By Ernie Palladino
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Terry Collins did the right thing by the Mets when he publicly and unabashedly placed his posterior on the hot seat the moment he arrived Monday at the winter meetings.
Now it’s time for Sandy Alderson to do the right thing by his manager.
Whether it happens at some point before the meetings end or shortly thereafter, Alderson must gather the remaining pieces that will make the Mets relevant again. Not another 35-year-old Michael Cuddyer, whose recent injuries have moved him to the downside of his career. Not by sticking with two mediocre shortstops in Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores.
Alderson and Collins have both talked to their fan base about patience as their franchise has built a strong rotation, an OK back of the bullpen, and little else. But now, as Collins so eloquently put it, the time has come to produce. If they don’t, he’s ready to bear the blame, even if it costs him his job before the All-Star break.
This has now become a matter of fairness on Alderson’s and ownership’s part. Collins has been the good soldier since signing on to lead that rudderless ship of a franchise in November 2010. For four years, he has seen a glorified Triple-A team stumble through 344 losses, 40 more than wins, as one runner after another has been left in scoring position. He has seen too many fly balls die on the Citi Field warning track, and too many players he has relied on to score runs walk back to the dugout after strike three.
All the while, the 65-year-old has weathered the disappointments with a Job-like patience, looking toward the next game, trying to figure out how to score runs with a wild-swinging Curtis Granderson, a busted-up David Wright, a non-productive Ike Davis, and lightweights like the Tejadas and Omar Quintanillas and Kirk Nieuwenhuises of the world. All this while playing to slim houses as fans, showing far more urgency than the front office has, abandoned the Flushing stadium for more entertaining endeavors like hip replacements and root canals.
Now, after four years of failure, Collins said the time is now to produce. If it doesn’t happen right away, if the Mets break slowly out of the gate, he knows he’ll be gone just as fast.
He can only hope Alderson feels the same, or more accurately Fred and Jeff Wilpon. They are the ones who control Alderson’s purse strings. And all three know that free agents cost money. So do trades.
As such, Alderson couldn’t even think about getting into the David Robertson sweepstakes. The Mets were not going to spend $46 million, as the White Sox did, on a closer; not when they have a serviceable Jennry Mejia out there. We’ll see how serious they about upgrading at shortstop if and when Korea’s Nexen Heores posts power-hitting middle infielder Jung-Ho Kang next week. Or if Alderson somehow swings a deal for White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
Alderson’s actions the rest of the meetings and the immediate period thereafter will weigh heavily into Collins’ future. If he doesn’t make some sort of legitimate splash before Christmas, he won’t be giving Collins the fair shake he justly deserves. To stand pat with a roster filled more with hopes than realized production will probably translate into a slow start.
And that in all likelihood means that Collins, a good soldier who has taken more than his share of bullets the past four years, will be out.
That will be an injustice.
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