As the Mets convene on Port St. Lucie for spring training on Monday, Terry Collins will be tasked with one of his hardest challenges in his coaching tenure.
As the team regrettably says goodbye to some seasoned vets (i.e. R.A. Dickey, Scott Hairston) and some not so regrettably (Jason Bay, Josh Thole, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Andres Torres, etc.) the Mets are-for better or worse-getting a lot younger this year. All this will no doubt make Collins’ job that much more difficult. Despite the youth and low expectations placed upon them this year, it is pivotal that Collins has a solid season, as Collins has to show Mets’ management that he is the one who could lead the Mets to the next level.
After starting out of the gate last year in impressive fashion, Collins looked like a genius as he had the Mets playing over their heads. But as the team crashed and burned in the second half, he looked as though he lost the team. Whether that’s a fair assessment or not, Collins has to rectify that perception and reign in the horses this year.
Collins is currently in the final year of his contract and to for him to earn an extension he has to show some significant progress this year. Collins has to do this all while not having some veterans to lean on for backup. No longer will Collins turn to Dickey to pitch every fifth day. These constants the last few years made Collins’ job that much easier.
But in 2013, the Mets (aside from the team potentially adding Michael Bourn) will be ushering in more of their youth movement with highly-touted prospects Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud and perhaps Matt den Dekker all expected to get the call this year.
As presently constituted the Mets are more built for contention in 2014 and beyond, but that does not mean that this year isn’t critical for the growth of the franchise. Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants likes to use the motto: “build a bridge.” That in essence is what Collins must accomplish this season. There has to be improvement on the field. There has to be a genuine sense of maturity and confidence evolving heading into the 2014 season. Simply put, the culture of winning has to permeate throughout the clubhouse. The loser’s mentality has to be left at the door.
Wins and losses is not the be all and end all for Collins. He just has to show the Mets’ brass that the team is on the right track. If he does all this well, the contract stuff will work itself out.
Granted it’s not going to be easy, as there will be no Dickey around anymore and outside of David Wright-not many veteran voices in the clubhouse. The outfield is still a mess and very much a work in progress. How will Johan Santana hold up as the de-facto ace? Can Ike Davis stay healthy and be productive for a full season? Can the bullpen improve?
These are some of the problems Collins has to navigate around and how he handles it will be a telling sign if he is the man who can take the Mets to the next level and eventually into the playoffs-and ultimately a new contract.
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