Collins takes the reins in 2011
If the last few seasons in Queens taught the Mets organization and their fans anything, it is that a new face and attitude were needed in the dugout in 2011. Enter new manager Terry Collins, who takes over a team looking to move beyond the shortcomings of the last few seasons, while shaping the ball club in his own vision.
No one seemed jollier and happier than the new Mets manager at the Mets holiday party. His laugh seemed infectious and there was no wiping it off his face, even with the disheartening news of the Philadelphia Phillies inking of Cliff Lee hitting the wire that morning.
In fact, Terry Collins, who wore a curious red-on-red ensemble that day, saw the new Philadelphia power rotation as an opportunity for his team in 2011.
“It will be brought up the first day,” Collins said. “They’ve got our attention, not that they didn’t have it before, for sure. We’ve got some preparation ahead.”
It may be that attitude General Manager Sandy Alderson saw in the 61-year-old as he tapped Collins to be the next manager of the New York Mets. He was not the popular choice and his past major league dealings with the Astros and Angels did not end well, but Collins may be the best choice for this Met team in 2011.
“I think [Collins] is going to be a little more emotional,” said Mets third baseman David Wright. “I think he’s got a little more of that passion, he’s got that fight and he gets you energized about baseball.”
It may be that energy that this team needs. After eight years of managers who couldn’t get the team to the promised land – the World Series – the club seems to need a guy who will bring that Earl Weaver type intensity to the dugout and a leader who will take adversity and make it a rallying cry for his club.
That’s something the Mets haven’t seen since Bobby Valentine ran the club in 2002. And unlike Valentine, Collins won’t become a control freak for Alderson. Rather, he’s happy to have the job after last managing in the big leagues in 1999.
That ended pretty badly after Mo Vaughn, then the Angels first baseman, led a revolt of the players, forcing Collins to step down with a month left in the season.
“I did a bad job managing the clubhouse, no question about it,” Collins said. “I’m accountable for that. I was the manager of that team. I should have done a better job of staying on top of it. I didn’t. I learned from it, and it will never happen here. I guarantee it will not happen here.”
Because of his past, some think Collins is a high-risk choice. Yet, this is a Met team that cost a lot of money, but produced little results over the past two seasons, and that’s after two collapses. With Alderson essentially taking 2011 as an observing year, why not throw a keg of dynamite into the clubhouse and see how things shake up?
After all, it can’t get any worse, right?
“From my standpoint, I don’t view this as a high-risk at all,” Alderson said. “Terry separated himself from the other candidates. We had some good ones. So, I’m very comfortable.”
Collins comes to the Mets very highly recommended. He was the choice of new Special Assistant Paul DePodesta to manage the Dodgers back in 2006, before getting the ax himself. Last year, Collins worked for the Mets as the minor league field coordinator.
So it does make sense for the club to get someone who is familiar with the organization, especially with the club going young in 2011. The Mets are expected to field a young catcher (Josh Thole) and a rookie pitcher (Dillon Gee) to go with second-year players in Ike Davis and Jon Niese. With holes that need to be filled in the rotation, bullpen and second base, Alderson needed someone who knows what he has in the organization.
It’s for that very reason the final four candidates for manager had their checks signed by Jeff Wilpon last season.
Yet, Bob Melvin seemed to be too vanilla for what Alderson needed, while third base coach Chip Hale seemed unready to captain his own ship. Fan favorite Wally Backman seemed to be the people’s choice, but he seemed too much of an unknown quantity for the new GM.
That left Collins, man of intensity, who learned from master managers such as Tommy Lasorda, Lou Piniella and Jim Leyland. Just by hiring him, the culture of the Mets went from the Jerry Manuel country club to something more serious and dedicated to winning.
“The question is whether Terry can establish the proper atmosphere and develop the kind of chemistry that’s necessary to get more out of a team,” Alderson said. “And we certainly feel he can do that.”
With a new regime in power, it may come easier for Collins than it would be if he became manager under Omar Minaya. Alderson will not allow the player caste system that festered under the former GM to be a staple of his tenure.
Based on what has already transpired, some Mets players seem to be happy with the choice.
“The response has been great so far,” Collins said. “I’ve talked to the players in person and by telephone and everybody said it was something the team needs.”
And then he laughed and smiled again, giving the impression that managing the Mets won’t be as hard as some people think.
“There are only 30 of these jobs,” Collins said earlier. “They’re very, very difficult to get. They’re very, very difficult to do. [When I first interviewed], I said, Sandy, that’s why I’ve put on the uniform for 40 years. This is what I do. This is what I think I do well.”
Now the Mets and their fans will see what Collins will do with the chance.