There were high expectations for the Mets during the 2010 season. A disappointing and injury-filled 2009 led many fans to believe that with all of the pieces back in place, 2010 would be the year to change the Mets fortunes. With a terrible stretch right after the All Star Break, which has become all too common with the Mets the past few seasons, the team sagged into a second straight fourth place finish in the National League East. Manager Jerry Manuel, who took over midway through the 2008 campaign, was fired and General Manager Omar Minaya was let go from his position.
During the offseason the club was obviously in the market for a new manager to lead the team. Many were pulling for the ’86 Met Wally Backman to get the call to lead the team in a new direction. Other sentimental folks wanted to see the return of Bobby Valentine to Queens. While these were the fan favorites at the time, the new regime under Sandy Alderson felt they needed a different answer. He decided to go with Mets Minor League Field Coordinator Terry Collins.
In five and half years of managing with both the Houston Astros and Anaheim Angels, Collins led those teams to five second place finishes. He was given a lot of criticism for his intense attitude with his teams, and thus not finishing as well as those teams could have.
Coming to the Mets he seemed to be a changed man, with a more relaxed attitude, being more of a manager backing his players. During his first two seasons, he led the club to 77 and 74 wins respectively. It felt like he was doing the best with what he could, especially during the midst of a rebuilding phase, seeing the likes of Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and Jose Reyes depart.
This year the Mets opened the gates struggling, and by May, were 10 games under .500 for the first time that early in the season since 2001. Since the walkoff win on Father’s Day and the acquisition of Eric Young, Jr. the Mets have looked like a completely different squad, playing winning baseball. Some want to credit Collins for working wonders with a team with very little pieces. While this may be true with how he handles players in the clubhouse and outside of the game, his in-game managing has been questionable at best.
For one, he’s completely overused lefty Scott Rice. While the Mets have done this in the past with lefties in Pedro Feliciano and Tim Byrdak, those pitchers did have a little bit of success in getting right handed hitters out. While Rice is holding left handed hitters to a .179 average, he’s getting absolutely torched by righties, who are hitting .405 off of him with an astronomical 1.054 OPS. Yes, you read that right. Collins loves to go to him, although he has slowed down using him a bit, going to Josh Edgin a little bit more now that he’s been successful.
But it hasn’t just been his overuse of Scott Rice that has been an issue, but when and when he does not go to the bullpen, especially in the case of Matt Harvey. Harvey was recently given an innings limit around 200-210 by Sandy Alderson. One would take that to mean that in cases where the Mets can, they would take him out as soon as they could to save his arm. Well, if that’s the case, Collins hasn’t gotten the memo as in Harvey’s last two starts he stayed in an inning too long. On July 3rd against the Diamondbacks, the Mets sat through yet another long rain delay, and started the game nearly two hours after it was supposed to commence.
Matt Harvey made the start and while not pitching his best, made it through six innings while only giving up two runs. He was near 100 pitches after pitching the sixth and appeared done. However, Collins kept him in for the seventh. It did not pay off, as Harvey was charged with three more runs, and was given his second loss. A similar situation happened in San Francisco in his last start. Harvey struggled early on, but settled down to work six solid innings.
After six, he was at 108 pitches, and looked finished. Again, Collins wanted to milk one more inning from him. Again, it did not pay off. Two pitches into the inning, the Giants tied the game. Harvey’s ERA in innings when he starts with 100 or more pitches is over 40. Incredible that Collins continues to use him in these spots, especially with the innings limit.
While he has overextended his ace at times, he underused Jeremy Hefner last time out. Hefner looked strong in his start against Pittsburgh, and cruised through seven innings with only 78 pitches. Collins felt he saw enough, and took him out. The bullpen promptly blew the lead and the game.
While these are only a few examples of what he has done, Collins at times looks utterly confused during games. Recently Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez were befuddled by a few of his decisions, yet a few innings later Cohen said Collins deserved an extension. Whether or not you like Collins, it’s evident he’s made some odd decisions during games. Does he deserve to be the manager of this team long term? Or should the Mets give someone else a shot?
Commentary from Danny Abriano:
Like Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel, I like Terry Collins the person. Unlike his two predecessors, Collins has brought some fire to the clubhouse and seems to be well liked by the majority of his players. Still, regardless of how well the team finishes in 2013, I feel that Collins needs to be replaced.
While Collins has been a positive force in the clubhouse, his in-game managerial style is poor. As Andrew pointed out above, he’s always been weak with bullpen management (a recent example was using four pitchers to get through one inning). In addition, Collins often leaves you scratching your head when it comes to his timing as far as taking his starting pitchers out of the game (see Andrew’s example of Collins taking Hefner out at 78 pitches but leaving an exhausted Harvey in to throw close to 120).
In addition to his sub-par handling of the pitching staff, Collins leaves lots to be desired when it comes to lineup construction and the rest of his in game management. He relies too heavily on the bunt, rarely utilizes the hit and run, makes puzzling double switches, etc. Collins also either ignores platoon splits or doesn’t read them, leading to odd lineup choices.
After watching Art Howe, Willie Randolph, Jerry Manuel, and Terry Collins, I’d like a manager in the Mets’ dugout who has a chance to outsmart the opposing manager. Terry Collins isn’t that guy. Whether the Mets choose Chip Hale, Wally Backman, Pedro Lopez, Bobby Valentine, or someone else, their next choice should be an analytical person who doesn’t abide by “the book.”