Mets Get a D for Terry Collins
Jon Heyman of SI.com recently posted a “report card” of the managerial hirings this winter. In the article, he gave the Mets a “D+” for the hiring of Terry Collins, rating it #10 of 10 hirings — in other words, dead last.
If you have been reading MetsToday for at least a month, you know that Terry Collins was not my favorite choice. Despite that, I can’t put much stock into Heyman’s report card.
First of all, #1 on his list was the Pirates’ hiring of Clint Hurdle. Huh? Is this the same Clint Hurdle whose managerial career consists of 7 losing seasons out of 8? And the only way he was able to manage a winning season (and World Series appearance) was because his team went on a freakish 23-8 run to end the 2007 regular season?
Yeah, yeah, I know — Hurdle never had much talent in Colorado, blah blah blah. All I’d like to point out about his managerial skills is that his team’s home park was Coors Field (aka “Coors Canaveral”), yet his team annually led the NL in sacrifice bunts. That makes sense how?
One wonders where Hurdle would’ve placed on Heyman’s list had the Mets hired him before the Pirates did; would he still be #1?
The comedy continues with Heyman’s choice of #2: Fredi Gonzalez. The remarkably high respect for Gonzalez baffles me about as much as the similar respect paid to Manny Acta (or as Michael Kay calls him, “Connie Mackta”). Gonzalez’s Marlins teams were routinely ill-prepared, undisciplined, lackadaisical, and severely lacking in fundamentals. I know that his rosters were often filled with not-ready-for-prime-time players, but that’s no excuse for three of the four issues cited in the previous sentence. After Joe Girardi pushed a very young team to a surprising 78-84 finish in 2006, one could argue that Gonzalez’s next four seasons and slightly under .500 record were an underachievement. Yes, people will quickly point out that Edwin Rodriguez did no better managing the team after Gonzalez’s departure; my retort is, the Fish did no worse after Rodriguez took over, either — thus, Rodriguez was just as ineffectual (and yet was #6 on Heyman’s list!). Still, the Braves couldn’t wait for Gonzalez to become available, and I’ll never understand why. The common explanation is that he understands the “Braves Way” and was being groomed for the position while serving as Bobby Cox’s third-base coach from 2003-2006. OK, but then why didn’t he apply what he learned in Miami?
Heyman goes on to list the Dodgers’ hiring of Don Mattingly at #8, wondering if he’s “ready”. Ready for what? Do newspapermen really believe that baseball managing is akin to brain surgery? Have they not yet understood that leadership is something one either has, or doesn’t have? Mattingly has been coaching at the MLB level since 2004, as a bench coach since 2006; what more does he need, pray tell, to be “ready”? If he hasn’t figured it out by now, he never will.
Finally, there is Heyman’s evaluation of Collins:
Collins, who hasn’t managed a major league team since 1999, knows his baseball but looks like he might be the riskiest choice of all after bad endings in Houston, Anaheim and with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan. Collins appeared like the favorite the moment his close relationships with new team VP Paul DePodesta and the immortal Sandy Koufax, who also happens to be Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s childhood friend, came to light. Mets people say the feisty Collins rounds out an erudite front office. Moneyball men also tend to pick guys they have pre-existing relationships with who can be counted on to fulfill the orders of the front office. Collins is no dummy, and his fiery shtick should play well at the start (especially among those Mets fans who craved for Wally Backman, a starter on the 1986 World Series champion Mets), but his history suggests he may have difficulty making it all work in New York. Grade: D-plus.
I can’t say I completely disagree with Heyman’s assessment; I too question Collins’ bad endings and whether he can handle New York — particularly, the incessant media coverage. The problem, however, is in Heyman’s inconsistency in his grading system. He grades the Hurdle hire as #1 because he is a loser matched with a loser, but he places the Collins hiring last presumably because he believes the Mets are supposed to contend in 2011 and 2012 (?).
Though I don’t love the Collins hiring, I understand the thinking behind it: the Mets are planning on going nowhere for the next two years, and will spend that time overhauling every aspect of the organization. Thus their managerial hiring was something of a stopgap — someone put in place due to familiarity both with the current minor league system and the front office personalities. In other words, there are zero expectations, so how is the Collins hiring that much different from that of Hurdle or Edwin Rodriguez? In all three cases, the team in question is not looking to contend anytime soon, and has hired a guy who appropriately will not do much if anything to accelerate the progress of the plan — they are all set up to fail.
I guess what it comes down to is this: Terry Collins may not be my ideal choice for field general, but now that he’s manager of the Mets, he’s one of ours, and will be dealt with accordingly by us — not some punk kid down the street. Kind of like having a younger brother who you, and only you, are allowed to beat up.