By Joe Giglio
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Mets manager Terry Collins has been around baseball long enough to know how this works. Despite doing a solid job with the talent and roster he’s been given since arriving in New York, there are no guarantees that his job will be safe in 2014 and beyond. While he’s said and done the right things thus far in preparing the 2013 Mets for a season, it’s not hard to see the pitfalls that lie ahead.
Earlier this week, Zack Wheeler’s oblique strain became major news out of Mets camp. Just days after dazzling during his spring debut, the top pitching prospect in the system was shelved after a batting-practice incident. While it’s not a major setback and far less troubling than arm or shoulder pain, it further throws off the plan for 2013 that the current manager has in place: To win as many baseball games at it takes to keep his job.
On the surface, it’s a plan that every Mets fan should be wholeheartedly on board with. Unfortunately, it lacks support from the most important front-office members that employ Collins. Simply put, the young, talented players in camp aren’t there to make 2013 special. They are there to make 2014 and beyond the best era of Mets baseball seen in a long, long time.
But the timeline of Collins’ employment and the full, no-strings-attached roster aren’t truly in line with each other. Was the outburst in Florida about a mild oblique strain or is there more to Collins’ emotion?
Welcome to a promising, yet uncomfortable, era of Mets baseball. While the manager has been a good soldier thus far during a rebuilding effort, it’s fair to ask how far that loyalty extends. Will Collins truly do what is right for the long-term outlook of this franchise or will some of those principles be sacrificed to win games this summer?
To be fair, it would be ridiculous to think that Collins would go out of his way to play a kid while injured or do anything to intentionally harm the future of any of these promising players. But it wouldn’t be ridiculous to think of a situation where a manager has to think for today and sacrifice tomorrow in the hopes of being around to see it.
Johan Santana may or may not have fallen off last season after his no-hitter regardless of Collins’ decision to leave him in for 134 pitches. The stories of player petitions to get him fired in Anaheim during the late-90s may or may not have been his youth and intensity getting the better of him. His outburst at the seemingly innocuous spring injury to Wheeler may have been overblown.
But with a little over a month from the start of the season, keep Collins’ status fresh in your minds as you watch this season. If it all goes according to plan, the future success of this franchise will be compared with the Tampa Bay Rays. After all, it has been Collins’ good friend, Joe Maddon, who oversaw the rebuilding effort, lost countless games and then was around to bear the fruit of the front-office riches in 2008.
The reason that situation worked out so well was trust. Maddon was totally on board with the plan and the front office was totally on board with him. Never did anyone in Tampa have to worry about Maddon going above and beyond for a few meaningless victories in 2007.
Can the same be said for Collins in 2013, or will Mets fans be having conversations this summer about how many innings Matt Harvey has thrown or games Travis d’Arnaud has caught?
If every win matters in order to stay employed, expect a controversial summer from the Mets’ dugout.
How do you feel about Collins as he enters the final year of his contract? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…