juggle talent, maintain a clubhouse in rocky times, deal with the media and take on several other tasks – not to mention the in-game decisions – all of which can impact how those players compete on the diamond.
That takes us back to Terry Collins…and why he deserves some serious kudos. Collins has made a competitive .500 team out of a roster that is talent-poor. There’s no other way to put it. The pundits predicted that the Mets would be challenged to maintain any relevancy in 2011 based on their projected opening day roster. Well, that roster has taken hits that have thrust platoon guys into pivotal cogs and AAA players into starting roles.
Collins has had to navigate a slew of injuries, a carnival-like atmosphere around the Madoff scandal, an owner’s remarks calling out the value of the team’s two biggest stars, prospects of a stripped-down budget and trade rumors galore. He’s done just that. He’s navigated. He’s avoided chances to hit an iceberg and plummet into oblivion. He’s managed to convince the players who are here that they can compete and win. He’s patched together a bunch of scraps to produce something serviceable enough on half the nights out to bring home a “W.” It’s a remarkable feat. The Mets are 39-39.
For those less familiar with this Mets team, this is 39-39 with…
1. A number one starter in Mike Pelfrey who has nowhere near the makeup of a #1 and been consistent at nothing but being inconsistent (Big Pelf is 4-6 with a 4.78 ERA, how’s that for a #1?)
2. A lineup that has been minus Ike Davis and David Wright for a month and a half
3. A combination of Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada at second base following the prompt dismissal of Brad Emaus after about 30 games. Go ahead, read that one again.
4. An occasional cleanup hitter in Jason Bay who is currently hitting .234 with three home runs and 19 RBI.
5. A more regular cleanup hitter named Daniel Murphy. Daniel Murphy frequently bats cleanup for this team. Non-Mets fans, re-reading is encouraged for educational purposes as we know some of this information can be confusing.
6. A team that has socked all of 47 home runs, good for 26th in the Majors
7. A closer with a WHIP of 1.46 (worse than any of our starters)
8. A bench most often helmed by Scott Hairston, Willie Harris and Jason Pridie
9. Jason Isringhausen as a set-up man. He whose career was considered over by most prior to the spring (we love you, Izzy!…just sayin’)
10. And for good measure…stop when you non-Mets fans have heard of any of the following who’ve graced our lineups and mound during this first half of the season: Hu, Duda, Nickeas, Evans, O’Connor, Thayer, Boyer, Igarashi…the list of stalwarts goes on.
The fact is 10 reasons could be 100. As of today, June 26, the Mets are a .500 team. They’ve won 39 out of 78 games. It is an accomplishment for which Terry Collins deserves tremendous credit. So while Manager of the Year honors are not awarded for many more months (not to mention they are rarely awarded to skips with .500 squads), TC gets my mid-season vote. And tt’s about time others starting recognizing the job he’s done too.