Terry Collins, a baseball lifer, is enjoying this special moment in his career
Whenever the Mets are good, good stories always seem to follow.
There are the David Wright’s and the Daniel Murphy’s of the world, all towing great fairly tales with them into the 2015 World Series.
But then there’s Terry Collins.
Here’s a man who has spent more than 40 years in the game of baseball, from a minor league player to a manager at all levels of the game, from the Pacific Coast League to the American League. To the Japanese Leagues and to the National League.
But this is a man that has been humbled by his own undoings at times throughout his career, thanks to a fiery personality which caused him to lose clubhouses with the Angels and Astros with failure following in those footsteps.
And when he lost his job as manager of the Angels in 1998, it wasn’t clear if he’d ever get an opportunity to manage another club.
12 years later, then GM Omar Minaya decided to take a new chance in Collins as his minor league field coordinator before the start of the 2010 season. It was there he got to know a lot of the players he would ultimately get to manage today when Sandy Alderson made the unpopular decision to make him his first field manager just a few months later after it was decided Alderson lead the rebuild of an entire organization.
But even then, Collins was viewed merely as a placeholder for when the Mets would eventually become a steel wall in the National League.
And there was still the perception that Collins would eventually blow his top and perhaps lose his job through his own undoing again, as was the case in Anaheim and Houston years before.
But Collins learned from those mistakes. He learned to keep his cool. he learned to relate to his players and adhere to the hierarchy Alderson and his front office had put in place.
He learned to deal with life as a baseball manager.
And it’s those learning experiences which has helped him not only survive, but keep the fragility of what has been a remarkable 2015 season together to a point he actually got to oversee the Mets first run through October.
And it’s the trust he has in his players, his ability to adjust as a manager, science and some personal intuition which has led him through the National League and right into the World Series, leading the Mets to the last dance for the first time in 15 years and their fifth pennant in club history.
“It’s a special moment for me,” Collins said Wednesday night. “After all these years, when this has been your whole life, to finally get to the ultimate series that every person that’s ever played this game wants to get to.”
But despite all of the hard work and proving the doubters wrong, even Collins can’t believe what he’s accomplished as the Mets manager.
“I’m sitting there or I’m standing there in the dugout in the ninth inning and I’m looking around the field and looking down in the dugout, and I’m just looking at all the guys, thinking how did they do it? How did they keep it together? How did they stay focused?” he explained. “And I looked at the coaching staff. I’m so happy the job they did. Again, as you guys know, those of you who were around us all year, I mean, there were some tremendous peaks and some big, deep valleys, and to be able to keep those guys motivated and keep them level headed through the whole season takes a lot of work. And my coaching staff, the veterans did a tremendous job, and I just sat there and said, wow, this might be the finest group of guys I’ve ever been around.”
But so did Collins. It was the positive environment he created from day one in Spring Training, not just this year but in years past as well.
It was probably more important for the cultural shift Collins instilled as far back as 2011 than anything he might have done in 2015. He created a standard and a way to go about business in a manner which did not exist before he took over as manager of the Mets in 2011.
The foundation was there. And when the culture shifted from that of learning and developing into winning, the players who have been retained seamlessly adapted as a result. The new faces fit right into the winning culture.
For years, he was able to deflect the negativity and keep it out of his clubhouse. He stood on the front line for his bosses, answered questions he shouldn’t have been faced with, often times biting his tongue in the process. That alone is commendable, given everything the club has gone through and what they’ve had to deal with even under his watch.
That’s all on Collins, Bob Geren, Dan Warthen and the coaching staff, but specifically Collins since he is the field manager, and the manager everyone in that room loves playing for and working with.
Having that comfort with the boss is an integral part of success in any organization, especially in the hierarchy of a baseball team.
He is their shield, their soldier on the front line. And he survived.
Not bad for a guy who was never believed to have that championship pedigree, and a guy who was believed to eventually blow his top and lose his clubhouse.
And it’s why Collins deserves as much recognition as anyone for this utterly remarkable accomplishment. He has grown and evolved as a manager and a professional through all of his own trials in this game to become a National League Champion.