The New York Mets and manager Terry Collins have parted ways after seven seasons, a move that was neither surprising nor unexpected. It brings an end to an era of Mets baseball in which fans experienced a roller coaster of highs and lows both on and off the field. Regardless of how you feel about the manager, the man has left an indelible mark on the franchise and will remain as big a part of team history as any that came before him. That’s undoubtedly a tough pill to swallow for some, particularly when his faults become so phenomenally glaring in a down year like 2017, but his name will forever grace the Mets’ history books for several reasons that we’ll briefly touch on later.
The Mets’ hiring of Collins after the 2010 season was met with a healthy amount of skepticism from both fans and pundits. He hadn’t managed at the major league level since 1999 with the Angels, and his tenure in Anaheim met with an inauspicious end after he resigned with 29 games left to play. It was reported that he’d lost the clubhouse and, allegedly, the players petitioned the general manager to let him go. His prior stint in Houston didn’t end much better, and his notoriously cantankerous temperament presented a potential flashpoint when combined with a bad team and an unrelenting New York Media.
Collins certainly had the managerial chops to merit the nod, but his selection over more popular picks like Wally Backman had clear connotations of a cultural change bearing down on Flushing. The Collins hiring, combined with the enlistment of Sandy Alderson less than a month prior, signaled a shift from what many felt was an increasingly chaotic and undisciplined organization. Indeed, Collins’ reputation for being a stern disciplinarian and constant professional portended a new dynamic in a Mets clubhouse poised to endure several seasons of losing baseball and growing pains.
More importantly, however, Collins’ reputation for player development would be vital for the team as it slashed payroll and stumbled through a rebuild to which it never fully committed. He only received a two-year contract, which was odd at the time but in retrospect made perfect sense for a man tasked with treading water and leading young players through a transition period. That his original two-year contract ultimately ended seven years later seemed to speak volumes about the job Collins had done and how he had grown as both a manager and an individual.
Recent revelations counter that perception, though, with Mets sources claiming that it was owner Fred Wilpon’s taking to Collins that ensured the relationship endured longer than most in the organization found palatable. Indeed, it’s been reported that the elder Wilpon prevented Alderson from dropping the ax several times during his seven-year stint. There’s nothing particularly shocking about these recent disclosures regarding Collins when we consider that his tenure has not been without its issues. Rumors of his demise weren’t uncommon, and Alderson himself noted that he nearly pulled the plug after the 2014 season.
As recently as this season’s final homestand, it outwardly appeared as though his players genuinely liked playing for him, which wasn’t something we could say about many of the Mets’ managers over the last two decades. Recent reporting suggests this was not the case, at least when it comes to young players. One would certainly be forgiven for believing that, if they didn’t love him, they certainly had no qualms playing for him. Instead, Collins will allegedly part with the Mets leaving in his wake a situation similar to that of his time with the Astros and Angels: a soured clubhouse relieved by his ouster.
There’s no arguing that Collins had several warts on his management skills, and his overall performance has been uneven to say the least. He was never quite able to embrace the modern managerial style, where analytics and data feed heavily into tactical in-game decisions. Mind-bogglingly, Collins increasingly resisted input regarding his blunders and his bullpen management when compared to earlier in his tenure. It may be that he lost faith in the data when it conflicted with his gut and resulted in negative outcomes. It may also be that he grew bolder in his rejection of modern baseball decision-making strategies because he had the support of ownership. We may never know.
His preference for playing veterans at a time when the team was in a quasi-rebuilding mode was baffling, and his aforementioned bullpen management may have legitimately ended careers. Despite the front office’s protestations regarding back-to-back-to-back use of his preferred relievers, Collins consistently leaned on his favored arms to the point of recklessness. We also now know that his penchant for giving veterans playing time led to active resentment from younger players, presumably generating a toxic atmosphere at odds with his charge to develop a young team into a contender.
Still, in 2015 he led the Mets to its first pennant and World Series appearance since 2000. Sure, he had a hand in squandering the chance to raise the championship flag in Queens, but you could also argue that they wouldn’t have made it there without him. The same man that caved and kept Matt Harvey in too long in the Game 5 was also the man that kept Johan Santana in for 134 pitches to lock down the Mets’ first ever no-hitter. You take the good with the bad.
Whether you love him or you hate him, Collins has solidified his place in Mets history in several ways. He’s tied for the longest serving manager at seven seasons, sharing that honor with both Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine. He moved ahead of Valentine this season as the second winningest manager in franchise history, though he also earned the unfortunate honor of having the most losses as well. He managed the team to one of only five World Series appearances and joined Valentine as the only Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive post season appearances.
Despite his flaws, Collins was exactly what this team needed when it needed it. He was a steady presence during a turbulent period where finances and poor performance were the hallmark of a franchise struggling to stay relevant and solvent simultaneously. Unfortunately, he overstayed his welcome to the point where he left the franchise at odds with both his players and his front office. It’s likely he would have left on a more positive note had his departure been a few years sooner, but it’d be monumentally unfair to place the blame for the state of the franchise squarely on his shoulders. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Mets’ descent into discord, from ownership to the front office, though Collins certainly contributed in his own way.
His departure will, hopefully, pave the way for a more modern manager to cultivate the remaining seeds that may yet bear fruit and take this team to the highest peaks. You may not always have agreed with him, and he probably angered you to no end, but you will never forget Terry Collins.