Meet The New Boss

I can’t say I’m any sort of excited over Terry Collins taking over as Mets manager. Collins’ record as manager of the Astros and Angels, and even of the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, was that of a somewhat Buck-Showalter-like high pressure, do-it-my-way manager who helped build a contender out of a talented but scuffling team (in the Angels case, one rebounding from the trauma of 1995), but then suffered clubhouse strife, saw the team decay in his hands, and was replaced by a guy who got them over the hump. His last U.S. managing job, either in the majors or minors, was in 1999 (he’s managed in Japan and the Chinese WBC team since then and worked as a minor league organizational guy with the Dodgers and Mets). As ESPN’s Mark Simon points out, one of Collins’ trademarks as a major league manager was his teams’ September pennant race collapses, absolutely the last thing Mets fans want to hear. Collins was thought to be a frontrunner for the job throughout the interview process, and is plugged in with the Alderson/Beane crowd that now runs the organization, having been Paul DePodesta’s apparent choice to take over as Dodgers manager until DePodesta – now with the Mets – was fired as GM.
So, let’s summarize:
-Not a new guy from outside the organization
-Never won anything, and his teams improved after he left
-Poor September pennant race showings
-Difficulty relating to players
What could go wrong?
I trust Sandy Alderson’s judgment in building rosters, and when you bring in a big name GM who knows what he’s doing in the regard, the manager is less critical and it’s important that he be in tune with the program, which Collins apparently is. That said, given the history of Alderson’s comments about managers as “middle managers” and the shortcomings of the post-LaRussa A’s in the postseason, I do wish that Alderson had learned from his time in the Marine Corps that middle managers still have an important role to play as emotional leaders, especially when managing young men. Marine NCOs are not less vital as teachers and motivators of young men just because the chain of command tells them where to go and what to do.
All that said, the conventional wisdom outlined above assumes that Collins, now 61, has neither matured nor learned from his earlier shortcomings and his decade to ponder what he got wrong. In fact, managers can and do grow over time. There are a number of managers who didn’t really get it done until their second or third job – Casey Stengel, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Whitey Herzog, Bobby Valentine…the most recent and perhaps more apt examples would be Terry Francona and Joe Girardi. Francona in particular really seemed like a guy who grasped the job of leading his players better the second time around. Some of those guys were always good managers and just needed the horses, but others really did need to learn and mature into the job. Perhaps the most optimistic parallel would be from the world of football: Bill Belichick was a flop his first go-round with the Browns for reasons somewhat similar to Collins’ earlier frustrations, but obviously he was better prepared to be the head coach when he went to New England.
It may also help that Collins knows the Mets’ system inside and out and will, I assume, be eager to deploy those youngsters in the system who have impressed him. The Mets are, barring a real stroke of luck, not likely to be significant contenders in 2011, but this is not a complete rebuilding job either assuming the team holds its core of under-30 players and plays its cards right, the franchise may well be a contender again by 2012. Let’s hope that by then Collins is able to avoid yet another replay of 2006-08.

5 thoughts on “Meet The New Boss”

  1. Maybe they see him as a building block. Viewing from away from NY, the Mets seem to be in disarray and maybe this is the first step to bringing them back to the right track. If you see Collins as a Showalter clone, I would see that as a good sigh that the team will soon be headed in the right direction. Good luck!

  2. Well, that’s a shorter way of saying the same thing.
    I had a thought tonight: the Mets hired Terry Collins because he’s already made the mistakes Wally Backman has yet to make.

  3. One of Bouton’s books was “I Managed Good But Boy Did They Play Bad.” The great teams all had one thing in common: Great Players. Period. End of story.
    OK, they also had an organization that knew how to assemble great players. Connie Mack, John McGraw, Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey, Theo Epstein. Different names, same results. Great managers (think Dodgers from 1947 to the end of the Lasorda years) were an extension of a great organization. Players who were developed to play a certain way, walk that way, and when talent came in, they knew to blend. Unless you are a Greg Maddux or Pedro Martinez. Great pitchers at the top of their game can do whatever they like.
    Yankee baseball? Get them on, get them over. Great job moving runners. Hit the long ball when needed. Catch the damn ball. The Garvey (put him in the Hall already) Dodgers? play really really well until the other guy makes a mistake (memo: don’t give Reggie a knuckle ball).
    Will Collins come out and yell? Who cares? Cox did, Weaver did, Torre didn’t, McCarthy didn’t. Get the Mets to play hard (they already did), get them to play with their heads out of their asses (now that’s the trick, isn’t it?), get Beltran healthy (and move him to right field). Maybe that’s why Collins is here. He’s old enough to do what he thinks is right, and new enough to Beltran to tell him he’s in a contract year, and if he wants the big bucks, shut up and play.

  4. As the Mets began their search, I hoped the main criterion for the new manager would be ability to develop new players, with the second as having players play the game right.
    The Mets’ lineup will have Thole, Davis, Tavares, and likely a young player in right. They may have some young pitchers. Cliches about disciplinarians aside, they need someone who can teach these guys how to play, and create a culture of wanting to win.
    Showalter got young Yankee and Texan teams to the brink, and was replaced by a different manager to get the team over the hump. I see Collins in the same light. Nobody will win with next year’s team. But Collins may be the guy to clean out the Castillo/Perez sort of poison, and set people like Martinez (whose most memorable moment was not running out a pop fly his second game in the majors) on the right track.

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