‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Before the appointment of Terry Collins as manager last November, there were many unwanted labels attached to the good name of the New York Mets.  Their roster had developed an image of uninspired, unprofessional ballplayers that carried themselves with a showy, brash attitude.

That reputation wasn’t just confined to the Big Apple, as rival players from the Phillies and Marlins would speak of their delight in beating a group of players that they considered to be cocky.  The Mets’ name had been dragged through the mud and constantly joked about inside baseball circles.

When Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino hit an important home run during the 2008 NLDS, he posed with his arm outstretched and the image was used in many of the Philadelphia daily papers.  His teammates cut out the photo and modified the uniform’s name and number to “REYES 7” and posted it inside Victorino’s locker room stall.  It was a playful way for the Phillies to send a message to Victorino not to behave like the boastful Mets.

The “Not-so Amazin’s” became the target of late night hosts David Letterman and Conan O’Brien as well as a few popular television series.  Family Guy poked fun at the plight of being a Mets fan in sketch where Stewie Griffin attended Opening Day.  The announcer calling the game declared that their season was already over after the first pitch and Stewie throws down his Met hat in disgust.  In an episode of Entourage, the gang is walking through Los Angeles when Johnny Drama mentions that the Mets are in town and offers the idea of catching the ballgame to which Eric Murphy responds, “The Mets? Who cares about the Mets?”

Jokes like these will soon become a thing of the past as Collins has transformed the Mets from underachieving easy-targets to likable underdogs.  Despised players Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez who symbolized the failures of the old regime were released.  Their replacements, hungry rookies Justin Turner and Dillon Gee are the poster boys of Collins’ revival.  Gee has gotten off to a perfect 5-0 start this season while Turner’s hot-hitting earned him the NL Rookie of the Month Award for May.

“The Collins Effect” was more evident than ever in Thursday’s seven-run come from behind victory over the Pirates.  His post-game tirade a day earlier was the correct tactic to breathe life back into the Mets who had dropped a previous eight of eleven ballgames.  Spurred on by their manager’s challenge, they completed the franchise’s biggest comeback in eleven years.

It may have taken time but the Mets are finally buying into the philosophies that Collins preaches.  He demands that his troops play the game with effort, passion and a sense of pride.

In all actuality, both Collins and the Mets desperately needed each other.  The listless Mets required a firm kick in the rear from a fiery, no-nonsense manager and Collins yearned for another opportunity to prove himself at the major league level.  Collins had spent the past twelve years rebuilding his own reputation after a players’ coup forced him from his post with the Angels, severely damaging his renown around the game.

Like a nomad wanderer searching for his new home, he took on numerous assignments with MLB clubs over the years.  Collins worked both behind the scenes and in various coaching roles but a managerial gig eluded him.  He traveled as far as Japan and even managed the Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods NCAA summer league to prove his desire.

Collins has learned from his mistakes and admitted that he pushed his players too hard while presiding over the Angels and Astros.  He spoke all off-season about building relationships with his new roster and seems to understand the balance between being too demanding and knowing when to put his arm around a player.

The Mets will need his inspiration to get the most out the team while stars David Wright, Johan Santana and Ike Davis remain on the disabled list.  What’s clear to me is the Mets are going in the right direction — but it is up to the players to continue following their manager’s lead and embody his passionate style.

How well do you believe Collins has performed thus far and do you agree he’s restored the Mets’ reputation?  Sound off below or send Sean a tweet @HartyLFC.