By Joe Giglio
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Stop blaming Terry.
As someone who has argued against Collins’ job security for years, I can’t believe I just typed that sentence. But as I’ve watched the Mets throughout the 2015 season, it’s amazing to see how many fans have been eager for the right moment to get rid of the manager.
Heading into play on Friday, the Mets sat at 36-32 and atop the NL East. Based on run differential, the team has outplayed it’s win-loss expectation by three games. With 68 games in the books, the 2015 Mets have overachieved.
Now, don’t mistake this as a plea for a long-term extension for Collins or a rant on why he’s a tactician. His future in Queens still isn’t on solid footing and his public handling of the six-man (or is it five-heavy?) rotation bordered on the comical. Yet, despite all of the reasons that make it so easy to tweet “fire Terry!” during games, consider what he’s had to deal with to guide the Mets to where they stand right now:
* David Wright, the franchise’s highest-paid player, has played in just eight games
* Not one everyday hitter boasts a slugging percentage of .500
* Juan Lagares’ value has been destroyed by his balky elbow and rib cage issue, leaving Collins with a below-average offensive player that’s suddenly playing less-than-stellar defense
* Wilmer Flores, despite a pace that will land him as the first 20-homer shortstop in Mets history, is a liability in the field
* Jenrry Mejia, Collins’ projected closer, is still serving an 80-game suspension
* Travis d’Arnaud, the closest thing the Mets have to an All-Star-level player, has played in just 18 games
* Daniel Murphy is on the disabled list
* Zack Wheeler, a pitcher so many were willing to dismiss after Tommy John surgery because of depth in the system, was the closest thing Collins had to a young arm without innings restrictions
* The Mets’ offense owns a .677 OPS, good for 12th in the NL
Based on all the injuries, Wheeler’s absence and a burgeoning young pitching staff that won’t be fully together and ready to roll until 2016, the idea of the Mets on an 86-win pace is an accomplishment.
Yet, due to the 11-game win streak in April, dominant starting pitching and the ineptitude of the NL East, expectations have been ramped up to a level that doesn’t fit with what Collins has to work with right now.
Since taking over the managerial chair in 2011, Collins has won 77, 74, 74 and 79 games, respectively. This was the year he was finally given talent and expected to do something to push the needle forward. Even without all the talent that looked to be present in spring training, the Mets have a legitimate chance to stay stride-for-stride with Washington this summer.
I know how frustrating it is to hear “wait for next year!” over and over. But for this Mets team, the real judgment likely won’t come until then. With the Nationals facing a mass exodus of free agents, the Marlins a franchise without an identity, the Braves two years away and the Phillies a half decade from relevance, the Mets are set up.
If Sandy Alderson lands a Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard, Wright returns and Steven Matz arrives, it’ll be fair to judge Collins on a day-by-day basis in August and September when a pennant is on the line.
For now? Look at the big picture. The Mets are relevant, alive and somehow in first place. Even if you don’t want to give Collins credit, it’s silly to tear him down based on his performance so far this season.