By Jason Keidel
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If you’re a praying person, chances are that when you hold hands around the Thanksgiving dinner table tomorrow you’re unlikely to thank your deity for the arrival of Terry Collins.
In the last month the Mets have gotten older, more experienced, and more expensive – all in managerial positions, of course, where age is not a hex. The Mets will say they’ve gotten wiser. In six months we’ll see if they’ve gotten better.
The team has belched the bromides over Collins, who has a “fiery demeanor” and “has the respect of young players.”
He does not, as of now, have the respect of the fans, who have reacted negatively to the hiring of the 61-year-old skipper who hasn’t managed since 1999. (Insert “Prince” double entendre here.) Cynics will say the Mets went from Jerry Manuel to geriatric.
Fans wanted Wally Backman, who was the only exciting candidate among the humdrum finalists. Backman, as seen through the rigid eyes of a former Marine (Sandy Alderson), is too much of a variable. If Alderson is, as some speculate, an embellished puppeteer, he can’t afford a part-time puppet. The stated reason for Backman’s snub will be his lack of managerial experience in the majors. But everyone who has ever managed had a first gig.
A fan base and media poised to pummel the Mets for any misstep can point to this hiring as another example of playing it safe, being decent and playing decently, unwilling to risk the reward of greatness.
Collins handled the entire process with grace, lauding his competitors for the job by highlighting their strengths rather than their flaws. Thus the fear is that the team will be dignified but not dominant. New Yorkers generally subscribe to the notion that victory is the prerogative of carnivores, not diplomats.
There is justifiable concern, not based on age or résumé, but on time Indeed, there’s a combined 24-year bottleneck between the time Alderson and Collins were hired by the Mets and the last time they did the job they were hired to do. Alderson last ran a club in 1997, and was eight years removed from his lone World Series championship.
Collins’s defenders, provided many exist, insist we remember the Yankees hired a manager once discarded from the game, relegated to color commentary after being fired from three managing jobs. That would be Joe Torre, of course.
But beyond his ability to handle super egos, Torre bathed in a confluence of serendipities – like Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera emerging as young superstars. If the Mets have such a young base ready to blossom, we have yet to hear about it.
If we’re to go solely on numbers, as the new baseball geeks do, Collins is essentially a .500 manager hired to manage a .500 team. The team has befuddled New York with signings for so long they have rendered us jaded, even those with no rooting interest.
It would be easy to torch the Mets for this decision, if only we knew what they decided to do.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
- Keidel: Mets’ Beautiful Minds (newyork.cbslocal.com)