After the Mets were swept at home in a four game series against the Nationals last week, it was easy to conclude that the team had packed it in. They had lost one close game after another recently, seemingly unable to outlast the opposition in late innings. The bats were silent, the fielding atrocious (most notably, David Wright, who is light years from his Gold Glove days), the bullpen pathetic. When they got smacked 10-1 by the Nats in the final game of the series, it was time to bring out the body bags and send another lost season to the freezer.
Except Terry Collins would have nothing of it. He’s the one guy who still seemed to give a shit in September, his eyes wide, veins popping, voice strong and forceful whether the Mets won or lost. You’d think, during each post game interview, that he was in the thick of pennant race.
So after the Mets lay bruised and battered at the hands of Davey Johnson’s team, Collins let loose and challenged his team to wake up. Their response? A 12-2 shellacking of the Braves on Friday, a heart-breaking 1-0 loss on Saturday (again, R.A. Dickey deserved a better fate, again Chipper Jones was the hero), and an improbable come from behind 7-5 win today as they somehow figured out Johnny Venters. Not a bad showing against a playoff contender in a ballpark that has been the Mets personal hall of horrors over the years.
For the most part, Collins has done a very capable job keeping the Mets competitive and around the .500 mark all season. He’s gotten the most out of his young players, adroitly managing a lineup once again decimated by injuries; lost Carlos Beltran and K-Rod at the trade deadline; dealt with the Reyes will-likely-be-gone-next-year scenario with blinders and a stiff upper lip; and did the best he could with two veterans (Wright and Jason Bay) who played like their All-Star days were long behind them. And still, he kept the fire burning in his belly. I needed to see that from him — something I did not see from his predecessor. I needed to know that, more than decade removed from his last managerial job, Collins had not lost any of the intensity that defined his stops in Houston and Anaheim — for better or worse. I needed to know that if the Mets started unloading players after this season, that Collins was still worth keeping around to kick some butt.
I’m convinced that he is. Stay angry, Terry.