By Jason Keidel
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He doesn’t have geek chic glasses. He doesn’t ride a bike to work. He’s not reviving a moribund program in Chicago, on the back end of a century-long, goat-infested World Series drought. He’s not cute or clever, quick with quips for an elitist media.READ MORE: David Robinson, 53, Arrested For Murder Of Woman Who Died After Falling Down Stairs At Subway Station
Maybe he’s not a manager/hipster, but Terry Collins did a hell of a job with the New York Mets in 2015. And for that, he should have been more seriously considered for NL Manager of the Year. At least more than the three first-place votes he got, and his third-place showing overall.
Joe Maddon, who won the award, is also a fine skipper, and has raised the Cubs into bears. But he’s also a darling of the press corps. He’s the new-world, vegan manager that appeals to the millennial media. He’s the dad they wish they had. His tongue is way more nimble, his form far more affable, his jokes far more laughable. And he’s bagged the award twice, giving him the heft for a third, as though he now inherits the hardware.
Once someone is a member of MLB aristocracy, be it a player on the back-nine of his career, or a scrappy manager in his golden years, he becomes a fixture on the banquet circuit. As Brian Cashman accurately said, Troy Tulowitzki was better than Derek Jeter four years ago, yet Jeter will get more votes, if not more money. Likewise, Collins can never match Maddon’s rep, wit or wage.
Collins never had a chance. His high-pitched, no-nonsense answers don’t have public sizzle. He doesn’t bogart the bold ink. His pressers don’t double as stand-up routines. There’s no Rex Ryan — or Joe Maddon — in Terry Collins.
But find someone who did a finer job. In April, few folks picked the Mets to make the playoffs, much less win the NL East. They were more likely to reach Page Six than reach the back page in October.READ MORE: Suspect Charlie Vasquez, 23, Charged In Shooting That Injured 2 NYPD Officers In The Bronx
And for the outhouse-to-penthouse narrative that flanked the Cubs, it turns out Maddon had ample talent on his team, including NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant; Kyle Schwarber, who’s playoff homers have yet to land; and Cy Young favorite Jake Arrieta, who had the best summer of pitching since ERA became a statistic, in 1912.
As a club, the Cubs were fourth in home runs, fifth in on-base percentage, sixth in runs, RBI, and in OPS. And they were third in ERA, fourth in saves, first in strikeouts, and first in shutouts. (All in the National League.) So other than the holy trinity of starters the Mets trotted out, the Cubs — like the Dodgers before them — were largely better than the Mets.
If your criterion is managing under the duress of endless injuries, then Mike Matheny, who came in second place, should have gotten the award. His Cardinals won 100 games despite a walking triage in the clubhouse. If your criterion is wins, then give it to Matheny, who won the NL Central, ahead of Maddon’s Cubs.
If it’s about microscopic expectations turned into a enchanted run, then it’s Collins. Sure, the votes were submitted before Daniel Murphy morphed into Lou Gehrig, before Curtis Granderson became the leadoff man nonpareil, and before Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom pitched into living rooms across America. But this is also about the slumbering lumber Collins had in spring and early summer, before Sandy Alderson got the ingredients to turn Collins into a master baseball chef.
Just look at the hollow bats Collins endured in June. The Mets were playing Eric Campbell (.197 BA in 2015), Anthony Recker (career .185 hitter), Darrell Ceciliani (.206 BA in ’15), and Dilson Herrera (.211). Not even Joe Torre — or Connie Mack — could have won with Collins’ early-summer roster. But again, we heard what a clown Collins was. Until his Double-A club was replaced with a few sizzling bats.
If this sounds like a crusade against Maddon, it’s really more a campaign for Collins, who waited over four years to get respect in the Big Apple, and 40 years to get some respect from MLB. He got a little Tuesday, but not quite enough, not commensurate to the magic Collins summoned from his dugout.
Maybe Terry Collins isn’t a renaissance man. But he is a baseball man.MORE NEWS: New Video Shows Suspected Gunman, Car Used To Flee Scene Of Deadly Bronx Double Shooting
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel