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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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Terry Doesn’t Go Anywhere

“He called me when we won the division, congratulating me. I tried to return the call, but it’s like getting through to the President when you call the Giants. So I didn’t get through.”
—Terry Collins on playing phone tag with Tom Coughlin, October 21, 2015

The crotchety and the crusty have lost one of their champions. Fortunately, we enjoy a regional surplus.

Tom Coughlin is no longer the head coach of the New York Football Giants, as they still charmingly like to be known. Coughlin either resigned or took an enormous hint and beat John Mara to the dismissal punch. Twelve seasons during which the Giants and their fans never had to wonder who was calling the shots on the sidelines are over, two Patriot-crushing Super Bowls notwithstanding. Glittering accomplishments and a sterling reputation only get you so far “after you go 6-10 twice,” Coughlin himself suggested.

The Lombardi Trophies made Coughlin lovable. Before his teams earned them, he came off as a certifiable crank, screaming at kickers and ostentatiously missetting clocks. Once he won a title, we realized he was the salt of the earth. When he won another, he was surely saintly. Missing the playoffs over and over overrode all of those admirable attributes in the eyes of his employers.

Good thing New York keeps a TC in reserve.

“He kind of reminds me of me, to be honest,” Terry Collins said of Tom Coughlin during the National League Championship Series, and probably not just because neither of them looks fully dressed without a baseball cap on his head.

Collins — with whom Coughlin developed an October simpatico that transcended mere initials — could have been mistaken for a cantankerous coot two missed anger-management classes from a meltdown when he came to town five years ago. Now, with a pennant under his belt, he drips common sense and leaves puddles of wisdom in his wake. MLB Network will next week (January 12, 9 PM EST) present the Mets’ manager in documentary form. Terry Collins: A Life In Baseball, is said to feature “his first comprehensive television interview since the 2015 World Series,” during which he “opens up” on the depth and breadth of “his baseball journey,” a trip it’s safe to say there was a far more limited audience for a year ago.

Winning makes everybody more interesting, apparently. Tom Verducci wasn’t sitting down to get Terry Collins’s thoughts on dinner let alone his influences until Collins attached himself to a pennant. Winning also keeps you positioned to potentially win more, just as losing can remove your chance to turn around those nasty 6-10 records. There are exceptions. Collins didn’t win as many as 80 games in a 162-game schedule for four consecutive seasons, but the Mets, for better or worse, weren’t leaning heavily on results between 2011 and 2014.

Terry piled up his tenure and embellished it meaningfully in 2015 to bring it to a point where he’s in position to outlast every Met manager before him.

Unless something goes terribly awry, Collins will fairly soon have managed the most games in franchise history.

You read that right. Terry Collins, erstwhile professional caretaker for a ballclub on a budget, is on the verge of becoming our John McGraw, our Connie Mack, our Steve Owen (the only head coach to endure longer than Tom Coughlin for the New York Football Giants).

Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to be the Mets’ all-time leader in anything smacking of longevity. We are traditionally Kranepoolian and little else in that regard, managers being no exception. Tragedy prevented Gil Hodges from lasting as long in the job as he deserved. For everybody else, it was a matter of too many losses or too little patience.

Terry, for the time being, has turned the losing around and hasn’t expended the goodwill of the powers that be. Thus, he has racked up 810 regular-season games — and 14 in the 2015 postseason — as Mets manager, placing him third among all Mets managers, not very far behind Nos. 1 and 2 on the list.

Davey Johnson managed 1,012 games between 1984 and 1990 plus 20 in two Met postseasons. Bobby Valentine was at the helm for 1,003 contests from 1996 through 2002 along with 24 postseason dates in 1999 and 2000. Then comes Collins.

If he doesn’t go before approximately Memorial Day 2017 (and he’s signed for two years), Collins will surpass Valentine, then Johnson. He will be the longest-serving manager in Mets history.

No, really. It’s hard to wrap one’s uncapped head around that. It’s not that Terry Collins was a particularly incapable manager to begin with. It’s just that he seemed so…disposable. Most managers are, especially Met managers. Consider Hodges (clearly and sadly a special case), Yogi Berra, Johnson, Valentine and Willie Randolph — the five managers prior to Collins who led Mets teams to the playoffs. Now consider the total number of games they managed for the Mets once they were two years removed from managing their final postseason Met game — zero.

Given Collins’s relatively advanced age (66) and the Mets’ generally raised expectations, it’s possible he won’t have much of a Flushing coda beyond his final October appearance, though we can always hope that means he goes out on top as Tony La Russa did in St. Louis, definitively calling it quits after winning a World Series. Then again, Coughlin is 69 and by no means referring to his resignation as a retirement. Most coaching types have to be kicked upstairs or out…just like the rest of us.

Tom Coughlin will put out feelers. If he steers clear of the NFC East, those of us who root for his old team when there’s no baseball on can’t help but wish him well. Meanwhile, the New York Football Giants search for his replacement, a process necessarily fraught with uncertainty. Remember uncertainty? Remember the fall of 2010 when the Mets were sorting through a slew of candidates only to wind up with the unlikely choice of a manager who hadn’t been active in the majors since the 20th century, someone who was drummed out of his last clubhouse by his own players? How long would Terry Collins last in New York?

Long. That’s how long.

8 comments to Terry Doesn’t Go Anywhere

  • mikeski

    Consider Hodges, Yogi Berra, Johnson, Valentine and Willie Randolph — the five managers prior to Collins who led Mets teams to the playoffs. Now consider the total number of games they managed for the Mets once they were two years removed from managing their final postseason Met game — zero.

    One of these things is not like the others. Hodges had a pretty good excuse.

  • Seth

    Terry’s actually 66, will be 67 in May. A mere spring chicken!

  • Rob E.

    Terry Collins’ tenure here is very different from that of any other manager in Mets history. The Mets never took the time to rebuild like this before. The ’86 team wasn’t a “rebuild” as much as a “build,” if that makes any sense (and they were good Johnson’s first year). After that team had run it’s course, “rebuilding” via free agency was a big part of what the Mets did. Hence, every manager between Johnson and Collins was expected to win immediately. Unlike the others, Collins had a four-year leash (648 games) before he was expected to deliver wins. Though he DID deliver exactly what he was asked to those first four years.

    I don’t mean this post to come off as disparaging because I am a Terry Collins fan and I think he’s earned that respect. In the context of what the Mets have been these last five years, I think he did a really good job in tending the task at hand (which WASN’T winning those first four years). I think the fact that he is in line to become their career leader in games managed (and I agree that something would have to go terribly wrong to derail this) is more a reflection of the state of the organization today than anything else. This is a GOOD thing for US!

  • open the gates

    No complaints here. I used to kvetch about some of Terry’s strategy and personnel decisions, and he will make you scratch your head sometimes. But at the end of the day, the game is won and lost by the players. The manager’s most important job is to keep his players at their best and to keep the vibe positive. And I have to say, of all Met managers of my fanhood (going back to the late ’70’s), TC is the one who never came close to losing the clubhouse. There’s something to be said for that. He earned his extension. (Of course, I may be singing a different tune a half year from now…)