To paraphrase an old joke, when Terry Collins is on the phone, Terry Collins is ON the phone. That is to say he’s “on,” I’m guessing, whether there’s a phone line open or not.
The Mets were kind enough to conduct another blogger conference call this evening, this time with the Mets’ manager as our subject of gang-interrogation. Terry answers questions all day long from beat reporters. He answered questions from us to start his evening. I imagine if one of those alligators that occasionally patrols the swamps beyond the minor league complex in St. Lucie wanted to know his thoughts on employing a shift against Ryan Howard, Terry would clearly and forcefully articulate his theories on defensive strategy to the Treasure Coast’s reptile community and then tell a turtle what he wanted to know about D.J. Carrasco.
The man can and does answer baseball questions. That’s a baseball man, as they say. I can’t think of a better way to end Spring Training and prepare for the season than by listening to a baseball man tell me how things work.
Actually, that’s what my question was about: how do things work? Specifically, we hear about who makes the roster and who doesn’t, but I was wondering how that works from a skipper’s perspective, and what it’s like for a manager to deliver both the good news and the bad news.
Collins, not surprisingly if you’ve been listening to him since he was hired, wanted to emphasize the “positive side” first. There was, he said, “joy” in the Mets clubhouse this week for and from the guys who had never made a major league roster before and for and from the guys who had no guarantee of making this one when camp commenced.
When he told Brad Emaus he was going to be the Mets’ second baseman, he could see his eyes “light up”. When he informed Pedro Beato he’d be part of the Mets’ bullpen, there was a sense of “oh my god, it was worth all the work and all the bus rides.” Blaine Boyer’s reaction at joining Beato and the other relievers on the major league squad was he’d wanted to make teams in the past, but never wanted to make one as badly as this. “He really likes being here,” Collins reported. Willie Harris, who’s been around, was as stoked as any rookie, telling his manager, “Skip, I gotta tell ya how much fun it’s been,” and assuring him he’ll do whatever it takes to be successful.
These, to me, are the gold coins in the pot at the end of the long, boring Spring Training rainbow. Yes, it’s way too endless. Yes, we stopped pretending that the pretend games mean much after about a week of them. But four men who weren’t Mets before and were never assured of being Mets are smiling like kids because they get to be Mets — because they get to play for our favorite team. None of them as of yet has struck out with runners on or picked the worst possible moment to walk somebody. All they know is they are ridiculously happy to be Mets.
That makes me happy as someone who looks forward to rooting for them.
As for the opposite of the positive news (I can’t picture Terry Collins wanting to say, let alone be “negative”), well, “it’s never fun” to tell someone he hasn’t made it. Collins was released as a player himself and hasn’t forgotten the feeling. “There’s no good way” to impart that kind of information, but the Mets’ manager tries his best. He tells the man who hasn’t made it to keep on working; to continue honing the talents that brought him to camp;, to play hard wherever he’s playing in the short-term; and to take nothing for granted. The overall message is “you can do it.”
If focus and positivity are infectious enough to be spread by phone, then what the hey — I’ll say Terry can do it, too. What “it” is right now defies quantification, but as long as the Mets play the game nearly as relentlessly as their manager talks it, I’ll be a happier Mets fan than I’ve been in several seasons.
• Michael Baron’s transcript of the highlights of the conference call is already up at MetsBlog . The effort and output is much appreciated.
• Jose Reyes’s Met future has become prime remains-to-be-scenery. As his contract nears expiration, Adam Rubin and I offer different answers at ESPN New York  as to whether Friday will represent our shortstop’s final Opening Day as a Met. Adam uses logic, I employ hope.
• I’m distressed when blogs I really enjoy go on extended, unannounced hiatus, but that just means I’m incredibly delighted when they return to the land of the living. Two of my favorites from before 2010 are back in time for 2011. Do yourself a favor and reacquaint yourself with Mike Steffanos’s Mike’s Mets  and Paul Vargas’s Section 528 . They’re both very much worth your time and attention.
• You cannot overrate the terrific Most Underrated Mets biographical series rendered by Studious Metsimus this winter. It’s been a great distraction from the last 13 weeks of barren, baseball-deprived living…and it’s topped off by the 13 who will always be 1st among 2nd basemen in my heart. Go read up on the Met life of Edgardo Alfonzo , as told by the talented and dedicated Ed Leyro.
• Tuesday night, the tireless Matt Silverman  is having some Mets fans over to the Mets-loving Pine Restaurant  at the Holiday Inn on 114th Street in Corona. That’s the one across the Grand Central from the Shea Stadium Memorial Parking Lot — former home to Bobby V’s if you go back that far. The occasion is the celebration of the release of this year’s best-ever Maple Street Mets Annual  along with the Mets’ first visit to Philadelphia this season. I’ll be there with Matt as will some of your other favorite Met writers. Please join us from 6 to 10 for food, drinks, baseball conversation and, sonofagun, actual baseball. The Pine is one stop before Citi Field on the eastbound 7, a short walk from the 111th St. Station.