By Ernie Palladino
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If Terry Collins doesn’t just up and say “I’m getting to old for this garbage” before Saturday’s meeting with the Angels, he will surpass Davey Johnson as the Mets’ longest-tenured manager.
At this point, it’s only 50-50 he makes it.
Just kidding. We have no source indicating Collins is headed out the door. To anyone’s knowledge, there are no high-level meetings between Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson concerning Collins’ job security for the remainder of this mess of a 2017 season.
It’s just that one wonders how much a 68-year-old manager who has now seen everything and anything will want to continue in a season headed downhill fast. In fact, there’s probably not a soul around Citi Field who would blame Collins if he packed it in once he has managed his 1,013th Mets game this weekend.
He won’t. Collins is too proud of a baseball lifer to bail on his team. No one knows better than him the ups and downs of a season, the frailties of the ballplayer, the fickleness of the fan. He has managed a pitching-rich Mets squad to the World Series and struggled to avoid last place with what amounted to Quadruple-A lineups.
But this season? This is really turning out as something beyond the pale. In just 38 games, he has seen the league’s best starting rotation reduced to mediocrity by injury, their main bat pull a hamstring so badly that he’s only now beginning a running program, and what should have been an OK bullpen descend into more chaos than Donald Trump’s White House.
No gray-haired grandfather needs to be subjected to this. Had Alderson conducted a Miami- or San Diego-style fire sale of talent, such a fall might have been explainable and no one would need pity Collins for sticking around for the final year of his contract.
But that’s not what happened. The Mets came out of spring training set to challenge the mighty Nationals for the NL East title. Collins would ride the wave of success that started with a pennant in 2015 and continued with last year’s wild card game appearance.
If this was going to be Collins’ springboard into summers with the wife and grandkids, at least he’d go out on a high note.
But it has all gone so horribly wrong.
The pitching went first. Steven Matz, the original rotation’s only left-hander, has yet to throw a major league pitch this year because of an inflamed left elbow. Seth Lugo, one of last year’s replacement heroes, has a partial tear of the right ulnar-collateral ligament. The 100-MPH ace of the staff, Noah Syndergaard, ripped his right lat muscle and there’s no telling when he’ll be back.
And just for good measure — because it never just sprinkles with the Mets; it pours — closer Jeurys Familia came up with a blood clot and may not pitch again this season.
Only Syndergaard’s injury might have been preventable had he assented to an MRI when he felt the original tightness.
In all, 11 players have hit the DL since opening day. Yoenis Cespedes, their only truly reliable hitter, is trying hard to get back from that hamstring strain. But even when he does, Asdrubal Cabrera will just be starting his stint there with a sprained thumb. Travis d’Arnaud isn’t due off anytime soon, either.
Girl problems reportedly undermined Matt Harvey, and now he stinks as bad as 2-week-old cod. Robert Gsellman looks like a 2016 flash in the pan.
That leaves the rotation with Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler, both of whom have been victimized during the Mets’ six-game losing streak by relievers who can’t use injury as an excuse for allowing 23 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings, including Tuesday’s night’s 5-4 loss in Arizona.
They’re still the usual all-or-nothing Mets — top 10 in homers, bottom 10 in batting average. But the key hits haven’t come at the right time.
It all amounts to a season that could be nearing its tipping point, with little for Collins to do except make moves doomed to failure.
Collins’s recent talk of righting the ship by winning seven of 10 is unrealistic. Perhaps when the Mets get whole that type of run will be possible. But who knows when that will happen? Until it does, the ocean will remain choppy.
The situation is screaming for outside help. But even a prospect-rich team, which the Mets are not, cannot make enough trades in a year to fill the holes it has now.
That can wear on any manager, especially one closer to 70 than 40.
It makes one wonder how much more Collins will want to take.
If things continue on their current course, 2017 may well signal the end for Collins, by mutual consent. The franchise record for managerial longevity may have to suffice for a skipper growing wearier by the catastrophe.
Let’s face it, he’s getting too old for this stuff.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino