There are less than two months to go in the regular season, and the Mets’ playoff chances are dwindling by the day. The NL East is all but decided, and the tease of the second Wild Card is the only thing keeping the team relevant at this point. If the Mets do miss the playoffs, it will be viewed as a massive failure given the high expectations and higher payroll. Something will change, and usually the first thing to change is the manager.
Terry Collins is in his sixth season with the Mets. He’s one of the longest-tenured managers in baseball, which is somewhat surprising given his track record. The Mets posted just one winning season in his first five years, and it was very possible that he would have been gone after last season had the team missed the playoffs.
The stance of the Collins defenders is well known. The front office often puts him in a tough position. He took the team to the World Series. He handles the New York media well enough. He fights for his players (even if he didn’t play any in the All-Star game).
But the stance of the detractors is well known too. He favors his gut too much. He blew the World Series. He can’t handle a bullpen. He doesn’t like to play young players.
While Collins isn’t free of criticism, no one is exactly blaming him for 2016. There have been rampant injuries to the ball club and an unfathomable inability to hit with runners in scoring position. But the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals have had rampant injuries too. And the Miami Marlins still have less talent than the Mets, even when New York has an injured roster.
Putting Game 4 and 5 of the World Series aside, Collins’ 2016 has enough issues alone. The team looked unprepared to start the season, and he’s been unable to find any way to get them out of this slump since the beginning of May. But it’s the little things too.
After the Matt Harvey debacle in Game 5, Collins’ inability to say no to a player was often highlighted in 2016 He couldn’t say no to Jeurys Familia’s insistence to pitch the day after his first blown save in a year. He stresses playing the hot hand, but after Travis d’Arnaud (who needs to get hot) homers against the Yankees, he sits him two of the next three games to play journeyman catcher Rene Rivera. On Friday against Detroit, he missed a challenge call at second base that eventually cost the Mets a run. They lost 4-3. Those are just recent things. Any Mets fan has a few more examples of their own.
These are all little things but when you’re two games back of the Wild Card and haven’t won back-to-back games in a month, little things add up. And of all the changes the Mets can make over the offseason, this is the easiest, especially when Collins has said he will be retiring soon anyway.
The 2016 Mets season is not Terry Collins’ fault. He’s not hurt, and he’s not batting with a guy on second base and one out. But he’s also not helping, and the front office gave him more talent than he’s ever had before. And with this window that the Mets have, they cannot afford another 2016. So something has to change. And Collins is the easiest change. Will it matter? If it means a few extra wins, then it could mean all the difference.