By Rich Coutinho
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Major League Baseball managers usually talk to the media both before and after every game. These sessions are generally politically correct, about as exciting as watching a tree grow.
Jerry Manuel made them into a serious of clichés, coupled with one-liners, to cover up mistakes he made during the game. That’s what makes Terry Collins’ passion so compelling — he demands better performance. Collins wears his heart on his sleeve.
From the first day I met Collins, he struck me as a fiery competitor who takes every loss very hard. He gives real, honest answers to tough questions rather than tap dancing around the important issues. He also has an all-knowing knack for when his players need a kick in the butt and when they might need a pat on the back. This week was one of those times when they needed that kick — and he delivered it after Wednesday night’s debacle.
So when the Pirates got off to a 7-0 lead on Thursday, his team simply would not give into the negativity of the situation. Instead the Mets scratched and clawed their way to a 9-8 win.
For the most part, the Mets have exhibited the same fight on the field that the manager has in his heart. And although the numbers do not reflect it, their effort has been top-notch all year. However, there have been nights the team throws the ball around like a hot potato — and the fiery Collins has been very direct to his players. Maximum effort should be a given. Anything else will not be tolerated.
Collins has not been shy about showing his displeasure to the media but has NEVER shown up an individual player. In fact, he is often as critical of himself as he is about any one player. And that honesty is so refreshing. Last year, I really grew tired of Manuel cackling to the media after one of his un-funny one-liners.
Manuel also had a habit of throwing players under the bus. It didn’t win him any kudos in the clubhouse.
This team has not won enough games – -that is obvious — but the players respect the candor of Collins and how he manages to the strengths of his players.
“I love Terry,” said Jose Reyes. “He is so positive and so supportive. My personal numbers have been good this year and I think it is because he has allowed me to play my game.”
Read between the lines Met fans: Reyes did not like being jerked around by Manuel, who thought he had to hit No. 3 in the order when we all know he was born to be a leadoff hitter. Collins has unleashed Reyes. Do not think for a minute — when Jose has to make a decision this offseason — that his relationship with the current manager will not play to the Mets’ advantage.
You walk around the Mets’ locker room and you see the players’ respect for Collins even after he rips into them.
“He is a good man,” said Carlos Beltran, “and the reason I know that is he handled my situation in spring training very professionally. We all know I played centerfield my whole life but we also know right field was the better option for me. He allowed me to at least be involved in that decision and that made it easier for everyone, including Angel Pagan who was replacing me.”
No matter where the Mets end up this year, I hope the organization realizes this is the right man to lead this team. Collins is ideal because he cares about his players, his profession, and wants to win in the worst way. That kind of passion in the manager’s chair does not grow on trees. That makes Collins, in my opinion, part of the solution.
He’s old school, but also a great communicator. With all the drama swirling around the Mets, he is a constant breath of fresh air.
Agree? Disagree? Let Coutinho know how you feel about Collins in the comments below…