By Ernie Palladino
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Terry Collins has, by most accounts, changed from the days when the Astros and Angels ran him out of their manager’s office. He’s accessible, cares about his players, and has managed to keep a modicum of peace in a clubhouse that easily could have shattered into cliques by now.
And yet, one look at him evokes only a singular concept: Dead Manager Walking.
As the Mets’ season continues to plod on like some second-rate zombie movie, you quickly realize that barring a miraculous turnaround, Collins will be gone at the end of the 2013 season. In fact, it is only because of management’s malicious disregard for Collins’ well-being that he’s still around. If the Wilpons had any heart at all, they’d put this good man out of his misery.
Fire him now. Free him to hook up with an organization that can re-affirm the collective baseball belief that scoring runs is not a disease, but a remedy.
Things have gotten so bad that no one would even blame Collins if he marched into the executive offices and begged for a pink slip. That won’t happen, of course. He’s a competitor, just like any player, coach, or manager on a major league level. Something inside him undoubtedly tells Collins that this is all going to turn around.
Maybe, that voice says, it happens with the impending promotion of Zack Wheeler to aid a rotation that basically stops after Matt Harvey and Jon Niese, those eight one-run innings by Shaun Marcum that ended Saturday’s 2-1 marathon notwithstanding. Maybe the offense — the same one that scored one run in 20 innings Saturday against baseball’s worst team, the Marlins, will suddenly catch fire.
He shouldn’t count on it. The body of work is deep enough now for all to conclude with a fair amount of certainty that this season is not going to improve. A lot of people figured that out already judging by the 20,000 and change who showed up on a dry, comfortable Saturday. Even the presence of Harvey on the mound couldn’t draw a decent crowd.
At least Collins proclaimed his young star fit and available for his next start Thursday against the Cardinals after tightness in the lower back forced Harvey out as he warmed up for the eighth inning. Losing him for an extended period would have made things ever more excruciating for Collins.
Bad enough the poor guy had to witness an 0-for-19 with runners in scoring position. It went as a franchise low, and those kinds of records get people fired. A day later, he had to watch Niese pitch well enough to win for 6 2/3 innings, only to have the bullpen undo yet another lead when Scott Rice couldn’t keep Derek Dietrich inside Citi Field in the eighth.
After that, Daniel Murphy got a leadoff walk in the ninth, but Mike Baxter couldn’t get him to second as he missed to sacrifice attempts, striking out when he fouled a third-strike bunt. A three-pitch strikeout to Justin Turner, and a called third strike to Anthony Recker had the Mets in another extra-inning situation.
At least that one ended in a reasonable timeframe, thanks to Murphy’s go-ahead error and Miguel Olivo’s two-run homer in the 10th.
Final: 8-4 Marlins.
A three-phase breakdown. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
It didn’t really matter what the Mets did Sunday, or how they did it. They’ve already done so much damage that the season is irretrievable at this point. So, probably, is Collins’ job.
When a team can consider four runs an offensive explosion, the hopes for any long-range success is minimal. When a team gets swept two weekends in a row by baseball’s worst team and follows a sweep of the Yanks with six losses in seven games, the chances that the manager is long for the organization grow slimmer every day.
At this point, Collins would serve himself well to ask the Wilpons to relieve him from command of this sunk, stinking vessel.
Nobody deserves the garbage this ship of fools continue to cruise through.
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