By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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Terry Collins deserves to return next season. He deserves an opportunity to try to win with a realistic chance to contend.
Since beginning his tenure as Mets manager at the start of the 2011 season, Collins has had the unenviable task of trying to help a franchise rebuild and win at the same time. That’s virtually impossible for a skipper, whether that person is Bobby Cox or Jerry Manuel.
But this organization is clearly on the rise. New York disappointingly lost three of four this weekend in Washington after stomping the Nationals in the first game of the series on Friday, and now are 46-56 on the season. Sitting at fourth place in the National League East, the Amazin’s are 12 1/2 games back in the division and 11 games back for the second wild card spot.
There will be no playoff push this season, despite the fact that this club had played superbly all summer. The Mets dug themselves into too deep of a hole in the first two months of the season. But is that Collins’ fault? Could he have possibly won with this roster? Could any manager have won with this roster? Ask yourself those questions.
But ever since the start of the season, the message boards and tweets have sounded like a broken record. Play Ike Davis every day! Send Davis down! Start Josh Satin every day! Play Jordany Valdespin every day! Send Valdespin down! John Buck is our everyday catcher! Play Anthony Recker more! Get Kirk Nieuwenhuis more playing time! Sit Nieuwenhuis down in favor of Juan Lagares!
And then there is the second guessing of Collins’ bullpen management, which is fretted over on a daily basis.
Some of these arguments unquestionably have had merit, but do those who consistently disparage the third-year manager ever take the time to realize why he mixes and matches so often?
The answer is as clear as day: He has barely any talent to work with.
How can people get on Collins’ decisions when this is what he has to work with? Let’s take a quick glance at the roster, shall we? Buck is below average. Davis isn’t a major leaguer at this point and Satin doesn’t have much experience. Daniel Murphy is an average big league ballplayer, but neither Omar Quintanilla nor Ruben Tejada are everyday big leaguers. David Wright is a star, Eric Young, Jr. has been a pleasant surprise, Lagares is up and coming but unproven and Marlon Byrd has been the team’s Most Valuable Player behind Wright and Matt Harvey — though he was a castoff who has exceeded everybody’s wildest expectations.
And let’s not forget the legion of “AAAA players” who had a cup of coffee earlier in the season and are now down in the minor leagues because they couldn’t cut it in Flushing.
The starting pitching, we know, has been tremendous. And the bullpen, like the majority of bullpens in the history of baseball, is made up mostly of a patchwork group of relievers who have been bouncing around from team to team for years. The ‘pen has been strong at times, but it’s always a crapshoot. There’s a reason that these guys are middle relievers and not starters or closers.
Collins’ contract will expire at the end of the season. I’m not suggesting that Fred Wilpon should give him a four-year extension. But I’d like to see him finally have a chance with a team that’s built to contend.
If general manager Sandy Alderson spends like we except him to spend this offseason — or ships one of the club’s top pitching prospects for an impact major leaguer — this team could make some noise next season. The starting pitching should be even better in 2014 with a more experienced Zack Wheeler, the return of Jon Niese and the potential promotions of stud pitchers Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard (if one or both isn’t dealt).
Top prospect Travis d’Arnaud will be the everyday catcher — if he can stay healthy — and Alderson, who will be free from Jason Bay and Johan Santana’s contract albatrosses, will hopefully land two powerful bats that can solidify the offense.
A team constructed as such would have enough talent to make the playoffs. It should be noted, however, that if Alderson doesn’t significantly improve the club this winter, whoever ends up managing this team next year is a moot point.
From all accounts, the players love playing for TC. The veteran manager seems to have a strong hold of the clubhouse, and if the main goal was solely to win as many games as possible — as opposed to trying to find out which players could be answers for the future — Collins’ managing style would be quite different.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If a slam-dunk candidate with a very impressive track record happens to be on the market — see Mike Scioscia, whose Angels have been a massive disappointment thus far — is looking for a job, then the Wilpons obviously have to make the call.
But unless there’s a viable replacement whose pedigree can’t be overlooked — and, no, Wally Backman doesn’t qualify — Collins should be given an opportunity to show what he can do with a fully armed platoon.
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