Time to End the Collins Era and Bring On Backman

Terry CollinsThe Terry Collins era was always going to go down as the bridge to brighter days. How else could you explain Sandy Alderson making Collins his first manager with the track record he possessed three years ago? Collins oversaw teams collapse in Houston and Anaheim, with the latter resulting in a mutiny. He was well-placed as a minor-league field coordinator, and could still be valuable in such a role for an organization going forward. The truth is that Collins is a dated manager that fails to hold his team accountable, can’t manage a bullpen and leaves very little to be desired with X’s and O’s.

His recent comments where he dismissed the fans view on his handling of the Jordany-gate, although brusque, were not off base. Most fans, bloggers and some members of the media struggle to understand what it takes to manage people, much less lead 25 athletes from diverse backgrounds in the biggest city in the world. From a big picture standpoint calling out the fans gets you nowhere. Why fight a battle that doesn’t help you in the long-run?  The bigger concern isn’t the comments, but the fact that he never sticks to a conviction. I am not in the clubhouse, but my view from the outside is one of a placeholder manager that seems to struggle with his leadership role. You get the feeling the Anaheim mutiny is still in the back of his head. That mindset is not going to move this team forward and create the kind of culture necessary for a sustained winning environment.

For as little talent as ownership (notice I said ownership, not the front office) has provided Collins the last two plus years, you can’t forget how his teams have collapsed under his stewardship. The 2011 team was probably the best of the bunch and they were going south when Alderson pulled the trigger on the Beltran-Wheeler deal. Last June, you couldn’t ask for better karma after the Johan Santana no-hitter and R.A. Dickey’s string of zeros. How did they leverage that? With .280 baseball in July. That was the end of the 2012 Mets who, up to that point, were a feel-good story.

Again, lack of depth on the big league roster and in the minors is largely to blame. None of that is Collins’ fault.What he is accountable for is a failure to live up to anything he says for a sustained period of time. A perfect example is last September after the Phillies drubbed the Mets 16-1 at Citi Field.  Asked after the game if he was embarrassed, Collins said, “I am.” Asked if he thought his team quit, he responded, “You have to ask them.”

One of the biggest issues with the organization has been lack of accountability and a culture of failure. One of the main reasons Collins was hired was to purge that stench from the locker room. If there was ever a defining moment in his tenure it was that night. What did he do with that opportunity? He backtracked the next day after the players took exception to the comments. This leads me to believe that he doesn’t have conviction, control or autonomy. The media can be a useful tool to send messages to a ballclub. Collins did exactly what any skipper should do when their club doesn’t compete; especially when it was their ninth straight loss.

Truthfully, all I need for a manager to succeed in this town is to manage a bullpen, run a clean clubhouse and keep the media appeased so there aren’t any peripheral distractions.  Collins is not a long-term solution at a time where the organization needs to sell the future. Also, if Collins was truly in the plans for 2014 and beyond, why wait to extend his contract at the end of the year? The players know he is dead man walking.

So do you sit back and make this get ugly? That’s where it’s headed after a sixth straight loss last night. If bringing up Zack Wheeler and others is necessary to make the future better, why not do the same with the manager? I believe it’s time to do what should have been done in 2010: Hire Wally Backman.

I believe Backman is the kind of manager that could achieve the aforementioned three criteria that I believe makes for a successful manager. He could be the Mets version of Ron Gardenhire or Mike Scioscia: a manager who defines their current club as much as the uniform. We haven’t seen that type of scenario since Davey Johnson came onboard in 1984. In a lot of ways Backman could have a similar impact.

Backman is known to be a great motivator and teacher. He won’t wave a magic wand and make this 4-A squad a contender, but I guarantee the players will maximize their potential- whatever that may be. He can manage a bullpen, and certainly will run a clean clubhouse. He will demand respect and a winning attitude.  The Mets may not win under Backman, at least not right away, but they will compete. This is not what I can say has been the case 100% of Terry Collins’ tenure.

So why wait? Yesterday Collins again flip-flopped during his weekly WFAN segment with Mike Francesa. After calling out the fans for their criticism of how he handled Valdespin, he retracted and couched his comments in a softer manner. People show their true colors when under pressure. The comments that Collins made a day earlier was how he really feels. I would have respected him more if he stood by it instead of playing politics after the fact – just like he did last September.

Does the team really have a choice? When Francesa asked why he thinks things will get better Collins’ responded by saying the “clubhouse is in great shape.” I am glad to hear that everyone is happy and comfortable with the prospects of a fifth straight losing season.

If hope and dreams is the Terry Collins solution then why don’t we just sign up for magic beans and pixie dust? That isn’t going to help Tejada, Davis, Duda or Niese out of their malaise.  It’s time for something real and sustainable. It’s time for the Wally Backman era to start now.