NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Terry Collins chased jobs all the way to Japan and China in the 11 years since he last managed a major league club just to find a place in a dugout. Rejuvenating the New York Mets, though, might be his toughest challenge of all.
Collins was introduced Tuesday as the 20th manager in the history of the Mets, a franchise in the midst of an overhaul since missing out on the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Collins, the team’s minor league field coordinator last year, signed a 2-year contract with a club option for 2013.
LISTEN: Terry Collins with WFAN’s Mike Francesa
LISTEN: Mets GM Sandy Alderson talks to Mike Francesa
LISTEN: Mets GM Alderson introduces Collins
LISTEN: New manager Collins meets NY media Tuesday
“I love this job,” said Collins, after putting on a No. 10 jersey in honor of friend and Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “I will do whatever it takes to bring success for the New York Mets and win more ballgames, and we want to be the last team standing next October.”
After his introductory press conference, Collins joined WFAN’s Mike Francesa to talk about his new job in Flushing.
“They say I’m a tough disciplinarian. I just expect the game to be played correctly,” Collins explained to Francesa. “I have very few rules. You’re going to be on time, and you’re going to play the game hard.”
The Mets’ new skipper has been plagued by reports of past player mutiny.
“What I’m hopefully going to do here is do a better job on the communication side, so those players know where I stand and what I expect,” Collins said.
New general manager Sandy Alderson chose Collins over fellow Mets employees Bob Melvin, Chip Hale and Wally Backman. The 61-year-old Collins succeeds Jerry Manuel, who was fired along with general manager Omar Minaya in October, and will try to revitalize a club that languished near the bottom of the NL East the past two seasons.
Hale will return to his role as the Mets’ third base coach, and Backman will manage in the minor league system again. Alderson also said pitching coach Dan Warthen will return. Hitting coach Howard Johnson will be reassigned in the organization.
Collins last managed in the big leagues in 1999, when he resigned as manager of the Angels in his third season in Anaheim. He was manager of the Houston Astros from 1994-96 and has a 444-434 record overall. He led teams to second-place finishes in each of his five full seasons. He also was skipper of Orix in Japan from 2007-08 and led China to its first win in the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
“To some extent, what he has done over the last 11 years in different capacities actually might be a positive,” Alderson said.
Heading into spring training the Mets face many of the same problems that led them to a 79-83 record last season: injured stars and bloated contracts for underperforming players. But Collins will have the support of a more focused front office led by Alderson and his personally chosen top aides, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, both former GMs.
Discontented fans favored the fiery Backman, a popular member of the Mets’ 1986 championship club, but his lack of major league experience likely ruled him out. In Collins, New York will be getting an energetic and feisty figure in contrast to the laid-back Manuel.
“A lot has been said about his intensity. Certainly that was a factor, an attractive quality for us. His major league managing experience also came into play. But also I have to emphasize that his time spent in player development was also a significant factor,” Alderson said. “This job is all about leadership, but it’s also about teaching.”
Collins, however, comes with a reputation for alienating players with his hard-charging style. In Anaheim, he resigned with 29 games to go in the season after a near player revolt. He also quit his job with Orix.
“I’m not the evil devil that a lot of people made me out to be,” Collins said, “I learned to mellow a little bit.”
Collins took responsibility for allowing problems to fester in the Angels’ clubhouse.
“I will guarantee you that will not happen here,” he said.
Alderson is not worried.
“From my standpoint I don’t consider this high-risk at all,” he said.
Collins joins a team that finished 18 games behind the Phillies last season despite an opening-day payroll of $133 million, fifth-highest in the majors. Collins insists this group can win.
“I’m sure one year ago today nobody thought the San Francisco Giants would be standing as champions today. It could happen,” Collins said. “So you got to believe it, you got to believe in your heart you can do it and once you believe in it you do what it takes to get there.”
He immediately confronts a number of issues:
—Ace Johan Santana will miss the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery.
—Jason Bay provided little power in his first season as the left fielder before a season-ending concussion in late July.
—Center fielder Carlos Beltran has been slowed the past two seasons by a knee injury. Collins might have to ask the five-time All-Star to switch to a corner outfield spot depending on his health.
—Closer Francisco Rodriguez is coming off thumb surgery for an injury sustained in an August fight with his girlfriend’s father outside the family lounge at Citi Field.
—Oliver Perez ($12 million) and Luis Castillo ($6 million) both have one year left on unwieldy deals. Beltran is owed $18.5 million in the final season of a seven-year deal.
The issues also extend beyond the roster. Popular equipment manager Charlie Samuels was fired after it was learned he was a subject in an investigation into illegal gambling.
Notes: The Mets will offer LHP Pedro Feliciano arbitration. … Alderson said he will talk to Minaya about possibly staying with the organization.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
Statement from the Mets
The New York Mets today named Terry Collins the club’s 20th Manager in franchise history. Collins signed a two-year contract with a club option for 2013. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Collins spent six years as a major-league manager, leading the Anaheim Angels and Houston Astros to winning records and second-place finishes in his five full seasons. He managed the Angels from 1997-1999 and the Astros from 1994-1996, compiling an overall record of 444-434 (.506).
Collins, 61, joined the Mets in 2010 as the Minor League Field Coordinator, overseeing all on-field aspects of the Mets Minor League Spring Training, mini-camps and the Fall Instructional League. He was responsible for all phases of the Mets minor league operations including instruction, discipline and player and staff evaluations. His career in baseball spans five decades.
“Terry’s a lifelong baseball man who comes with the entire package – leadership, preparation, emotional commitment, and the drive to win,” said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson. “We believe Terry’s knowledge of our players, energy, intelligence, intensity, and direct approach will make an immediate, positive impact both in the clubhouse and on the field.”
“I want to win and there is no doubt in my mind we have the talent to win,” said Collins. “I know from working firsthand with our prospects that this organization is filled with potential for the future. It’s my job to help transform this team into the winner that our fans deserve, and I’m excited to get started.”
Collins also served as manager the Orix Buffaloes in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league from 2007-2008 and guided Team China in the 2009 World Baseball Classic to its first tournament victory.
He was the Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2005-2006 after serving as the Dodgers Field Coordinator from 2002-2004. He was the third base and bullpen coach for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001, an advance scout with the Chicago Cubs in 2000, and the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen coach from 1992-1993.
Collins managed 11 years in the minors from 1981-1991, including capturing the Pacific Coast League championship in 1987 with the Albuquerque Dukes. He managed Buffalo from 1989-1991, when they were affiliated with Pittsburgh compiling a 246-186 (.569) record. The former shortstop played 10 seasons in the minors with the Dodgers from 1974-1978, 1980, 1984 and Pirates from 1971-1973. Collins, a native of Midland, Mich., graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1971 and was twice named to the NAIA Collegiate World Series All-Tournament team in 1968 and 1970.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.