Terry Collins: Savior or Leap of Faith?

AP Photo

Maybe, at the age of 61, Terry Collins is about to hit his stride. Then again, maybe he’ll just be Art Howe with a  mean streak.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Sandy Alderson’s choice (or is it Paul DePodesta’s?)  for the Mets new manager, but I do have feelings of trepidation.  Collins is certainly not an unkown, but he’s eleven years removed from his last major league managing job, a brief and rocky stint with the Angels. He had some success in his first managerial gig with the Astros — that is, if you define success as finishing second every year.  He has a reputation as being prickly and difficult, the classic taskmaster, qualities that reportedly led to his demise in Anaheim. Although when I read that Mo Vaughn was the ringleader behind his ouster, I thought, hmmm, maybe this guy knows what he’s doing.

After Jerry Manuel, I should welcome a guy who can make milk go sour just by looking at it. And if his bad side means that he holds players accountable and has an insatiable attention to detail, then who’s to complain? This is exactly what the underachieving Mets need! 

So is it fair to call Collins as a “safe” pick. He’s experienced, he knows the Mets system having served as their minor league field coordinator (I’m not sure what that is, but I don’t think it’s the guy who books the fields for infield practice; it has to be  a more serious gig than that, no? ).  Reputation as a solid baseball man. As one unnamed National League manager told Mike Lupica in today’s New York Daily News, “The baseball part of it, I have no doubts. He will never be outmanaged.”   

Problem is, most Mets fans were not looking for a  safe pick. Or dare I say, someone who could be perceived as a retread.  They . . .we. . .okay, me, were  hoping more for Wally Backman, a bit risky having no managerial experience at the major league level. And a bit of a loose cannon. But he offers  a nostalgic connection to a glorious past, this fiery, scrappy, overweight, likeable, take-no-prisoners kind of guy. Just the way he was when he dirtied his uniform for the ’86 Mets. Seems like someone the players would like, respect and fear at the same time.   I would take my chances with him. But once Alderson, ex-Marine, Harvard grad, organizational man, was brought on board, you knew Wally would get little more than lip service. Right down to the final interview. Alderson and Co. want a guy who’ll salute — and not with his middle finger. 

So we get Terry Collins. Between now and Opening Day, after listening to him say all the right things (at least I hope), I will try to convince myself that he’s another Joe Torre, Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona — guys who had “recycled” on their backs until they got the chance, under the right circumstances, to blossom as field generals. And the stars could be aligning just right for Collins. He has a very experienced, smart team in the front office. Patient owners. A bunch of players just waiting to get some sense kicked into them (I wish). A fan base anxious for a manager willing to get tossed from a game for the good of his team. He’s just misisng one thing: enough talent to win. But let’s not go there right now.  

Call it a leap of faith, but maybe, just maybe, this is the time for Terry Collins. I’ve got about four months to start believing that.

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