One of the most enjoyable aspects of baseball is the chatter it inspires among fans. Would this historical team have beaten this modern-day team? Who is the greatest player of all time? Similarly, we like to compare current situations with those from days gone by. The Mets are facing a decision on Terry Collins, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Collins is presiding over a team going through a rebuilding process. Though that term has not been officially sanctioned as a proper descriptor by the organization, we all know that it’s the case. Another Mets manager was in place during a rebuilding, restructuring, or re-crafting phase, Joe Torre. Things did not end well for Torre is Queens, and they may not end well for Collins. Just how similar was the landscape for Torre and Collins? Let’s take a look.
Joe Torre was named manager of the Mets on May 31, 1977. He was actually player/manager for about three weeks, before retiring as a player. The 1977 Mets were 4 years removed from a pennant, and still had many of those pennant-winning players on the team. However, things had gone sour. After being somewhat competitive in 1974, 1975, and 1976, the Mets were off to a dreadful start in 1977. It was time to tear down the franchise, and begin the long, arduous process of rebuilding. Sixteen days after Torre took over the helm, Tom Seaver, the franchise himself, was dealt to the Reds. In August of 1977, catcher Jerry Grote was sent to the Dodgers. After the 1977 season, another stalwart from the 1973 team, Jon Matlack, was traded. In spring training of 1978, shortstop Bud Harrelson was dealt to the Phillies. Torre was left with a shell of the team he inherited, and the on-field performance of the team reflected that. Here are Torre’s records as Mets manager:
1981- 41-62 (strike year)
Torre was fired after the 1981 season. While Torre was managing, the Mets had drafted Darryl Strawberry, and acquired Ron Darling via trade. Other young players, such as Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Hubie Brooks were in the depths of the organization. However, Torre would not be around for the rebirth of the Mets. He took the fall, serving as night watchman for the glory to come during the subsequent daylight. Obviously, Torre went on to achieve great things, just not in Flushing.
Now we move forward to the current New York Mets. Terry Collins took over as manager after the 2010 season, when the Mets were four years removed from being within one Adam Wainwright curve of winning a pennant. When Collins took over, many of the players from the 2006 team were still New York Mets. However, shortly after the 2011 season began, the fire sale also began. First, Francisco Rodriguez was traded to Milwaukee, leaving Collins without a closer. Two weeks later, Carlos Beltran became a San Francisco Giant. After the 2011 season, Jose Reyes was allowed to take his skills to Miami. And finally, after the 2012 season, Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Mets records in two seasons under Terry Collins reflect the purging of the team’s star players, as Collins posted a 77-85 record in 2011, and a mark of 74-88 in 2012. As during the Torre regime, the Mets are building something underneath the major league team as Collins manages the squad. The organization has exciting pitching prospects, such as Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Rafael Montero. There are some promising position players too, such as Matt den Dekker, Cory Vaughn, and Wilmer Flores. The question is, will Collins be around to see this rebirth?
Many Mets fans would agree that the club will win somewhere between 65 and 80 games this year. If you add this to Collins’s first two seasons, and consider that many feel the team “quit” on him in both 2011 and 2012, the odds are that Collins will not be around for 2014, when many feel the sun will again rise in Queens. In this way, Collins may experience the same fate as Torre. Deal with rebuilding, say all the right things during press conferences (or at least try to do so), and be given a pink slip when the club is on the precipice of a turnaround. After Torre, the Mets were briefly managed by George Bamberger/Frank Howard, until Davey Johnson took over for the ride to a championship. Who will be the 2014 version of Johnson? Time will tell. However, Terry’s fate seems to be sealed. If it’s of any solace to him, and if history truly does repeat itself, there may be a light at the end of Collins’s tunnel as well.