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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Things I Don't Care About

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?

15 comments to Things I Don’t Care About

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hot Foot and You Gotta Believe!, Jason Fry. Jason Fry said: Terry Collins is the new #Mets manager, and that's fine by me. No, really. Faith and Fear in Flushing. […]

  • Andee

    If there’s a take-away from Collins’ previous tours of duty, it’s this: If you are an MLB manager, you piss off your biggest stars at your peril. Those guys can single-handedly turn the entire team (or most of it) against the manager (at least as far as they’re willing to express in public). Fredi Gonzalez, anyone? (Though I notice the Braves barely batted an eyelash about hiring Gonzalez, which means they don’t take the opinion of Hanley Ramirez all that seriously.)

    Some big stars are, of course, much easier to placate than others. David Wright could probably get along with Benito Mussolini as manager, so he doesn’t factor into this. KO-Rod (if he even counts) seems to be at the other end of the spectrum, but I don’t know that he’s much of a ringleader. I suspect that if Collins said, “Get rid of his ass,” he’d be gone.

    That leaves Reyes, Beltran, Bay, and Santana as potential sources of mutiny. All of them are paid craploads of money, all of them have had injury and/or production problems in recent years, all of them could potentially have a hot-headed manager get into it with them about how hard they’re trying (although all of them seem to work their asses off), and all of them could get the other players (and the fans) pissed at the manager on their behalf. So it comes down to this: How much has Collins changed since the Angels fired him, and does he know how to avoid that particular trap?

    That is one thing Jerry (and Willie) knew how to handle, which explained why both of them hung on as long as they did. (Jerry saved his barbs for the scrubs, like the old-skool dude he was.) OTOH, Collins has been around the organization for a while and it’s likely he knows all those guys already; if any of them had an objection to his being hired, it’s hard to believe they’d have ignored that.

    Anyway, screw all the paid-media and WFAN call-in wankers. Probably every one of them loved Jeff Torborg this time 19 years ago, if they’re even old enough to remember that far back.

  • Daviault

    Thank you once again for a well-reasoned, rational response to the matter at hand amid all the absurd hysteria. One of the knocks on Collins is his failure to win even a Division title. By that standrad, Gil Hodges and Bobby Valentine were utter failures in their pre-Mets managing career, not to mention Joe Torre’s one lone Division title in 14 pre-Yankees seasons. Remember too that Art Howe arrived at Shea having won Division titles in two of his previous three seasons. As Casey Stengel would say, “You could look it up.”

  • Brooklynlou

    Let me second, the thanks for a well-reasoned, rational response amid the hysteria.

    My take on Collins is that in both stints as manager, there was a moment where push came to shove, where the player went to ownership and said, ‘its me or him’, and in both cases ownership blinked and chose the player over the manager. In that scenario, Collins could either suck it up, or resign. In both cases he resigned.

    The fact that he actually took this job tells me that he feels that with Alderson and Depodesta in charge that if another ‘its me or him’ moment with a player or clique arises, that they would not side with the player, but side with him. Hell, Depodesta got fired/resigned over him in LA.

    I’m warming up to the choice. Choosing Collins sends a strong signal to the players that the clubhouse culture will most definitely be a’changin. The fact that Collins took the job means he’s reasonably sure that the next player that comes crying to ownership, will find himself on the trading block.

  • pfh64

    Funny, I said to someone this weekend, they hired Collins (not shocked)? I said what, Jeff Torborg was not available? Of course, if the Walter Reed Three are still on this team come Opening Day, then we will know nothing has changed. And despite being the only one to stick up for Tejada, I still want Beltran GONE!

  • maryanne

    Nice read. I’m giving Collins a chance and I wish him well. Loved the always thoughtful quotes from RA Dickey on the hiring this morning. Let’s go, Mets!

  • Rob D.

    If Wally was hired it would have meant that Jeffy was still running things.

  • Patrick

    Claps for sanity. Claps claps claps.

  • Michal

    Adding my voice to chorus of “thank yous” for the lack of hysteria in your analysis of the Collins situation. I don’t analyze the Mets, and I don’t pay much attention to stats or scouting or productivity logarithms, so for all I know, the doomsayers are right on the ball. I have no idea. I do know that we all need a break from the drama, and that the fans are partially responsible for reducing the craziness. For better or for worse, the Mets have become a high-maintenance team in recent years, and to some extent it’s natural that the fans should follow suit on some level, but there’s a limit. Would it really be too much to ask to wait until April to completely lose our collective marbles over a new manager?

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    I am OK with it also! Lets take a wait and see approach. He only has a two year contarct.

    Now the real fun comes, making the decision on the players and personnel.

    Terry debuts in PSL on Feb 26th against the Braves. I will be there reporting live at the left field Tiki Bar with a TOM COLLINS in hand!…LETS GO METS

  • Hunt Boyer 66

    Great. Finally it’s time to move on. It seems like Terry Collins is Wally Backman with managerial experience. Hopefully Wally will manage AA or AAA this year and do well.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    I do think the Mets hired Collins three years too late. While we still would have blown big leads in 2007 and 2008, we might also have made it to postseason since Collins would not have tolerated the “swagger” that the Mets constantly exhibited which led to more than one or two losses — and so a Jose Reyes would have been benched for losing pop flies in the sun wearing his sunglasses above the rim of his cap, Delgado and others not running hard out of the box and the overall lack of disciplined play seen by most others.

    That is not the case today. The clubhouse might still seem like one filled with many under-achieving players but it might rallybe that the Mets aren’t under-achievers as much as they aren’t of the calibre we all thought they were. I don’t know if a kick in the pants is what this clubhouse needs at this time since even when the Met decline began at the all-star break it wasn’t due to lack of hustle – it was more due to a lack of talent and the frustration of playing in the vast caverns of Citi Field plus, obviously, over-achieving the first half of the year.

    And if one feels he has no managerial work since 1999, well, in 2008 Collins resigned from managing the Orix Buffalos of Japan’s Pacific League after a 21-28 start. In fifth place at the time he resigned, Orix bounced back to finish second.

    The following year under Colllins the Chinese team lost both games in the opening round of the World Classic, by a combined score of 18-0.

    But Terry still got another chance to prove his managerial worth when he took over the helm of the Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods League, a summer league for college players. He also guided his guys to a 25-43 record and last place there as well.

    All kidding aside, we really do not know what success Collins will have one way or another.

  • Flip D.

    I was thrilled about the hiring of The Triumvirate, especially Sandy Alderson. I have all the respect in the world for him. Having said that, I must say that I am sorely disappointed in his managerial decision. I, too, was looking forward to much, much better days with all three front office hirings and could not believe the improbable turn of events/change of SOP by the Wilpons. It was like we woke up and found the team had been bought by new owners. Out of respect for Sandy Alderson, I will take a wait and see posture. Thank you, Jason, for making us feel a little better about this. As usual, you make some fine points. But the truth is that I am clinging to those points for a sense of hope, knowing deep down that this was a bad decision. Have we not suffered enough these last several years? I fear that we are in for just more of the same the club-house drama the K-Rods of the world subjected us to and that Collins will just worsen rather than mollify the drama. Were there simply no “no-brainer” choices out there for manager like there was for GM? (My 2 cents are that Chip Hale was the least objectionable of the choices presented.)

    I still think the future looks bright with our new front office, but JEEWIZ this is getting off to a bad start. I sure hope I’m dead wrong. Jason, I’m clinging, clinging, clinging…..

  • Tom in Sunnyside

    I was and remain far less concerned about the pick for manager than I was about beefing up the front office. To this point it looks like the Mets and Alderson have built a front office that’s competent both in the their baseball decisions and in their ability to manage an organization larger than a diner.

    With all the problems the Mets have from top to bottom it’s important to have a manager that will have the full and complete backing of the front office when there’s the inevitable butting of heads during the attitudinal shakeup. That manager will necessarily be a mirror of the GM who hires him, at least in terms of strategy, and for the next couple of years his knack for making a double switch will be less important than getting his players to toe the line and produce.

    Is Collins that guy? Maybe. I’m certainly willing to give him a shot before criticizing what he hasn’t done to date. In fact, his lack of a deep orange and blue pedigree is a plus for me, considering the personalities we’ve been subjected to over the past five years. I could see a situation where he cracks the whip the next two or three years and then the Mets bring in a true field general once the team looks more like a functional baseball squad.

  • […] it has nothing to do with our front office. Just having Sandy Alderson on the payroll is grounds for celebration, as is having him make smart hires and calmly explain to everybody from Mike Francesa to panicky […]