Before everyone gets all up in arms, allow me to say that this article isn’t about to pin the Mets’ 17-27 record solely on the desk of manager Terry Collins. Rather, It’ll delve into just how bad things might be allowed to get before Collins is relieved of his duties. The list of things that ails the Mets is long, and Collins isn’t at the top of that list. Still, he’s at the wheel of a ship that’s sinking, and is one of the main faces of this early season from hell.
At the moment, fans are a mixture of angry, disillusioned, and apathetic. It can be argued that the Mets’ final 2013 record will have no bearing on what the 2014 team can accomplish (see the 1984 Mets as an example). However, with 2014 having been pegged as the year the Mets would turn this thing around, a truly horrendous 2013 will affect how fans view next year and beyond. In addition, although it’s ordinarily money that talks, if the Mets were to finish with close to 100 losses, it would be more challenging when it came time to add talent via free agency – which is something the Mets will be looking to do.
In the weeks and months ahead, the Mets will likely promote Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud, and Rafael Montero to the major league squad (probably in that order). This season is supposed to be a transition to bigger and better things, not a tumble backwards down a well into a pit of despair. If things keep going the way they are, this season won’t be viewed as a bridge to the future, It’ll be viewed as a bridge to nowhere.
The Mets are having trouble selling tickets and they’re having trouble relating to their fans. Even if they were to finish with a record similar to last year’s (74-88), it’d be difficult to market the 2014 edition. If they finish far worse than they did last year, it’ll make that job nearly impossible. And if they finish with a terrible record while doing nothing proactive to address it, the fans will be livid.
It was apparent coming into the season that the Mets lacked the talent necessary to legitimately contend. If their bad play was simply a matter of performance, it’d be one thing. The problem, is that their performance has been mixed with both a failure to execute, and at times boneheaded on field displays that have left the coaches and fans in stunned disbelief.
Recently, there have been a rash of inexcusable mistakes. Last week, John Buck was doubled off second base after not looking back when a line drive was hit to the outfield. A few days ago, Ike Davis was caught loitering near first base, resulting in an obstruction call. Just today, Daniel Murphy fell asleep at second base when he had a runner caught in a rundown, Ruben Tejada almost got picked off two separate bases (and failed to slide back in on the second occasion), and Ike Davis inexplicably watched as the game deciding hit trickled past his glove. The Mets aren’t just losing, they’re sleepwalking at times. Fair or not, that’s a reflection of the manager.
By all accounts, Terry Collins is a decent man and a hard working, no nonsense manager. As has been pointed out in the past, Collins isn’t an X’s and O’s guy who will outsmart the opposition. His value is as a motivator. Without that ability, his presence in the dugout is pointless. His last managerial tenure (in Anaheim) ended when the players staged a mutiny. Late last season, Collins was asked if the team had quit on him. He responded by telling the assembled media that they’d have to ask the players. This season, the same lazy, mistake filled play that’s afflicted the Mets for years is again manifesting itself. So, how bad will this be allowed to get before a change is made?
Consider this: The Mets find themselves 10 games under .500 this early in the season for the first time since 2001. Now think back to how atrocious 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2009 were. All of those teams got off to better starts than the 2013 Mets. That’s alarming.
If the Mets continue down this path (for instance, if the team is 22-40 three weeks from now), there has to be a change. This isn’t a call for Wally Backman or Tim Teufel, Pedro Lopez, or Bob Geren. It’s simply a call for change if it’s merited. The Mets can’t allow this season to spiral completely out of control. If they do, it has the potential to poison next season before it even begins.
At the moment, it appears that the odds of Terry Collins being the manager beyond 2013 are extremely slim. He knows that, and so do the players and the fans. Unless the team picks up its play, there’s no reason to allow Collins to ride out the string as a lame duck who won’t be having his contract renewed.
If the Mets continue to play as if they’re tuned out at times, the wise move would be to relieve Collins of his duties and replace him with an interim manager who the Mets feel might be the answer for 2014 and beyond. Install that person early, and evaluate him. If their handling of the job merits a permanent tag, award it. If not, find someone else. The one thing the Mets shouldn’t do, though, is allow this season to become a fiasco while the team is being led by someone who doesn’t fit in their future plans.