Cubs fire fungible Dale Sveum, Mets retain replaceable Terry Collins

The Cubs recently fired manager Dale Sveum. Originally given a three-year contract prior to the 2012 season, Sveum was let go with a year remaining on his deal. In his two years leading Chicago, his teams went a combined 127-197. The Cubs won five more games this year than a season ago, but the fact that several of Chicago’s highly-touted youngsters failed to progress this year was one factor which helped to seal his fate.

logoMeanwhile, the Mets brought back manager Terry Collins. This despite the fact that eight players for the Mets had 100 PA in both 2012 and 2013 and in the former year they combined for an 11.5 fWAR and this past season they managed just an 8.2 fWAR total. And this was with Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda combining to contribute 3.4 additional fWAR from a season ago.

While they may not have been highly touted, the Mets saw significant drops in performance from Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, who combined for a (-0.4) fWAR. Both of those players were counted on to build on 2012’s total of 2.9 fWAR.

Many people counter that it’s unfair to blame the manager when players fail to meet expectations. This is not a completely invalid thought. However, it should prompt the questions: What does the manager bring to the table and who does he help progress and move forward?

Collins seems to work best with veteran players. There’s nothing wrong with that and on many clubs that would be a valuable trait. David Wright has had very good seasons under Collins, as have other veterans like Carlos Beltran, Marlon Byrd, R.A. Dickey, Scott Hairston and Jose Reyes. But on a team that is trying to break in youngsters all over the field, it’s hardly the calling card you want from your manager.

Is Collins really the best choice to break in guys like Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Brandon Nimmo and Cesar Puello? In three years under Collins, the Mets have employed 15 different position players age 25 and under and only Juan Lagares has turned in an above-average season. And even Lagares comes with a type of caveat, as nearly all of his value came on the defensive side of things.

Again, people will point out that it’s not like Collins had Mike Trout to break in. But wouldn’t it be nice if just one of Davis or Duda or Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Josh Thole or Tejada or Jordany Valdespin had developed into… something? Heading into 2014, not one of those six guys can even be counted on to hold down part of a platoon, much less be written in as a second-division club’s starter.

Getting back to Sveum – it’s hard not to notice that the Cubs cut ties to him once beloved ex-Cub Ryne Sandberg landed a managerial job elsewhere. From a distance, it seemed like the Chicago front office did not want a manager that was too popular with the fans to be in charge of the team. It’s easy to imagine Sandberg having more clout than Theo Epstein in Chicago and the Cubs’ front office wanting no part of that.

Is it possible that Mets fans are stuck with Collins until Wally Backman lands a managerial job elsewhere?

I have no interest in leading the charge for Backman to be the Mets’ manager. There are dozens of people ready, willing and able to drive that particular bandwagon. Besides, I’d be just as happy to see a host of other guys get the gig. It just seems to me that Backman is too popular for his own good and that a front office led by Sandy Alderson would never allow him to take over in the dugout.

But this should not be about Backman – it should be about Collins. The best thing about hiring Collins was that he was so… replaceable. There’s absolutely nothing about Collins that screams to anyone here in late 2013 that this is a guy that we must retain at all costs.

So after three years of deplorable bullpen management, of running starting position players into the ground, of the complete failure to develop any young position player into anything offensively useful, of a seemingly non-stop parade of injured starting pitchers and a 225-261 record – the solution is to bring the disposable manager back? At least Omar Minaya had the good sense to fire Art Howe.

The Cubs finished with eight fewer wins than the Mets in 2013. But their offseason is off to a much better start because their GM decided to make a managerial switch with a fungible manager who was seemingly not helping their young players. In firing Sveum, the Cubs bent over backwards to praise him for the good things he did while pointing out the areas that need to be addressed going forward.

“I think, as a whole, Dale has had a nice calming effect on the club,” Epstein said in Milwaukee. “I think he’s established a level of professionalism here that’s admirable and held his head up high in difficult circumstances in the course of two years.”

Shoot, Alderson could have inserted “Terry” for “Dale” and switched “two” to “three” and used this exact same quote. Here are some more quotes that Alderson could have used in his press conference after announcing that Collins would not be re-hired.

Today’s decision to pursue a new manager was not made because of wins and losses. Our record is a function of our long-term building plan and the moves we have made – some good, a few we would like back – to further this strategy. Jed and I take full responsibility for that. Today’s decision was absolutely not made to provide a scapegoat for our shortcomings or to distract from our biggest issue – a shortage of talent at the major league level. We have been transparent about what we are, and what we are not yet. Today’s decision, which was painful for all of us, was made to move us closer to fulfilling our ultimate long-term vision for the Cubs.

“Soon, our organization will transition from a phase in which we have been primarily acquiring young talent to a phase in which we will promote many of our best prospects and actually field a very young, very talented club at the major league level. The losing has been hard on all of us, but we now have one of the top farm systems in baseball, some of the very best prospects in the game, and a clear path forward. In order for us to win with this group – and win consistently – we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level. We must have clear and cohesive communication with our players about the most important parts of the game. And – even while the organization takes a patient, long view – we must somehow establish and maintain a galvanized, winning culture around the major league club.

“I believe a dynamic new voice – and the energy, creativity and freshness that comes with this type of change – provides us with the best opportunity to achieve the major league environment we seek. We will begin our search immediately – a process which will be completed before the GM meetings in early November and perhaps much sooner. There are no absolute criteria, but we will prioritize managerial or other on-field leadership experience and we will prioritize expertise developing young talent.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Mets decided to “prioritize expertise developing young talent” with their manager? Instead, Alderson decided to do nothing and hope the problem magically fixes itself. Now our best-case scenario is likely this: Hope that the Mets follow the Red Sox blueprint and sign several mid-tier free agents so that Collins has a team full of veterans to manage in 2014.

Put the 25 and under crowd on hold, aim for 85 wins, faux-relevance and increased attendance next year. But the big hope is that another team hires Backman to be its manager, allowing the front office to do what’s needed to be done since the end of 2012.

Hire a new manager.

23 comments for “Cubs fire fungible Dale Sveum, Mets retain replaceable Terry Collins

  1. Jim OMalley
    October 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I’ll be the first to predict that the Cubs at least speak to, if not hire, Backman.

  2. October 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Is a manager responsible if a team wins or loses? I guess Epstein believes so. Improvement up to a point considering what you have on your roster. That doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request? Does it? Excuses, excuses and throwing your players under the bus for not listening to their divine coaching staff. Hmm? The Indians with a few minor adjustments this past off season in the free agent market AND bringing in someone who the players will respect and listen to made the playoffs. Wouldn’t you prefer to have Francona here working with the kids instead of someone like TC who simply points his finger at HIS players and washes his hands of any culpability? YES a manger can have an impact on a team. Only problem TC’s will be negative.

  3. steevy
    October 3, 2013 at 9:44 am

    On the bright side,the Mets are going to re sign Justin Turner!

  4. Chris F
    October 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for writing this Brian. It needed to be said. And it highlights that teams with similar-ish records really are on separate paths. Do either lead to October? Who knows, but my money would be on the Cubs before the Mets.

    Though the suffering of Cubs fans is long and painful, the team has never lost its fan base. While there is a core of Mets fans, the empty stands clearly indicates the severing of “we the people” from “them the money grubbers.” Our ownership is disinterested in the Mets and Mets fans, a thing that is outwardly visible at many levels, but which is obviously different in Chicago. Sure the Cubs have a long history, but the Mets at 50 have plenty to celebrate. The Cubs embrace themselves and fans, while the Mets barely even know they have a legacy and feel comfortable not letting the fans share in that. The end result is far more people go to see the Cubs stunk annually than the Mets, if for no other reason than to share the pain with strangers who are life-long friends somehow.

    Any forward motion that the Mets make I can only see as for the benefit of the FO, with a cascading effect for fans. If Sandy can show how fiscally sound he is, how loyal he is, and can turn any plus side out of the Mets, then he will work that for a promotion, to the office of the Commish for example. I cant find any part of ownership or the FO-types that bleed orange and blue. They dont care about the Mets per se, but rather about fixing a sinking ship that bears a Mets flag.

    Sandy expressed his disinterest in having a home field disadvantage at Citi. We’ve heard some interesting fixes…TC says we need to hit better line-to-line with the big dimensions while SA is in love with power, yet both lament the crazy K rate at home. Visitors play much better all around than the Mets do at home. An interesting article today at MMO talks about a possible Willy Mays curse, like the Curse of the Bambino, that has befallen upon Flushing. Its a fun read. My own version of it that the Mets play in stadium built for a different team, at a different time, from a different borough who left NY in a tizzy. We have a rotunda named for a hero, but one who had nothing to do with the team. In short we leveled the only thing we knew as our home and replaced it a fancy relict that celebrates someone else’s history. Its hardly a surprise we suck there. The Wilpon’s severed the team from the the home where we have won 2 world series and built a wonderful history to celebrate. Then they staffed the stadium with some of the most loathsome ushers Ive seen in any baseball park. Anyways, the sabr-ubber-alles FO should really step back and see that the team is made of more than numbers. I heard this morning that Clint Hurdle, in his interview as manager for the Pirates, said he wanted to reintroduce the fans with Pirates and have that be a number 1 priority in his actions to get the team in a better place. Watching the other night, it was clear that has happened in PNC, with 40,000 insane fans in black, overlooking the 21′ high Clemente wall in RF. Before we have a home field advantage, there still seems to be a lot of stuff that needs to get done.

    • October 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks Chris – you raise a bunch of interesting points.

      I don’t know how we turn around the Mets’ lousy home record. I guess I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that the Mets are no good in Citi because it honors another franchise.

      I know this is a minority POV but I really do not care if the Mets retire numbers, add people to their Hall of Fame or build statues to honor franchise heroes. I mean – all of those things are nice but I’d rather do something that helps the future rather than celebrate the past.

      Sure, when the present and near-future look bleak, it’s natural to recall the glory days and use that as an aid to get to a better time. But that’s something that I would prefer that the fans did at their level, rather than the owners and front office at their level.

      I have no power to add a .400 OBP guy to the team and I wish that the owners and front office moved mountains to make that happen. I have no power to stop with the late-inning matchup madness and I wish the front office would make it stop. Anything else is just a distraction for them.

      Meanwhile, I don’t need any help recalling and appreciating Piazza or Gooden or Seaver or anyone else that I saw play. If anything I feel kind of put off with the recent honoring of Piazza because they did it half way. It’s like the left the door open to do it again when they need a PR or attendance boost — they’ll just retire his number. And then a few years later they’ll build a statue. And then a few years later they’ll name some part of the stadium after him. It just feels too calculated to me.

      I just wish Piazza told the Mets that if they wanted to honor his contributions that they do something to improve the on-field product because now he’s remembered for playing half of his career for a franchise that’s one step above a train wreck. Right now, the Mets have more to gain from honoring Piazza then he does in receiving the honor.

      It should never be like that.

      • Chris F
        October 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

        Ill take a 400 OBP any day. But there is something necessary about a “home” and using it to advantage. Right now, we have more of a hotel room than a home. About the only tam I can think of that wouldnt enjoy a 10th man is Tampa Bay, but there is no confusing the FO and manager there with things in Flushing. If Maddon was a FA, all 30 teams would raise an eyebrow and the competition fierce for his signature. If TC was released, he’d end up telling stories about how he used 8 pitchers in 2 innings to his grandkids.

        The Mets should want to court their fans, and celebrate who they are. Its better for everyone.

  5. October 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Hey Chris! All I can say is WOW! Everything you wrote is painfully true. There is no bond between ownership and its fan base. The Cubs out drew the Mets in attendance with a Wrigley Field that’s desperate for repairs. Says it all. Wish you could forward your remarks to the Wilpons. But then again do they really care whet you think?

    • October 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      I’ve been saying this on here for years: the Wilpons own a team they don’t love and love a team they don’t own.

      • Chris F
        October 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        ever so true Charlie.

  6. steevy
    October 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I’ll be excited if the team makes some good moves and the usual anticipation will hit me by the Spring but it will all be tempered,knowing I have to watch Terry Collins manage again.I doubt any start would be bad enough to get him fired by this bunch.You don’t usually reward masnagers with 88 loss seasons to a new contract.

  7. NormE
    October 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I think that the point Brian makes about Alderson not wanting Wally Backman is very interesting. I’ ve felt that Alderson did not want Backman because he wouldn’t play the lackey role as well as TC has. The point that Wally might be too popular, thus hard to fire, is a good one. The Cubs-Sandberg illustration may very well be accurate as a comparison to the Mets-Backman relationship. Good work, Brian!

  8. Metsense
    October 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    “I believe a dynamic new voice – and the energy, creativity and freshness that comes with this type of change – provides us with the best opportunity to achieve the major league environment we seek”. The Mets have become stale and stagnant under Teflon Terry. They needed a fresh eye and different perspective when evaluating the talent (or lack of talent) on the present roster. Terry is not good with playing new players. Why was Baxter playing over MDD in September? Or Turner over Satin or Lutz at third base.This is just the most recent examples.The Mets missed this opportunity by not getting a new manager.

    • TexasGusCC
      October 4, 2013 at 2:11 am

      Metsense, I agree that something seems odd in Flushing. Why are some of these AAAA guys playing over your youth? Why are you giving a new contract to a person that has not done anything to make you want to hire him back, but has simply done just enough to not really tick any of them off? If you don’t want Backman, hire someone else. The Front Office doesn’t seem to connect to the fan base, and that is perplexing because they act like they do not need the fan base. We are just some morons that will kiss their butt because they are the Mets. I really would love to know how MLB owners feel about seeing this mess of a team in the #1 market, and can anything be done about it.

    • Metsense
      October 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Dusty Baker was fired after leading his team to the playoffs. It was the Reds third playoff appearance in the last four years. GM Walt Jocketty stated, “We felt it was important going forward to provide new leadership, a new voice, whatever you want to call it.”
      That playoff push to third place was obviously enough to save Teflon Terry!
      Actually the quote said it all, a new person to look at the team from a different perspective. It is something I wish the Mets would have done.

  9. Jim OMalley
    October 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Sandy bucking for the Commissioner job. Interesting!!!

    • NormE
      October 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      The rumor when Sandy took the Mets job was that Bud had enticed him with a promise that he would be in line for the Commissioner’s job when, and if, Bud retired. The reasoning was that there had to be a strong motivation for Sandy to agree to work for the Wilpons.

  10. Chris F
    October 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    interesting read in the NY Post tonight that Clint Hurdle wanted the Mets coaching job. If we can only imagine…

    When it comes to personnel, I think we need to severely question the ALderson regime. It is loaded with mistakes except for some trades of obvious nature (and I will give hime credit for hard bargaining). However, his primary selections, whether it be a draft or coaching selection, seem to be less than stellar.

  11. Name
    October 3, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Brian, I find your analysis quite puzzling because Terry’s supposed strength is player development as that’s what he did when he wasn’t managing over the last 20 years and that’s the role I would have liked to see him back in when he should have been fired.

    The main knock is that he is simply not a good game time manager, which should be the primary responsibility of a manager! From his well-known and well-documented troubles with the bullpen to overusing and overexposing certain position players, his flaws are too exposed now and so he needs to go. In the eyes of the fans, he is negative energy like a Castillo or Bay in earlier years and his subtraction would be an addition.

    • October 4, 2013 at 8:49 am

      There’s an old joke about a college football player who got his grades and came out of the semester with 4 F’s and a D. When his coach talked to him about it he said, “Son, it looks like you’ve been spending too much time on one subject.”

      Coming into the gig, TC’s strength may have been viewed as player development but there’s no way to support that view after watching him handle young players the past three years.

  12. October 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Terry Collins has 2 thing going for him. One he works cheap and second he does what he’s told. No controversial statements. The prefect guy you want to hold your lunch while your answering your cell phone. I wonder how other GM’s and owners view the Mets and their current “coaching” staff? Like something that get’s stuck on the bottom of your shoes and you just can’t wipe it off.

  13. Chris F
    October 4, 2013 at 11:22 am

    IM convinced my impression that the shots are called by Sandy and that TC is a mouthpiece for the most part is correct.

    None of TC, Warthen or Hudgens would even be looked at for another job. They took theor 1 year offers without even a whimper.

  14. Metsense
    October 5, 2013 at 8:08 am

    And if the Mets ever get to a playoff under Terry Collins we have the seventh inning of the Dodgers – Braves Game #2 to look forward to. Mattingly employed Teflon Terry logic and the Dodgers were burned. Read the article in USA Today and just insert Collins for Mattingly as a foreboding of what is to come.

    • Chris F
      October 5, 2013 at 9:42 am

      I’m afraid so…it sounds exactly like a Teflon terry move.

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