Terry Collins is relishing the chance to manage in his first pennant race since 1998
Terry Collins has witnessed some pretty lean times during his tenure as manager of the New York Mets.
He has been forced to take a lot of heat for his team’s poor play while the front office patiently rebuilt he organization, and cut payroll and talent from the big league roster.
But as the pitching has grown and matured thanks to what is clearly an outstanding player development system put in place by Sandy Alderson, John Ricco and Paul DePodesta, Collins is finally enjoying the benefits and reaping the rewards of the lumps he’s taken and the patience he has been asked for over the last four years.
He’s now in a real pennant race. The franchise is currently 4 1/2 games ahead of the Nationals for first place in the National League East. It’s the largest division lead the club has had since September, 2008.
And Collins is relishing the experience.
“When you’re in a pennant race, there’s nothing else like it. There’s nothing like the energy in the clubhouse, the energy in the stands. It’s an experience that doesn’t happen to too many people,” Collins recently told Matt Ehalt of the Bergen Record. “This is when you’ve got to really enjoy it. It makes all the tough times and all the work you’ve put in worth all the time and effort.”
When Collins took the job as manager of the Mets, he was leaving his post as the organization’s minor league field coordinator, a post he held for just one season under then GM Omar Minaya. He knew the organization and it’s minor leaguers well, which is an attribute he had over other managerial candidates.
While he knew how talented Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Jacob deGrom were when he was hired, he also knew there would be years ahead of him in which the club would struggle before finally turning the corner.
The club started turning that corner mid-season in 2014, and has improved to the point that only a year later, some industry on-lookers have suggested the Mets are currently a World Series contender.
And that means a lot to Collins, as he’s been able to survive those lean years, watch his players grow and come together to get to the point they’re at right now.
“The part here is I’ve lasted long enough to go through the tough times and get better. That’s special,” Collins said. “It’s the sense of accomplishment you lasted, you stuck by your program, people started to buy into it, and it worked. It’s a great feeling.”
There’s no way to no if 2015 will be the last season Collins manages the Mets. He is without a contract in 2016, and there haven’t been any rumblings the two sides are even discussing what’s next for the 66-year-old manager and his role with the Mets.
There’s no question he makes some quirky and often questionable in-game decisions strategically. But should the Mets reach the playoffs, Collins would easily be at the top of the manager of the year discussion in the National League. He’s been able to keep this club together despite so many unforeseen injuries to key players, a fragmented roster for the bulk of the season, unusual roster management by the front office, a piece meal bullpen, and being forced to try and find major league strengths from minor league players.
He may win that award anyway, but it will be interesting to see if his future with the club is determined by his ability to manage the final 43 obstacles he must overcome to reach the postseason.
But for now, Collins continues to insist his eye is strictly on the prize, which is to succeed in their quest to play meaningful games in the postseason.
“One of the things you have to be careful of is over-managing in a pennant race,” he said.
One thing is for certain – the club is destined to play it’s first meaningful set of games in September since the 2008 season.
Considering where they’re sitting right now, if Collins plays his cards right, and both he and the front office don’t over manage, as he put it, he could very well manage his own first set of meaningful games in October, too.