Sandy Alderson’s honeymoon period as Mets GM is apparently over now that he’s decided to hand the managerial reins to Terry Collins. At least that’s what you’d conclude from the squawking on the FAN and in certain web precincts.
I’m trying to figure out why, exactly.
Yes, I’m aware that once upon a time Terry Collins had problems with Mo Vaughn and other members of the Anaheim Angels and ultimately resigned from his post.
You know when that was? It was 1999. Bill Clinton was president. His Russian counterpart was Boris Yeltsin. Yugoslavia was at war. We all went to see “The Phantom Menace.” Approximately every 42 minutes you got a CD from America Online in the mail, with your newspaper or possibly flung through an open window. Your technologically advanced friends had yet to discover Napster. Lance Armstrong had just won his first Tour de France. Brian McRae and Jason Isringhausen were still integral members of the Mets.
It was, by any measure, a very long time ago. I’m a completely different person than I was then. I bet you are too. It seems at least faintly possible that the same can be said of Terry Collins.
(And besides, remember that Mo Vaughn also savaged Bobby Valentine as a manager — the same Bobby Valentine we have all pined for at one time or another. Could it be the problem here is Mo Vaughn?)
Is the problem that Collins hasn’t had a big-league managerial job in 11 years? If so, there’s a pretty big asterisk there. In 2005 Paul DePodesta was about to hire him as skipper of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but DePodesta was himself fired before he could make that move. Last time I checked we were all thrilled with having DePodesta around. Given that, shouldn’t the fact that he was set to hire Collins be reassuring? Plus Collins had a stint managing in Japan, which only seemed to burnish the legend of the aforementioned Bobby V.
If the problem is that Collins is too intense, I’d like to know for what, exactly. For making Luis Castillo feel uncomfortable about getting too close to the Cheez-Its? If the Mets hit a midsummer skid and Collins sends the buffet airborne, I’ll be fine with that — there was many a night when Jerry Manuel showed up to chortle and dimple while I seethed and wished for a Piniella-like rampage. Besides, weren’t intensity and fire and all those other intangibles the things we liked about Wally Backman?
Is it the fact that he was arrested for drunk driving in 2002? That’s not something to be waved away, but if you’re disturbed about long-ago brushes with the law, you applied that same standard to Wally, right? Right?
Is it the fact that he doesn’t have a Mets pedigree? I sure as hell hope not. Because if you think about it, hiring Wally simply because he once wore orange and blue would have been very pre-Alderson Mets — a bunch of PR juggling and greasepaint meant to distract us from the condition of the tent. (I’m not saying Backman wasn’t a perfectly good candidate for other reasons. I hope he’s managing at St. Lucie next year, or that some other organization gives him a chance and he makes the most of it.) Collins was the team’s minor-league field coordinator last year; ultimately, that means more to me in terms of continuity than what he was doing 24 years ago. (For the record, he was managing Albuquerque.)
Beyond the fact that we don’t know much of anything about what Collins will be like as a manager in 2011, I don’t think managers matter tremendously — or at least I’d like to see some rigorous statistical evidence that they do. Jerry Manuel drove me insane with his idiotic bunting, inability to handle a bullpen and his Boo Radley Meets Mahatma Gandhi shtick, but I doubt any of these things cost the Mets much that was measurable. (His greatest sin in my book was playing zombie veterans instead of young players with potential.)
And even if you think managers do matter, does the hiring of Terry Collins really undo your trust in Alderson, DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi? I was pleased enough that the Mets went outside their own dysfunctional organization for a GM, and over the moon that they picked three guys who give every indication of actually studying their business, instead of being unable to fill more than one need at a time, blaming reporters for berserk employees and forgetting the team’s ace had had elbow problems in spring training. Let’s not forget that we all knew or at least suspected nine months ago that this organization was a creaking, rotting disaster, yaknowwhatimsayin? The new team hasn’t proved anything, but the fact that there is a new team — and one so different in makeup, deportment and tone from the old one — speaks volumes.
For me, the biggest hope about the future of the Mets isn’t that their braintrust will look at stats more sophisticated than wins and RBIs, though that’s great. It’s that, to put it bluntly, Sandy Alderson is too old, too well-paid and has too many opportunities available to him to take shit from Jeff Wilpon. The Mets may still be badly run, but if so I’ll be stunned if Alderson turns out to be part of the dysfunction, or puts up with it for long. Everything we’ve read about the man suggests he wouldn’t; everything he’s done so far suggests brighter days are finally here.
Since I think that, until I see evidence otherwise I’ll trust him about Terry Collins. After all, 1999 was a long time ago.
And what did Mo Vaughn ever do for us, anyway?