These are the last few days for Terry Collins to manage the Mets.
He deserves the release, for good behavior.
Collins has served seven years, longer than any other Met manager, and he has upheld the grand tradition of gray-haired, hands-in-back-pocket managers. The skipper.
Now he is 68 and his contract is up and as a writer-turned-fan I want to tell him, “Thanks, man.”
The end of a baseball season is always a gloomy time for fans of most teams, but I suspect a lot of Mets fans are particularly gloomy because we know it wasn’t Collins’ fault that the Mets fell apart this year.
For seven years, his players never exhibited smirks or shrugs, always hustled and seemed to respect what Keith Hernandez calls “the fundies” – fundamentals.
The Mets won a pennant nobody expected. Collins, a stranger to New York, was a throwback to the grand old baseball tradition of “dandy little manager” -- usually a middle infielder of marginal skills who had learned by observing.
In my childhood, writers called Leo Durocher “the dandy little manager” but Leo the Lip was too much of a braggart and popinjay to fit in with the commonfolk.
I grew up with dugout “hold-‘em-while-I-think-of-something” savants like Charlie Dressen of the old Brooklyn Dodgers – short on grammar and school learning and long on experience – and moving on to Sparky Anderson and Jim Leyland, guys who loved and respected the game, because it came hard to them as players.
Gene Mauch wanted to come off as cerebral. Joe Maddon -- Collins’ protégé -- is a bit more educated and worldly and fun. Earl Weaver was brash and hid his knowledge well. Buck Showalter is a control-freak lifer. Skippers.
New Yorkers had no reason to know Collins, whose temper had touched off a player mutiny in his wreck of a time with the Angels. But Collins worked in development with the Dodgers, and was a surprise managerial pick by Sandy Alderson.
Not that I have been around the team much lately (having retired at the end of 2011) but Collins’ responses in the televised post-game interview were funny and enlightening.
He stuck up for his players but did not try to sugar-coat their mistakes. He used current tools but did not make me nuts with blather about all those new computer-driven statistics.
Collins had the class to own the most ruinous decision he made -- staying with Johan Santana as he completed the first no-hitter in Mets’ history, but blowing his arm out, terminally. Collins always referred to Santana when asked why he observed pitch counts for young pitchers, who have mostly fallen apart anyway.
When Alderson gave him some players, Collins guided the team to the World Series. It has not been fun for a fan, watching it all fall apart this year.
I give credit to the professionals who never quit – Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce and Neil Walker and Rene Rivera, who had value elsewhere. When Collins finally pulled Asdrubal Cabrera from shortstop, Cabrera complained but never stopped playing hurt and being a good teammate. Jose Reyes accepted his backup role and worked with Amed Rosario like a big brother teaching the kid who had taken playing time from him.
Now the Mets management should let Collins retire gracefully – retain him as a development guy who can coach and teach – and move on to a younger manager.
Collins deserves to be remembered with Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine, other epic managers in the Mets’ amazin’ history.
As Casey would have said, “He done splendid.”
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.