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Time to Drink the Coll-Aid

Somebody thinks Terry Collins is exactly what the New York Mets need in 2011 and 2012. Fine. Let’s see what he’s got.

Managerial choices don’t reveal themselves as brilliant or idiotic in the fall that they’re made. It’s in the fall that comes after the first spring and the first summer that we are able to say anything definitive about them, and surely that rule extends to the choice the Mets are set to announce [1].

Everybody can mine unflattering anecdotes from Collins’ past just as they can list glowing endorsements of his abilities. Everybody can compare his situation to managers with similar career trajectories and everybody who so chooses can take the logical step — or make the leap of faith — that if Sandy Alderson & Co. are as good as they are cracked up to be, then Terry Collins will turn out to be the right decision.

I had no problem that it took what felt like an eternity (but really only 23 days from Alderson’s official appointment to Sunday’s conclusive “multiple sources are reporting…” round of leaks) to land on Collins Avenue. It was an important hire, even if you buy into the role of the manager being relatively insignificant in the scheme of franchise success. The manager is still one of the primary faces of the franchise. The manager is still the person who meets with the assembled media twice daily throughout the season. No matter what system is put in place above him, the manager is still the one making the calls on which individual games will hinge.

When somebody bunts or doesn’t bunt or swings away and doesn’t deliver, the camera will find the manager in the dugout and we will reflexively think about and talk about the manager. When the ladies and gentlemen of the press seek out a key player after a loss, it won’t be the vice president of player development and amateur scouting whose moves will come up in conversation. When that player is quoted immediately thereafter, it won’t be the special assistant to the general manager who will exchange sideways glances with that player if the quotes are less than flattering. It won’t be anybody but the manager in and around the clubhouse day after day. It won’t be anybody but the manager who inspires analysis and impatience when things are going poorly and even when they’re going pretty well.

I’m glad Alderson’s crew worked thoroughly and diligently on this high-profile assignment even if I still can’t quite believe [2] that a veritable nationwide talent search came down to essentially Terry Collins and Bob Melvin. But it did, Collins was the choice, and after absorbing his introductory press conference tomorrow, I plan to stop thinking about it and him until Port St. Lucie is open for business. For nearly two months, the entirety of the Mets’ operation has been devoted to eliminating [3] a general manager and a manager; finding [4] a general manager; surrounding the general manager with trusted aides; and finding a manager.

This is not why I watch baseball.

I am concerned about what actions Alderson and DePodesta and Ricciardi and Collins take in terms of the results they yield, but I shall no longer dwell on these individuals as the focal point of the New York Mets’ offseason. To use Matt Artus’s phrase from Always Amazin’ [5], I contracted managerial fatigue by last week. It was a akin to the general manager malaise I felt as October wore on. Again, these were crucial decisions in determining the direction and possibly fate of my favorite baseball team, but it wasn’t baseball.

Thus, whether or not I think Terry Collins’s history of high-strung martinet tendencies [6] indicates he looms as a disaster waiting to happen when he’s exposed continuously to the New York spotlight is irrelevant in shaping my view of him from the press conference onward. Terry Collins is the manager of my favorite baseball team and I want him to be the best manager he can be, I want him to be the best manager of all managers, and I will root for him to succeed immediately and enduringly.

I’ll lean on Alderson to do what needs to be done and Collins to take it from there because that’s what they’re here for. Then I’ll return to wondering who’s going to pitch in rotation with Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese while Johan Santana is out (and, for that matter, when he’s back); whether Jason Bay can rebound from both his scary concussion and his frightening mediocrity; if Ruben Tejada can ever hit like he can already field; if Daniel Murphy might carve himself a niche on this club; if Carlos Beltran has a hellacious salary drive in him; if one solid campaign out of Angel Pagan guarantees solid campaigns are his norm; if Francisco Rodriguez can resume being a closer or is yet another irredeemable albatross whose salary and persona must be shed at once; if Jose Reyes will be a Met for life or just one more year; and everything else that’s supposed to preoccupy baseball fans as November turns toward December, and a new year and another season emerge over the horizon.

Because that’s what we’re here for.