NY Mets: 10 Reasons Terry Collins Should Win NL Manager of the Year
In just his second season as the Mets manager, Terry Collins has found more success than many could have imagined with the Mets this year. The Mets were widely projected to finish in last place in the NL East this year, but have responded with a winning record at the All-Star break. A recent losing skid may have some fans worrying, but nonetheless, it has been quite a successful year so far for Collins and the Mets.
If the Mets can find a way to make the 2012 postseason, especially with the new Wild Card rule in effect, Collins could become the first Mets manager to ever win the NL Manager of the Year Award. It would probably be quite an honor for him when considering how far the Mets have come as a team in the last few seasons, plus how far Collins himself has come as a manager.
Here are 10 reasons why Collins should win the 2012 NL Manager of the Year Award.
1. The Mets Will Make the 2012 Postseason
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One of the most significant categories for determining whether a manager is deserving of being honored as the best in his respective league is if his team did particularly well that year.
More often than not, AL and NL Manager of the Year Award recipients had teams that overachieved and got into the postseason in dramatic fashion. With the way that the Mets' season has played out this year, Collins is definitely one of the most deserving managers for the award, simply because the Mets have been one of the better teams in the National League so far.
The Mets currently look like they are slipping in the division, but if they make a few big trades and particularly to improve their bullpen, they could easily catch up and really contend for a spot in the postseason.
The Mets' main contenders in the NL East are the Nationals and the Braves. The Nationals look like they could win the division, while the Braves are trying to keep up with them as well. In the Wild Card race, the Pirates, Cardinals, Reds, Giants and Dodgers seem to be the Mets' main competition, along with the Braves for the moment. Of course, one of those teams in the NL Central and NL West divisions will be leading, so just three of those NL Central and NL West teams will be in the Wild Card race at one time.
If the Mets can do well for the rest of the season, and particularly against the contending teams themselves, there is every reason to believe the Mets can still win the division or get one of the Wild Card spots. This doesn't mean that the Mets should not play as well against losing teams, though, because every single game matters now.
2. The Mets Were Not Expected to Do Much in 2012
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Going into the 2012 season, the Mets were widely not expected to contend for various reasons.
First, they had been going through financial issues for the past few years due to owner Fred Wilpon's previous dealings with Bernie Madoff. Trustees that represented the victims were demanding over $300 million from Wilpon, but in the end, Wilpon and the trustees agreed to settle at $162 million. The Mets may not even lose any money due to the money they are likely to gain as victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
Due to the lack of money, the Mets were not able to spend on some of the top free agents in the market. They had to make the most of each dollar and sign various players to one or two-year contracts. However, with the contracts of Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez all off the books, the Mets now have less money owed to their players, which is a step in the right direction.
Furthermore, the entire NL East division looked stronger on paper. The Nationals were finally expected to contend, as were the Marlins, who had a big offseason and dished out large contracts to Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Heath Bell. The Phillies still had their amazing rotation, and the Braves were solid too. The Mets simply looked like the odd team out.
At the All-Star break though, the standings looked a lot different than everyone expected. Few people thought that the Mets would have a winning record by now, while just as many were probably surprised that both the Phillies and Marlins were struggling and not playing as well as expected. One of the biggest reasons why the Mets are where they are starts from the top, with Terry Collins showing himself as a great leader for his players.
3. The Mets Are a Young Team and Still Learning
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It's no secret that the Mets have one of the youngest teams in the league. Less than 10 players on their active roster are over the age of 30. Furthermore, David Wright is now the only current Met that his been with the team for more than five years. This goes to show how many personnel changes have taken place on the roster during Wright's career.
Now that Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes have moved on elsewhere, there isn't so much of a veteran presence on the Mets. Wright is the lone leader of the club, and the few veterans there have not been on the Mets for too long and for the most part, have not set the best examples. R.A. Dickey would be a notable exception.
Without so much veteran leadership, Terry Collins and Wright have taken it upon themselves to lead the team to greater depths of success. Collins has been in the game for many years, and the young players have followed his advice. Wright has set the example for his teammates with a career season, and many of them have followed his lead and helped the Mets become better than anyone could have predicted.
Many of Mets starters are young, including catcher Josh Thole, first baseman Ike Davis, second baseman Daniel Murphy (who is still learning the position), shortstop Ruben Tejada and outfielders Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda. Among those players, only Murphy has had a starting position prior to the 2010 season.
While it's great that the Mets now have quite a homegrown team, the lack of overall veteran leadership is noticeable on this team, and it really goes to show how great of a job Collins and Wright have done as leaders. Furthermore, Collins' leadership with the young team should definitely get recognized in Manager of the Year considerations.
4. Collins Has Always Believed in His Players
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When the Mets this year were predicted by many to finish last and maybe even lose over 100 games, that message did not get to Collins.
As the manager, Collins has always believed in his players and will keep doing so as long as he is managing them. At times, he has wanted to make certain decisions in critical moments, but in the end, he let his players make those respective decisions.
On the final day of the 2011 season, Collins was reluctant to remove Jose Reyes from the game after his first at-bat, but Reyes wanted to do so, and Collins respected Reyes' decision enough to follow through and remove him as he went onto win his first batting title and the first in Mets history.
On June 1 of this year, Collins would have wanted to remove Johan Santana due to the pitch count the Mets were keeping him at, but he realized that Mets history was on the line and ultimately let Santana throw 134 pitches as he threw the first no-hitter in Mets history. It is moments like those that how much Collins really believes in his players.
Not everyone will give the Mets and their players credit at all times, but if anyone will, Collins would be that person.
5. Collins and the Mets Have Had to Deal with Injuries and Adversity
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Like the Mets of the last five years in particular, the 2012 Mets have certainly had to deal with their fair share of injuries.
The Mets lost Mike Pelfrey for the season in April due to Tommy John surgery and have now lost fellow starter Dillon Gee, who recently had a blood clot removed from an artery in his right arm.
The Mets have also had other players spend time on the disabled list, including Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Justin Turner, Mike Baxter, Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Ronny Cedeno, Ramon Ramirez and Frank Francisco. Some of those injuries were longer than others, but the Mets have been able to stay in the postseason hunt for the entire season so far.
Others like Omar Quintanilla, Rob Johnson and Chris Young have stepped up in unexpected roles and played very well while filling in for injured players. Quintanilla and Johnson are both back in the minor leagues now that the Mets are more healthy, but should they ever get re-called, they will be expected to play well for as long as they start.
As for adversity, the Mets did not have to look any further than former Met Gary Carter's passing due to brain cancer on February 16 of this year. Carter had been an integral part of the 1986 championship Mets team and spent five years in New York from 1985-1989. The Mets are now wearing a patch this year on their jerseys as a tribute to Carter.
6. Collins Has Improved as a Manager
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Collins was not always such a well-respected manager by his players. From 1994-1996, Collins managed the Astros, who were a great team at the time and led by future Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. The Astros finished second in the NL Central in each of those three seasons, but got fired after the Astros collapsed in 1996 and failed to make the postseason.
Collins was viewed as rather uptight during his time in Houston, and the players may not have particularly liked that, but within a month after being fired, the Angels signed him as their new manager. In 1997 and 1998, the Angels finished second both years, but did not make the postseason either year.
Unfortunately for Collins, everything fell apart for him and the Angels in 1999, when the team got marred by injuries and the team chemistry got so bad that Collins felt he had lost the clubhouse. He resigned that year with 29 games remaining in the season.
After spending time working in the Dodgers' minor league system, Collins became the new manager of the Orix Buffaloes in Japan from 2007-2008. However, he ended up resigning in May of 2008. He then managed the China national team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic before becoming the Mets' minor league field coordinator in 2010. After former Mets manager Jerry Manuel got fired, Collins became his replacement.
With 12 years having passed between MLB managerial stints, Collins has learned a lot and has certainly matured as a manager. He is still a disciplinarian and demands the best efforts out of everyone, but he isn't as uptight generally speaking as he once was. His players now believe in him and listen to his advice. They feed off of Collins' energy and determination to succeed.
For example, during the 1990s when Collins was managing the Astros and Angels, he would have probably been a lot less likely to remove Jose Reyes from a game in the first inning just to ensure that Reyes would win the batting title. Being that it happened in 2011 when Collins had become a better manager, this show just how much Collins has really grown in the 12 years between MLB managerial stints.
In other words, he is now a lot better at communicating with his players and is not afraid to let them pitch longer, for example if they really feel they are capable of doing so. This is just one quality that is the difference between a good manager and a great manager. Collins has certainly taken that step forward since becoming the manager of the Mets.
7. Collins Has the Charisma of a Great Manager
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Over the years, the Mets have had 20 different managers, with Collins being the 20th. Some managers have been great fits with the players they managed, while others did not experience the same results. However, only a few of these managers have really had the charisma to have a significant impact on their players. Collins is certainly one of them.
The Mets' first ever manager, Casey Stengel, had as much charisma as any manager in Mets history. He set the standard for the Mets, who were known as the "lovable losers" at the time. Gil Hodges, the man who led the Mets to their 1969 championship, had a different kind of charisma. He was very serious with his job and even removed Cleon Jones once in the middle of a game for not running hard on a fly ball. Nonetheless, he made a profound impact on the team, and this certainly helped the Mets perform better.
Seventeen years later, current Nationals manager Davey Johnson led the 1986 Mets to a World Series championship. He had his own kind of charisma because he let the players he managed in the minor leagues get opportunities to play every day on the Mets. One of those players was second baseman Wally Backman, who was shuttled between the Mets and the minor leagues from 1980-1983, but became the Mets' starting second baseman once Johnson became the Mets manager in 1984.
Johnson also kept the clubhouse loose and let the players prank each other, among other activities. However, when it was game time, Johnson knew he could trust his group of All-Stars to get the job done, and for the most part, they did just so from 1984-1990.
From late 1996-2002, another former Mets manager brought his own personality to the Mets. That was current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who helped lead some underachieving Mets teams to the 1999 postseason and 2000 World Series. Unlike some of the star-studded teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Mets at the time never possessed any other superstar players besides Mike Piazza. However, there were plenty of great role players in those years, as well as great team chemistry. Valentine was certainly helpful with that, which cause those role players to overachieve and play better than expected.
Players like Rick Reed, Butch Huskey, Todd Pratt, Matt Franco, Jay Payton and Benny Agbayani, among others, all got chances to shine with the Mets. Not every team may have given those players such opportunities, but Valentine believed in all of them, and it eventually paid off. Reed, for one, became one of the best control pitchers in baseball from 1997-2001.
Now, the newest Mets manager to bring a noticeable amount of charisma is Collins, who has certainly won the players over and has believed in his young team. Ruben Tejada, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Justin Turner, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole have all performed better than expected, but a lot of credit has to go to Collins for putting them into the lineup and giving them more opportunities.
With all this being said, it's clear that managers who have great relationships with their players are more likely to become successful. Collins can personally agree with that because his final season with the Angels in 1999 didn't work out due to the players not wanting him to manage them.
8. The Mets' Front Office Is No Longer Chaotic
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Not only do managers have to have great relationships with their players in order to succeed, but they also need to get along with the front office, and general managers in particular as well.
Ever since Frank Cashen fired Davey Johnson in May of 1990, the Mets front office turned into a never-ending mess until very recently. Johnson's successor, Bud Harrelson, did not have a great end to his short stint as the Mets manager from the rest of 1990-1991. Cashen retired after that season and selected Al Harazin as his replacement. In one of his many questionable decisions, Harazin hired Jeff Torborg to manage the Mets in 1992.
The Mets then became one of the biggest laughingstocks in all of baseball from 1992-1993. Torborg was fired in May of 1993 and Harazin resigned a month later. As a result, Joe McIlvaine and Dallas Green became the new general manager and manager, respectively. Then, the player's strike occurred in 1994, which made everyone uneasy. In 1996, Green got fired as the Mets and their pitching in particular underachieved significantly that year.
McIlvaine replaced Green with Bobby Valentine, who managed the Mets from the last month of the 1996 season through 2002. McIlvaine though was fired in July of 1997 and got replaced by his assistant, Steve Phillips. It soon became quite clear that Phillips and Valentine did not get along, and following a late season collapse in 2002, Phillips fired Valentine and replaced him with Art Howe. Many thought Phillips would have gotten fired the same day as Valentine, but Phillips ended up getting dismissed the following June. Assistant general manager Jim Duquette replaced him, but the chaos did not end there.
The Mets struggled badly in 2003 and did not fare much better in 2004. Duquette's questionable 2004 trades and the end of season treatment Howe got for being a "lame duck" manager did not make the front office any better. Both were fired after the 2004 season, and former assistant general manager Omar Minaya left Montreal to take over the Mets.
Minaya first hired Willie Randolph as the Mets' new manager before making a few high-priced free-agent signings that offseason. After a solid rebuilding season in 2005, the 2006 Mets ran away with the NL East division title, but fell just one game short of a trip to the 2006 World Series. Despite the disappointing ending, all was well in the Mets front office at the time.
It looked like 2007 had the potential to be an even better season, but the Mets' infamous late-season collapse that year started a downward spiral that lasted the next few seasons. In June 2008, Minaya fired Randolph in the middle of a West Coast road trip and got heavily criticized for the timing of the dismissal. Bench coach Jerry Manuel replaced Randolph and remained the Mets manager through 2010. It was later revealed that vice president of player development Tony Bernazard may have played a major role in Randolph's firing.
Speaking of Bernazard, he did not help the front office that much and found himself in hot water after three separate incidents occurred in 2009, including a report of him challenging minor league players to fights. He was fired in on July 27 of that year for his actions.
Chaos remained in the front office through the end of 2010, although Minaya and Manuel's relationship was not particularly bad. However, once Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins got hired, there has been no sign of any front office chaos at all ever since.
While a lack of front-office chaos will not be considered a significant aspect of whether a manager is deserving of the AL/NL Manager of the Year Award, chaos would certainly hurt a manager's chances of winning the award. Thankfully, the Mets' current front office is on great terms and this will definitely not hurt Collins at all.
9. The Mets Are Due to Have a Manager Win the NL Manager of the Year Award
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Ever since the Manager of the Year Award was introduced in 1983, the Mets and the Brewers are the only two teams to never have a manager win the award.
This does not mean that the Mets have not had deserving managers in any of those years. Davey Johnson finished second in the NL Manager of the Year voting in both 1984 and 1986, third in 1988 and fourth in both 1985 and 1987. The Mets finished at least second place or better in each season under his watch. His successor, Bud Harrelson, finished tied for fifth in 1990.
Mets managers were not given any votes from 1991-1993, but in 1994, Dallas Green finished a distant fourth despite the Mets being three games under .500 that year before the strike. Green also came in sixth in 1995.
In 1997, Bobby Valentine finished a distant fourth despite giving the Mets their first winning season since 1990 and doing so without any exceptional superstars on his team that year. Valentine came in sixth in 1998, fifth in 1999 and fourth in 2000. The latter two years were rather surprising because in 1999, Valentine led the Mets to their first postseason berth since 1988 and led the Mets to the World Series for the first time since 1986 in 2000.
The Mets managers did not get any votes until Willie Randolph came in eighth in 2005 in his first year as the Mets manager. Randolph then finished second in 2006 to Joe Girardi of the Marlins. The 2006 Marlins, though, finished in fourth place and with a losing record, which was an unusual circumstance that would cause a manager to be deserving.
Jerry Manuel finished sixth in 2008, while Terry Collins got just one vote and was tied in eighth with Don Mattingly of the Dodgers in 2011.
One could certainly make a case that Davey Johnson should have won at least one NL Manager of the Year Award, whether it be in 1984 and/or 1986. Bobby Valentine was as deserving as anyone from 1997-2000, while Willie Randolph should have easily won in 2006. However, none of those years were meant to be for Mets managers, but hopefully, a Mets manager can win it soon.
Collins has a great shot at winning the award this year, which happens to be the Mets' 50th anniversary season. With the Mets already having gotten their first ever no-hitter in June, an NL Manager of the Year Award for Collins could help this 50th anniversary celebration become even more special for the Mets and their fans.
10. Collins Will Not Have That Much Competition This Year
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The above title does not necessarily mean that Collins will win the 2012 NL Manager of the Year Award by a unanimous decision. There are other NL managers that are worthy of consideration, but only three others are even worth mentioning at the moment.
Former Mets manager Davey Johnson is currently the skipper of the Nationals. Ever since they were the Montreal Expos, the Nationals have never made a postseason appearance, but after waiting patiently for the organization to rebuild, they finally look like a dangerous postseason contender.
With a lot of young talent that includes the 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper, Johnson's experience and wisdom has certainly had an effect on his players. The Nationals have been leading the NL East for almost the entire year; plus, as mentioned in the previous slide, Johnson always fell short during each of his winning seasons with the Mets in the 1980s. This could very well be the year that Johnson wins an award that he should have gotten almost 30 years ago.
One of the players that Johnson once managed with the Mets was current Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. Hurdle had been the Rockies manager from 2002-2009, when he was fired in May of that year and replaced by current Rockies manager Jim Tracy. After spending 2010 as the Rangers' hitting coach, the Pirates hired him to be their new manager in 2011. The Mets had interviewed him as well.
The Pirates have not had a winning record or a postseason appearance since 1992. For about two decades, the Pirates and their fans have struggled to see a successful team in Pittsburgh, but this could very well be the year that the Pirates break both droughts. Besides centerfielder Andrew McCutchen and closer Joel Hanrahan, the Pirates don't really have any other big-name superstars on the team.
Nonetheless, Hurdle has gotten his players to believe in themselves, similarly to what Collins has done with the Mets. With the NL Central race between the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals as tight as it has been for months, it will be tough for the Pirates to make the postseason. But no matter what ends up happening, Hurdle's name will certainly be involved in NL Manager of the Year talks.
Finally, another manager who is likely to be in the conversation is Don Mattingly of the Dodgers. The former longtime Yankees first baseman is only in his second year as a manager, yet his Dodgers have been in first place in the NL West for most of the season so far.
After having a huge month in April, star centerfielder Matt Kemp got injured and missed pretty much the rest of the first half with a hamstring injury. He recently came back following the All-Star break. The Dodgers also had to deal with the temporary loss of Andre Ethier before the All-Star break. With both of their best hitters having missed some time, the Dodgers offense struggled mightily to score runs, while ace Clayton Kershaw and a resurgent Chris Capuano have both pitched very well.
Even though he is still new at managing a professional baseball team, Mattingly has caught on quite well, especially after being a hitting coach under Joe Torre from 2004-2007 with the Yankees and 2008-2010 with the Dodgers. The fact that he has been coaching in the Dodgers organization since 2008 is very likely a big reason why he and his players have gotten along quite well. Assuming the Dodgers do not collapse and miss the postseason, Mattingly will definitely be considered for being the 2012 NL Manager of the Year.
All in all, Terry Collins has a great chance at winning the 2012 NL Manager of the Year, but Johnson, Hurdle and Mattingly all have good shots of winning as well. It will be fascinating to see how the voting will turn out in November.