terry-collinsIt may have been the NBA that brought the concept of “Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks” to our consciousness but Terry Collins has turned it into an MLB art form. Truly, did anyone think that the guy hired to be a placeholder at age 61 back in late 2010 would still be managing the club in 2017? It’s almost mind boggling in a way. Adore him or despise him, no one can deny that Collins has done a masterful job of cashing checks.

He’s now third all-time in games managed for the Mets and assuming he manages all 162 games this upcoming year, he’ll be number one on the list. Winning percentage is a slightly different story, as his .490 mark ranks seventh among team skippers, a few percentage points behind Yogi Berra, who was only allowed to pilot the team for 588 games, 384 fewer than Collins to date.

Their circumstances were different, as Berra took over a team that was primed to compete while Collins assumed control of a team that needed to be overhauled. But Collins’ situation is much more common. Therefore the question is: How then was he allowed to stick around for so many games? His Met tenure alone would place Collins among the top 150 managers in MLB history in games at the helm. Overall, he’s managed 1,850 games in the majors.

Assuming he finishes out the 2017 season, Collins will move past Red Schoendienst and have the 60-most games managed in MLB history. That’s Hall of Famer Schoendienst. If Collins somehow stays around and completes the 2018 season, he will crack the top 50 in games managed. Right now, 31 of the top 50 managers in games are in the Hall of Fame and it’s possible that a few more – Terry Francona? Bruce Bochy? Dusty Baker? – will add to the total.

Even the non-HOF managers in the top 50 are heavyweights. Guys like Gene Mauch and Davey Johnson and Ralph Houk. If this was an SAT question, it would be a layup. Which one doesn’t belong in this group?

Yet here we are.

Recently, Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog was wondering about Collins’ legacy. He took the easy (and correct) way out by saying it was too soon to tell, as the story was still being written. But it seems necessary for those of us who are living in the moment to articulate their opinions, so that we don’t wind up with only revisionist history recorded.

As a manager, Collins was a compiler, a guy who put up the numbers he did only because he was allowed to keep the job as long as he did. He played nice in Sandy Alderson’s sandbox and was allowed to stick around when others would have been kicked to the curb. Bobby Valentine let his opinions be known to management and was shown the door. Collins for the most part keeps his mouth shut and does what he’s told.

Keep cashing those checks, baby.

Without a doubt, Collins brought respectability back to the manager’s office for the Mets. For the most part, he handles the media without major blowups, which is not a small feat in New York. His players seem to like him.

The first one is why he should have been allowed to manage the second year of his initial two-year contract. It really shouldn’t carry any weight past that. The last one says at least as much about the players as it does the manager. Can you imagine David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera bad mouthing a manager? Those guys could probably find something nice to say about Vern Rapp.

So that leaves getting along with the media. It’s a point in Collins’ favor, without a doubt. But while not everyone can do it, we saw Bryan Price struggle with the brutal Cincinnati media last year, let’s not pretend that only a few people on earth could do it. If Collins got along with the media but didn’t carry water for Alderson, do you think he would still be here? So, let’s recognize that this strength for Collins is not what ultimately is keeping him employed.

My opinion is that Collins would make a great neighbor. He wouldn’t throw any loud parties, he’d never block your driveway and he’d always keep his lawn looking nice. You’d give him a friendly wave when you saw him outside, talk nicely about him to others and always remember to give him a fruitcake for Christmas. But you’d never willingly spend time with him discussing important things nor invite him to hang out when your real friends came by.

The qualities that make him a good neighbor, or friendly to the media, don’t necessarily translate into being a good manager when the game is being played. A lot of people preach that this aspect of the job is overrated. And perhaps it is. But when we’re assessing a manager’s legacy, it’s hard to ignore when a guy’s decisions in the actual dugout are so … bad. That absolutely must be stated when discussing his strengths and weaknesses and assessing his place in history.

How about this for Collins’ legacy?

After losing control of the clubhouse in his previous managerial stops in Houston and Anaheim, Collins did much better in this regard in New York, in no small part because of the good-guy nature of his star players. Because of his demeanor in press conferences day after day, Collins mostly got a free pass from the media, who never questioned either his core managerial philosophy or his day-to-day moves. Most other guys who ran their star players into the ground, overworked their bullpen and missed obvious substitution moves would be crucified in the tabloids. But not Collins.

He willingly played the role of spineless middle manager, never sparking any creative friction with his GM. All of these things allowed him to stay employed, while guys who were hired around the same time – Mike Quade, Edwin Rodriguez, Ron Roenicke – suffered the usual managerial fate. And when the young pitchers arrived in Queens and Alderson traded for Yoenis Cespedes, the team’s talent more than made up for his managerial blunders.

Jalen Rose spoke about his “Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks” ESPN segment and said about the show’s focus, “it’s a great way to acknowledge those whose contracts are outperforming them, not the other way around.” With his latest contract, Collins’ pay scale cracked into seven-digits per year. So you can look at it that he’s making less than the backup catcher. But he’s probably doing less to push the team forward, too.

Keep cashing those checks, baby.

38 comments on “Cashing checks: The Terry Collins legacy in New York

  • Barry

    Can’t find anything to disagree with.
    Very well-said, wry, and a novel take on TC.

  • Fletcher Rabbit

    Golly gee, Brian Joura — ain’t you the profound analyst? Seven seasons of balancing in the roughest media market in the USA? Dealing with a team last year that lost substantial time frames from its 1b, 2b, as, 3b, cf, c, and 4 of 5 startng pitchers, and still managing to carry them to an 8th inning in a playoff game against the established best post-season pitcher of the past decade? Do I agree with every move Collins makes? Of course I don’t! But he’s way better than Dusty Baker or Mike Sciosia or plenty of others who have come and gone. Other than Bochy or Francona no other skipper is clearly established as his superior, and apart from Hodges or Johnson the Mets have never had a better manager.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • Brian Joura

      If given the chance, I’d do a one-for-one managerial swap trading Collins for any of these guys:

      Buck Showalter
      John Farrell
      Terry Francona
      Mike Scioscia
      Joe Girardi
      Bob Melvin
      Joe Maddon
      Clint Hurdle
      Mike Matheny
      Bruce Bochy
      Dusty Baker

      And I’m sure there are others that I’d prefer, too, if I knew more about them. Loved Paul Molitor as a player but can’t honestly say I know much about him as a manager. I suspect Bud Black would be preferable. Brad Ausmus and Ned Yost have their supporters.

      • Chris F

        Its funny re-reading this. On MLB radio, far and away the most calls from irate fans pertain to the Cards and Yankees, aside from the truly terrible. Its and endless barrage about batting orders in StL and pen management across town. Baker and Sciosca are both player types that have no interest in advanced metrics. There are good skippers on that list, but let me tell ya, I would add Collins to it as well, after separating Bochy, Maddon, and Tito, who are in a separate class.

        • Brian Joura

          I don’t believe advocating for advanced metrics is necessary to be a good manager. In fact, I’d be very happy if we returned to a lot of things that used to be standard in the 1970s before anyone outside of his immediate family knew who Bill James was.

    • Name

      Your criteria for evaluating a manager is terribly flawed, but may i remind you what happened in 2011 and 2012, when he “lost” the clubhouse?

      Many forget he was at the helm of two late season collapses in 2011 and 2012 (I guess it balances out what happened the last 2 years)

      2011: Started 55-51, then went 21-34
      2012: Started 46-39, then went 28-49

      • Metsense

        Collins should have been let go after the 2012 as Name, myself and a host of others commented on. He now has won the past two years and although I also can think of better managers I would not change now. Keep cashing those checks TC but keep winning also. I hope 2017 is indeed his last season and he retires with a World Championship. I have never been a fan.

    • TexasGusCC

      It’s incredibly mind blowing to know that when the Mets lose it’s the players’ fault; when the Mets win, it’s Collins’ doing.
      – When Flores got thrown out at the plate, it was his fault because he was slow even though Pierzynski never gave a lane but what cream puff on the Mets dugout will do anything about it?
      – When Jay Bruce got thrown out as the last out against San Francisco but replays showed him safe, yet Collins “didn’t think” of challenging the play. The bench coaches fault for not telling Collins.
      – When players get drilled but no one retaliates, no mention.
      – When young players can’t get in the field due to old foggies being in the way, no problem.
      – When the Mets squander opportunities and games due to lack of fundamentals, which is directly contributed to the manager, crickets.
      – And lastly, when his over managing the seventh inning of a game by using four relievers leaves him depleted in extra innings, or bringing in a dog tired Familia in the ninth inning after working the previous four games and the Mets lose these games, where the heck are the reporters then????

      All of these are never called out by media because they don’t want to appear as cruel to a kind old man who everyone knows is overwhelmed.

  • NormE

    I’m not a fan of TC, especially during game time.
    However, how much credit should he get for Cespedes’ desire to remain with the Mets?
    Another question, which none of us can answer with authority, is how much input does TC have in the decisions made by the FO?
    Just askin’.

    • Brian Joura

      My opinion on your two questions:

      1. A tiny bit, maybe 5%? If TC was managing him the exact same way in Milwaukee, and the team offered $75 million, he wasn’t signing.
      2. Not much. Supposedly he wanted Backman as his bench coach and that didn’t happen.

  • Jimmy P

    In general, people here are much, much tougher on Collins than they are of Alderson.

    I find that backwards.

    • TexasGusCC

      Good point, but we also see some great moves by Alderson. Name one by Collins, ever.

  • Eraff

    Baseball Players are now 9 months a year together… big ego “individual businesses” in very confined and compulsory space.

    Brian, I take you to be an advanced statistic disciple….. and while there’s always been a debate of Valuing a Manager, there’s not yet a stat… a Team Independent Management Performance, TIMP

    Most discussion over the years leans toward lowered valuation on In-game Manager Performance. I agree with that, generally. My other leaning is measuring whether a guy won when he “had the horses”.

    Most Management today, especially in a big Market, is about Non- Baseball Strattegy….. keeping all the egos on check and happy and engaged. Player selection and development has become a Mix of Management and Fromt Office.

    I don’t think a Manager could do a better job at The People Stuff than TC has done…. the give him. Dry high Grades there.

  • Eraff

    I give him high grades on the people stuff

    • Name

      Can you name any manager, Mets or non-Met, during a winning period who didn’t have “people stuff”?

      And what would have to happen for one to show “low grades” for people stuff?

  • NormE

    When Bobby Valentine went to Boston I told a Red Sox fan that BV was one of the best in-game managers I had ever seen based on his Mets years. What happened? It was the “people stuff”. He completely screwed up that element.
    TC doesn’t belong in the same discussion with BV as an in-game strategist, but he finally learned how to handle the “people stuff”.

    • Jimmy P

      Great example.

    • Jimmy P

      I don’t think Earl Weaver was particularly good at “people stuff.”

      • Brian Joura

        I don’t agree with this.

        Weaver was blunt, no doubt about that. And I’m sure he rubbed some people the wrong way. But that description could apply to Casey Stengel, too. Stengel’s the one who said the secret to good managing was to keep the guys who didn’t like you away from the guys who hadn’t made up their minds yet. Clearly, some players didn’t like Casey. And what about the Kranepool line where in 10 years, he’s got a chance to be a star while the other guy (Goossen?) had a chance to be 30? Jerry Manuel would call that gangsta.

        Yet I think most people would describe Stengel as being good at people stuff. And why is that? Because he charmed the media who in turn always told us what a great guy he was.

        Regardless of whether Weaver had people skills or not, his managing career is outstanding. Do you think Terry Collins could have won 102 games with the 1979 Orioles? Seven of their 10 hitters with the most PA had an OPS+ in double digits, including Kiko Garcia (82), Rich Dauer (81), Rick Dempsey (80) and Mark Belanger (36!!)

        Here’s a nice story on the Palmer-Weaver relationship

        Edit – I don’t think I explained my position very well. I don’t think being blunt means that you’re no good with “people stuff.” Many people prefer the truth rather than having smoke blown up their bottom by a supposed friendly guy.

        • Jimmy P

          I think your position, your agenda, is very clear and extremely narrow.

          Quoting the PA and OPS+ stuff is just a big whiff in terms of this discussion. Earl Weaver was a great manager. Everybody knows it.

          Weaver, if you’ve read his book, went entire seasons without talking to his players. Not a word.

          Hey, it was a totally different time. But the point that was being discussed — and my answer to Name’s comment — was that yes, there’s been a long list of managers who were not good at “the people stuff” but were successful in terms of wins and loses.

          Some of us here are willing and able to give TC credit for that important aspect of managing. That it isn’t just Strat-O-Matic, isn’t just some armchair fantasy of hating loogys, or whatever. These are real men. And he is dealing with Jeff and Sandy, too.

          For whatever reason, some people don’t want to give TC any credit for that. They minimize it, make condescending remarks about it, dismiss the value of it. And I guess that’s necessary, if your agenda is to trash Terry Collins.

          It’s one thing for a fan to yell and scream about TC’s “game management.” But the reality is that fan would very, very likely make worse decisions, and more frequently. TC doesn’t bunt excessively; he doesn’t get runners thrown out trying to steal bases; he doesn’t put the wrong people on the field. He does a lot of things right.

          • Brian Joura

            It’s pretty much a given that if the guys who play the most are below average that your results will be below average. Weaver, due to his in-game strategy, was able to take a group of guys who were overwhelmingly below average, 70% in this case, and produce an offense that was above average in runs scored and win 102 games. I know you have such an aversion to math but if you think that’s not germane to the discussion, I can only conclude that you have no idea what the discussion actually is.

            Me, and plenty of other people, would love it if our boss did not talk to us. Tell me what needs to be done and get out of my way and let me do it. Your position seems to be that the only way to be good at the “people stuff” is to be a hand holder. I disagree with that. Put me in a position to succeed, give me the tools to succeed and don’t screw it up for me.

            We can disagree about how much credit the manager should get for not screwing it up. I think he deserves X while others think he deserves X + 50. If people want to go on and on about how he didn’t screw it up – that’s their prerogative. I’m grading on a different scale. If he had 2016 Jonathan Papelbon and 2013 Jordany Valdespin and 1989 Gary Sheffield, I would give him more credit. You seem to think that handling Yoenis Cespedes should give him some kind of medal. Have you heard one teammate say anything bad about him? I think this is a case of the perception of Cespedes being out of touch with reality. If he really was this incorrigible prima donna – something would have come out by now. Collins didn’t screw it up and deserves some praise for that. But I’m not going to act like he cured cancer.

            And where do you think the decision not to bunt excessively and not steal bases is coming from? You want to crucify Alderson for a bunch of things and refuse to acknowledge that he’s the one who established the ground rules that you’re crediting Collins for.

  • Chris F

    TC has a legacy to evaluate, and an interesting one at that. From manage the reigns of a team during rebuild to NL Champs. In that time Collins has had to be different people in response to the change in status. Can the overall record really be “his” responsibility. Much blood has been spilled over the bullpen management, for good reason. No one would claim Collins is a top Xs and Os kind of guy. The assessment of his values as a people guy, or clubhouse guy certainly contrasts nearly opposite with what I hear from an industry perspective. Is it fair to say he gets no credit because of his players? As Name mentioned, he had plenty of rough press conferences early on, and he had his spell of tough to handle matters from Reyes leaving, to Valdespin, to Mejia, to Familia to Bruce to Frank Frank to _________. And he has a Pennant and WC berth to his credit.

    Collins record is that of a compiler by virtue of being offered contracts. Why is that itself some sort of negative factor? Like it or not, he will have all kinds of Mets managing records, like Eddy Kranepool. He will have his overall record only because the boss wants him on the field — that is an Alderson matter, not a Collins one. I feel the same about the negative connotation about the “cashing checks” visualization. Ive had plenty of peers in my days that I would call cash checkers…and they all have things in common: lazy, underachieving, slackers that accomplish little but somehow appear busy. That is not Collins. By all measures he is a very hard working, very energetic, team player that is fully integral to the system, whether we like that system or not. Furthermore, nothing but wildly high marks come from his players, does that count less that our view from an armchair?

    Ive complained plenty about TC over the years, and an awfully lot like what this story has articulated. What we see for a few hours every day for months on end leaves a lot to be desired. Ive also come to accept his job has many components I dont understand or see, and those components are valuable to the team, enough to absorb the nutty decisions we see night after night.

    Anyway, Collins clearly has taken a beating by the blogosphere here, and in general. It has been different coverage from the beat writers and national media that all uniformly laud Collins as player-centered skipper, who is hard working, a team player, and that interfaces well with the public.

    • Brian Joura

      I like the comparison to Ed Kranepool, a guy people have tremendous affection for despite all evidence to the contrary.

      You call him energetic and a team player and I happily sign off on that. But you say he’s hard working and to that I reply, work smarter not harder. Sorry but when I hear he spends hours figuring out the lineup, that’s not a positive.

      To me this is a case where not being close to the action has a benefit. It’s much harder to criticize a nice guy, someone who makes your job easier. It’s my belief that this is the case with TC and the mainstream media.

      And just to be clear, cashing checks is ultimately more of an indictment of Alderson, than Collins.

      • TexasGusCC

        Your last line Brian contradicts one of the Announcments that scroll on the front page.

        I have said this before, so I may be repeating myself here, but, my first day as an undergrad in Economics 101, my professor, Barry Goldstein, asked how many people believe that people have their job because of what they know. Well, almost 95% of us 18 year olds thought so. He said statistics show that 80% of the people have their job because of Who they know, not What they know. Start networking.

        It is forever my impression that Fred Wilpon’s friendship with Sandy Koufax was the reason Collins not only got the job, but was able to keep it. When Wilpon at the All-Star game in Citifield in 2014 was asked if Collins was considered for replacement, he laughed and his answer was “For what he has, he’s doing a great job”. That’s not glowing praise for the GM. Then, Collins got the Mets to the World Series in 2015, so how can you fire him then? In 2016 Collins spent the whole summer with his “woe is us” cry to the media over the injuries, never realizing that keeping Granderson at #1 all year was severely killing his team. So when he gets to the wild card game again, Alderson can’t touch him once more. Also, recall Wilpon saying in spring training of either ’14 or ’15 that he “would be around more to asses the situation”? I really don’t think Alderson had the clout he tried to show he had.

        Alderson shows himself to be an intellectual in how he carries himself; hard for me to believe he can stomach a screw-up. But, lucky for Collins, Alderson has bosses too.

  • Eraff

    He’s Managed 2 Dead in the Water Teams to 2 Straight Playoffs….His players love him, and they’ve performed for him.

    I get screaming at the TV for different moves, but how can you reduce this guy to such a low level?

    • Brian Joura

      Because I don’t give TC extra credit for his guys playing hard for him. I think he’s got a roster full of people who are easy, go-along type of guys. In all honesty, I think Wright, Granderson, Cabrera and the rest would play just as hard if you or Chris F. or Metsense was managing them.

      • Metsense

        Wright, Granderson and Cabrera would hate me as a manager because I would regularly rest them!

        • TexasGusCC

          I love you Metsense! Play Flores!

        • Jimmy P

          That’s a joke, I know, but only partly. Doing things that players don’t like is quite tricky and can be counter-productive. This is an important aspect of “managing” personalities, not just “the game.”

          Personally, I think managing Cespedes alone is a hugely difficult.

          Again, reading so many of these comments, I come back to the same observation: This is not Strat-O-Matic. There’s so much behind the scenes that we can’t pretend to know. What we do know is that managing under the microscope of NY is extremely difficult, and that TC is respected in his own clubhouse.

          I also think the game management stuff is way, way overblown. There are thousands of decisions and fans will always take issue with some of them. In addition, it’s a well-known fact that ordinary fans, sitting in stuffed armchairs, think they are smarter than the guys in the dugout. We all should know that can’t possibly be true. Anyone who reads comments sections in all the blogs know this is true.

          I don’t think TC is a great manager, but I think he’s a good one, and I believe he gets a ton of unfair criticism from people who aren’t as smart as they think they are.

  • Eraff

    Side comment on Brian’s list…I like most of the guys mentioned…John Farrell is pretty much the exception. A Guy who rode Great Pitchers to a “Genius Tag”. and he is as light weight and questionable with game management as any manager out their. Frankly, as a Manager, he’s one of the luckiest Men alive. He has a constant influx of great talent, and they’ve been incredibly patient with his Mixed Results.

  • Eraff

    The 1979 Orioles Led the League in ERA and FIP. They allowed almost 100 Less Hits than their nearest competitor, and their Pitchers struck out the 3rd most batters.

    Their Offense was 5th in OPS, and 4th in OPS+ They were 2nd in Walks. They were 3rd in Homers at 185.

    They won 102 Games…more than any team in Baseball…..I would have guessed that, looking at the Stats! They would be measured against their competition—1979 Teams—They were clearly a superior team to their competition.


    • Brian Joura

      Their pitching was outstanding, no doubt.

      But they got that offense with Weaver’s mixing and matching. It was truly a team where the manager made a difference.

  • Eraff

    I won’t argue about Collins. I like Him, and You don’t…. but this discussion of the ’79 Orioles? C’mon! You’re a Stat Guy, and I’m calling an infraction on your argument–loss of 5 Yards, still first down.

    • Brian Joura

      You’re looking at the results of what Weaver accomplished without looking how he did it.

      • Jimmy P

        Again, Weaver was a great baseball manager, everybody knows it.

        One thing that Weaver had was continuity. He managed the Orioles from 1968-82, then returned in 85 and 86. There’s value in consistency of message and philosophy and attitude. I think that’s how organizations develop an identity.

        He sure cashed a lot of checks.

        But I forget. Is that a bad thing?

        As I recall, Earl always had his detractors, especially for his penchant to sit back and wait for the three-run homer. Some fans hated that style, wanted to see him be more active. Bunt, steal, hit-and-run. You know, little ball. That is, there were folks who didn’t think he was a great in-game manager. And the arguments with umpires ultimately took on a clownish patina.

        His book, “Weaver on Strategy,” remains a classic. I highly recommend it.

        • TexasGusCC

          All this comparing Weaver to Collins misses a very big point: Weaver was a perfectionist. Collins makes excuses and ignores results while faithfully waiting for his veterans to come through. That is a strain on the team’s record.

          One of my favorite quotes from Weaver:
          “Some have said that I can accept inadequacies in my players but not in umpires. That completely misses the point. I can’t tolerate anyone’s mistake.”

          Does anyone ever see Collins manage like this? For whatever reason, Collins has never addressed any mistakes made by “his veterans”.

        • Brian Joura

          I’m not sure what discussion you want to have or if you even want to have a discussion. Part of me thinks all you want to do is take pot shots.

          I’m happy to talk about Earl Weaver and his managerial career.
          I’m happy to talk about Terry Collins and his managerial career.
          I’m happy to compare and contrast the two of them.

          You let me know how you’d like to proceed and I’ll do my best to hold up my end of the conversation.

  • Eraff

    The Warren Spahn quote about Casey Stengel was that He played for him (Both) “Before and After he was a Genius”.

    Gene Mauch was always considered a Strategic Genius— he rode the Phillies to a generational Collapse, but was still considered a Genius after that.

    The guys who impress Me are those who have gone “outside the lines”… La Russa who greatly refined and defined Bullpen Roles and Specialists and moved the game in a different direction. Joe Madden, who embraced defensive situational baseball with data driven Shifts.

    I believe Joe Torre exemplified a new meaning of “Players’ Manager”… embracing the reality of big egos and “Man-Management”. That was his “Genius”—the management of the Men in his clubhouse and all of the activity of the media and personalities that swirled around the Yanks.

    The managers in all sports who are great have great recognition of what their players can do—and what they cannot…and they put them in situations to do what they do well. My Favorite examples are Hodges and Weaver, in the olden days, and Davey Johnson– they led the way in recognizing their Bench players and the inputs they could provide. Weaver managed deep teams, and he deployed them extremely well—he found player strengths and matched to opportunity.

    Some of those decisions are in-game…more are about over all approach and lineup management and planning.

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