By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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Terry Collins will be the Mets’ manager in 2015.

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But he shouldn’t be.

On Friday, in what was a highly unexpected development, former Rays manager Joe Maddon exercised an opt-out in his contract and left Tampa Bay.

Following the announcement, there was some brief speculation that the Mets would entertain the possibility of hiring Maddon. That idea was quickly shot down, however, when COO Jeff Wilpon made it abundantly clear that Collins is here to stay.

“No, we are not changing managers.” Wilpon told WFAN/CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman on Friday.

And that was that.

Following the season the Mets announced that Collins would return in 2015. At the time I wasn’t bothered by the decision. Sure, the skipper leaves a lot to be desired with his on-field decisions, but he’s played his hand well and has overseen the development of some key players that may very well lead the next great era of Mets baseball. He’s also, by all accounts, very well-liked in the clubhouse and has been a good soldier through some very difficult times in Queens.

I think it’s fair to say that he’s done a solid job throughout a period of transformation, overhauling and an attempt to change organizational direction (with very limited resources at his disposal, by the way).

But despite all of the excuses that can be made for Collins — and there is no shortage of legitimate excuses — the bottom line remains that he’s had four losing seasons since taking over prior to the 2011 seasons. And if you believe general manager Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons, the Mets are finally expected to contend in 2015.

If that’s the case, and the time to win is now, it’s very difficult to justify sticking with Collins. I respect the loyalty that the higher-ups have shown to Collins, but the painful truth is that the manager does not have a track record of success.

Again, if it’s finally time to win, you need a manager who has been there, who has won, who knows what it’s like to lead a team into the playoffs and beyond.

Maddon and Ron Gardenhire — who was fired by the Twins in late September — are there for the taking. They’re dangling, waiting to be picked up. How can the Mets not hire one of these guys?

Either manager would be a perfect fit. Both have excellent resumes — Maddon is a two-time Manager of the Year and Gardenhire also has a Manager of the Year award under his belt — and have plenty of experience leading clubs into the postseason.

Both Maddon and Gardenhire are widely regarded as two of the smartest men in baseball, and both have taken small-market clubs lacking superstar players to great heights.

Yes, this applies to the Mets. They might play in New York, but at the moment they’re essentially a small-market team that is short on proven talent. But like those Rays and Twins teams that won with pitching, timely hitting and plenty of heart, the Amazin’s roster consists of scrappy, young players — and a bevy of promising pitchers — that are beginning to come together and impress.

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We’ll see what happens in free agency, but don’t expect this club to be filled with All-Stars at every position come Opening Day 2015.

The Mets need a manager who can get the absolute most from a club — on a nightly basis — that doesn’t necessarily have the most talent.

I’m not sure that Collins has the ability to motivate and push the right buttons for a club that must overachieve to win. But I’m quite sure that Maddon and Gardenhire do. They’ve shown what they’re capable of.

It’s a tricky situation for this organization, because they have committed to TC and rewarded him for doing what they believe has been a tremendous job. But in this dog-eat-dog world of professional sports where it ultimately comes down to wins and losses, sometimes difficult and unfortunate decisions need to be made. When Collins was given the keys to 2015, Maddon and Gardenhire were not on the market. Now they are, and that changes the entire landscape.

Many other factors need to be considered, as well. The big elephant in the room is the fact that this cash-strapped organization doesn’t want to have two managers on the payroll. (And when it comes down to it, if it’s between hiring a new manager or signing two quality players, I’ll take the players in a heartbeat.) We also don’t know if the Wilpons and/or Alderson have real interest in Maddon or Gardenhire, though it’s hard to fathom that they wouldn’t be intrigued by two of the best minds in the game.

And, most importantly, we don’t know if the two free-agent skippers want to manage next year. And if they do, would they come to Queens? Even if you factor in the Mets’ recent woes and the state of the organization financially, New York is always an attractive destination. These guys are some of the fiercest competitors on Earth, and you’d have to think they would relish the opportunity to win on the biggest stage. It also helps that the Mets are a team “on the rise,” as new hitting coach Kevin Long said, and the long rebuilding process seems to be nearly complete.

It must also be noted that Maddon has a close relationship with Collins, and he might not want to step on his friend’s toes and take his job.

In a perfect world, the Wilpons would throw caution to the wind and hire one of these two men, keeping Collins on the coaching staff as the bench coach (if he would accept a demotion).

Unfortunately, none of us know whether the decision to keep Collins as manager is financially based or rooted in the fact that management has true belief that he can take this team to the next level. I find it very, very hard to believe that Jeff Wilpon and Alderson think — in their heart of hearts — that Collins is better equipped to run this team than Maddon or Gardenhire.

Whatever the reason is — and it doesn’t really matter, does it? — Collins will be the guy in 2015, for better or worse.

It’s just a shame that this franchise, supposedly on the rise, isn’t willing to take a risk and put the team in the hands of a brilliant, proven leader.

It makes you question, yet again, how committed the Mets are to winning next season.

Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.

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