Dear unnamed Mets intern who reads sites like MMO and forwards meaningful messages to the PR department and all the way to ownership or the front office in the daily press clippings they receive,
Once again, the New York Mets will be playing no meaningful games in September for the 6th straight season – and the 4th straight under Terry Collins as field manager. Obviously, we can agree that TC took over a difficult assignment. He took over a team at the beginning of a long overdue, financially motivated and just as well necessary rebuilding process in time for the start of the 2011 season.
It was refreshing at first to see a manager who didn’t throw one of his players “under the bus” every other week – unlike predecessor Jerry Manuel. It was refreshing that the team didn’t just quit late in the season even when games had less and less meaning. But looking at the overall body of work Terry Collins has to offer as manager are there enough reasons to bring him back for a 5th season ?
1. Overall success
Well, the Mets are about to finish well below .500 again, probably within the 74 to 77 win-range that Collins´ Mets teams have been in for the previous three years. Regardless of whether you viewed Sandy Alderson´s “90-win” statement this spring as a “prediction”, a “challenge” or a “bad joke”, it´s safe to say that the team hasn’t performed up to even reasonable expectations.
If you review interviews of Sandy Alderson and ownership between last fall and this spring, you always heard the mantra of “be around .500 into August and then start a run from there”. So, in reality, the expectation was a .500 season and then – with a little late season luck – maybe a challenge for a Wild Card berth.
Well, the team has been hovering between 4 to 11 games under .500 for three months now. And while it has sure been a team in transition featuring several young players, can we really say with confidence that this manager has brought out the best in his players?
And Mr. Wilpon (Jeff or Fred), Mr. Alderson or whoever else may be reading this, at the very least I´m talking to you, the unnamed Mets intern who can now make a difference by asking or rather forwarding a simple question to his or her superiors: Do you really believe the answer is yes? Seriously?
Honest Verdict: Thumbs down
2. Success in close games
Sure, Collins has been dealt a difficult hand. No question. All sorts of roster instability – be it at SS or in LF all season, the bullpen initially – and the unforeseen slumps of David Wright and Curtis Granderson. Part of the process, I understand and yes, the farm system looks very promising. Of course, Lucas Duda did better than expected – at least by non-insiders. And in Jacob deGrom, the Mets received an unexpected extra frontline arm too, besides steady progress from Zack Wheeler. In any case, the Mets – through games of September 2nd - sit at 21-26 in 1-run games. That – in part - helps explain their actual record of 65-74 being three games worse than their Pythagorean record of 68-71. Who is to blame? A bad bullpen early in the season? Bad luck? Bad in-game managerial decisions? A manager failing to instill confidence in his players to thrive in big spots? All of it?
In any case, Terry Collins hasn’t been very successful in these situations. And considering that his 2011 through 2013 Mets teams went 70-78 in 1-run games, his overall Mets record in those situations is 91-104. Large enough sample size? We may argue at length about the impact of the manager in these situations, but I guess we can agree at the very least that this doesn´t boost his case, does it?
Honest Verdict: Thumbs down
Well, maybe patience is justified because of a track record of past success. After all, Terry Collins has managed two major league teams before. From 1994 through 1996, he managed the Houston Astros to three straight 2nd place finishes, ending with a total of 27 games over .500. And from 1997 through late 1999 he got to manage the Anaheim Angels to 84 and 85 wins before a collapse in 1999 led to his firing. Overall, his Angels teams finished at 17 games below .500.
All in all through almost six seasons, his teams finished 10 games over .500. So, he had average to slightly above average success as a manager elsewhere? Wait a second. The Astros – after his departure – won their division for three straight years at a combined 80 games over .500. Coincidence? The Angels – after his departure – finished a combined 26 games over .500, culminating in their 2002 World Championship. Interesting.
So, combined record for two TC led teams over a total of six seasons prior to joining the Mets: 10 games over .500. Combined record of the franchises in six seasons after he left: 106 games over .500
Honest Verdict: Thumbs down
4. Other aspects to consider
Collins is always willing to change his mind – sometimes within 24 hours. Collin Cowgill is our starting CF. Kyle Farnsworth is the team’s closer. The list goes on. It’s become common to assume the exact opposite of what Collins says he’s going to do in most Mets circles.
His comments regarding player development until a recent intervention by GM Sandy Alderson are downright scary – especially for a team that’s rebuilding. They revealed a disturbing inner philosophy that doesn’t bode well for the development and future success of these younger players.
His veteran players seem to like and respect him in general. Speaking of which, he’ll stick with an underperforming veteran far too long and to the detriment of the team’s performance, and he’ll keep playing that veteran until the front office either releases or demotes him.
He can be a loose cannon, often talking out of turn. Recently he said the team discussed moving Travis d’Arnaud to left field, resulting in the GM having to flatly deny that it was ever discussed and that there’s no chance of that happening.
No Mets players have thrown firecrackers at Mets fans or sprayed reporters with bleach under TC´s watch.
His teams haven´t broken the franchise record in errors in one game so far, only coming close twice in almost four years.
Honest Verdict: Neutral - If you really believe that these are valid aspects in the overall body of work / evaluation process.
5. Overall verdict
With all due respect to Mr. Collins who seems like a nice person and a Baseball lifer who helped out this franchise in difficult times, I fail to see any valid reasons why he should return as manager of the Mets in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Mets have a former Mets fan favorite who showed grit, toughness and a strong desire to win as a player – something this current team might just be lacking – paid his dues as a longtime minor league manager and has just won Manager of the Year honors in the PCL.
The vast majority of the fanbase would very much approve his appointment as Mets manager for 2015.
Is he qualified? Well who knows. What does a winning minor league record or a lot of respect by pretty much all the – mostly young - players who have played for him really mean? I don´t know.
But looking at the verdict above, I see no reason why Wally Backman shouldn’t be a better choice as Mets manager in 2015 than Terry Collins. Especially considering that over 50% of the likely 2015 roster will already have played under Backman and know and respect him. But that´s getting ahead of myself. I´ll leave that to the PR or revamped ticket sales department to figure out.
I hope – in spite of the losing season – your internship is instructive and fun. After all, working in baseball should be lots of fun. Greetings and hopefully you find the time to read this and pass it along to the right people.
With best regards.
A Met fan hoping for meaningful games in September again.