I understand why Terry Collins got a new, two-year contract at the end of the season, and why he came in third during yesterday's NL Manager of the Year voting. He's a strong man, who is very nice, and I'm OK with him at the helm. However, as I've said before, if something goes off track during the next 18 months, if Collins loses the team or things aren't working out, the Mets need to make a change.
Collins did his best work in 2015, so I understand why he was up for the award. He kept a very flawed and young team focused through a difficult summer on their way to the postseason. The Mets played hard all year, from before spring training to their final game, and clearly they care about and respect him - and he feels the same about them. This is very important.
The Mets could easily find a better in-game tactician than Collins. It would not be difficult. However, will that person be able to manage the New York media and connect with these specific players like Collins has done so well. Maybe, maybe not. But, it would be a gamble to switch it up, especially in favor a manager with a big personality. I think people who are not on the field before a game, in the clubhouse and around the team discount just how important and strong his off-field skills are to the success of this squad. The last thing they need is a manager that draws attention or disrupts the environment he and Sandy Alderson have worked hard to create the last few years, especially if it is expected to continue.
That said, Alderson and his staff have to do something about how Collins handles the team on field during the game.
There were games this past season when his choices bordered on terrible, and head-scratching at best, specifically when it comes to how he uses his bench and middle relievers. I realize this could have as much to do with the talent he's being asked to handle. However, I've seen plenty of managers do more with less, so I'm reluctant to put this all on Alderson.
I will always believe the baseball manager is massively overrated. However, they do have an impact, and it's often in ways that people don't realize - such as wasting outs, mishandling high-leverage moments and overusing relievers in spots when they have no business being in the game. The best way for a manager to best impact the game is to keep his players out of position to fail. The opposite is actually easier, which is why it is focused on and something people often compliment. However, it's far more important and impactful when reducing potential damage.
It's status quo for me as far as how Collins handles his players before and after the game. He's done an outstanding job. He also works great with his coaching staff, leaning on them for intel and carrying out his message. He's also terrific with reporters, with whom he's forced to talk at least two times a day for 250 days.
In regards to the game on the field, he says last season and the postseason helped underscore mistakes he was making in games. He says he's learned from it and will be better in 2016. I want to believe him. I hope he's right. However, whether it's sending messages to him during a game, loading him and his coaching staff with more pre-game information or simply getting players that better fit the team's overall approach, Alderson has to find a way to keep Collins out of position to fail on field during games so he can do the same for his players. Otherwise, his team will continue to waste opportunities, miss ways to scrape together runs and struggle to find a consistent bullpen, especially in situations that matter most...