By Rich Coutinho
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Wednesday night reminded me of 2006. The Mets fought through multiple obstacles — including a horrendous call — to win their sixth in a row. New York finds themselves inching closer and closer to the .500 mark after upping their record to 11-13.
But more important than the win was how they won — and the emotion they showed in winning it. This team clearly takes their cues from Terry Collins, who has insisted they can be successful. They’re proving him right.
The Mets manager is a passionate, driven field general who takes his losses hard and works night and day trying to make this team better. When the Mets got out to a disappointing 5-13 start, Collins worked like crazy communicating with his players. He let them know he still believed in them. He told his team from the moment they arrived in spring training that the baseball world simply did not believe in the Mets — and that should motivate them every single day.
The player Collins has helped the most is Jose Reyes. The speedy shortstop finally has a manager that understands what he’s all about and plays to his strengths. Collins has encouraged Reyes to be aggressive (even if he makes mistakes), has unleashed him on the bases, and has not forced the Mets’ shortstop to reel in his passion — as previous managers demanded.
In a sense, Reyes and Collins have very similar personalities in their passion for the game. It’s a hardball marriage made in heaven. Sandy Alderson should take this into consideration when deciding about the future of Reyes in a Mets’ uniform. But that’s an argument for another day.
I have always been a firm believer that you learn so much more about players when they lose. The reason for that? It’s easy to be a good teammate when you are winning, but when you are losing it really tests you in so many ways. After the Mets got off to their horrible start, this clubhouse never got down. Not for a minute. Not a single player pointed a finger at any other player. In fact, guys like Mike Pelfrey, who was off to a tough start, got clubhouse-wide support, even though times were rough.
Again, that is because Collins kept it together. He insisted his players keep bringing it every day until things turned around. Baseball is such a long season and because of that, a team’s personality is often times similar to their manager.
Bobby Valentine’s Mets in the late 90’s and early part of the last decade wore their heart on their sleeve. It showed. Under his watch, the Mets played in some of the greatest games in team history.
Last year, Jerry Manuel’s wait-and-see approach gave the Mets a convenient excuse to feel sorry for themselves.
Collins takes the exact opposite approach: Treat the season with urgency every single day. Know I am the manager. I will take the bullet for you when things are not going well.
One more win tonight gets the Mets within one game of .500 and erases their early season 7-game losing streak. And then it’s off to Citizen Bank Park — a place that has haunted the Mets in recent years. Can they exorcise that ghost? Not sure about that, but I would not count the Mets out — not with Collins at the controls.
Are the Mets for real? Let Coutinho know in the comments below…