There’s been lots of talk since spring training started about Terry Collins and his so called “lame duck” status as manager. There are those who feel he deserves an extension, but I’m not one of them. To Collins’ credit, when he was asked about managing the season without a contract in place for 2014, he implied that he couldn’t care less – that he’s here to do his job.
According to ownership, the Mets will allow Collins to manage this year before determining whether or not he’ll be back for 2014 and beyond (there’s always the possibility he could get fired before the season ends, but it would take a total tank job and/or an extenuating circumstance). Fred Wilpon intimated that the decision wouldn’t be predicated entirely on wins and losses, but also on how Collins handles himself and the team. After that last sentence, it feels appropriate to take a look back at a volatile moment from the second half of last season.
The Mets were in the middle of one of the worst stretches they’d had in quite some time. The team wasn’t only losing, they were losing ugly. They were failing to run out grounders, making mental errors, giving up at bats, and playing without any sense of urgency. After one of the games, things reached a boiling point. Adam Rubin asked Collins if the team had quit on him, and this was his response:
You’ll have to ask them. I have my own opinion. I’m not going to express it publicly…You’ve still got to play. You’ve still got to play the game right, play like Juan Pierre plays. He hit a chopper down the first-base line in a game [while] meaningless and beats it out for a hit. That’s how you play.
If you analyze the quote, Collins is clearly saying his team wasn’t playing the game the right way. It’s fair to surmise that he felt the team had quit on him, though he doesn’t come out and state those exact words. However, when you note that your team has “got to play the game the right way,” you’re saying they’ve quit without actually uttering it.
After making those comments, Collins walked them back the next day and apologized to the team. I felt that he didn’t need to apologize. The team was playing an inexcusable brand of baseball, and didn’t deserve an apology for being called out for it. At the same time, once a manager comes out in public and gives the impression that he feels his team has quit on him, there’s usually no turning back.
Before the comments Collins made about the team having quit on him, I was already of the opinion that Collins shouldn’t be extended beyond 2013. After the comments, I thought there was a chance he’d get fired. Collins didn’t get fired, the season concluded, and here we are.
Even if Collins hadn’t made the comments about the team quitting, there still wouldn’t have been a valid reason to commit to him beyond 2013. The hand Terry Collins has been dealt as far as the rosters he’s had to work with hasn’t been an easy one. I genuinely like Terry, and think he’s been a great influence for the most part. Still, his ability to motivate is his strongest attribute. If he loses that ability, he should lose his spot in the dugout.
He may be able to motivate his players, but Collins falls short mostly everywhere else. Like lots of older managers, he relies heavily on veterans, at times to the detriment of the team. He’s not viewed as an above average tactician, and his handling of the bullpen over the last few seasons has left a lot to be desired. Again, Collins has not been managing one of the better rosters in the game, but it’s his job to get the most out of that roster. Too often, it seems as if he’s not.
At this point, there’s no reason for Collins to not be a “lame duck” manager. He still needs to prove himself. Over the past two seasons, the Mets have shown promise before the All-Star break before letting all their early hard work go to waste with back to back dismal second half performances. The trades of Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez hampered the team down the stretch in 2011. Last year, however, was a different story. The Mets had their injuries to deal with (like every other team), but the brand of ball they played for most of the second half was at times offensive to watch as a fan. Whether it’s fair or not, that falls on the manager.
As Fred Wilpon mentioned about a week ago, Terry Collins won’t just be judged on wins and losses alone. If the team plays the game the right way throughout the year and finishes with around the same win total as last season (or better), I’d expect Collins to get an extension. If the team completely tanks and/or the lackadaisical play of last year’s second half repeats itself, I’d expect Collins to be replaced.
Terry Collins has done an admirable job since being hired by the Mets. He’s earned the respect of the fans and the players, but he’s yet to earn a spot in the dugout for 2014 and beyond.