The New York Mets must re-sign Terry Collins as manager after this season when his contract expires.
When Collins signed a three-year contract with the Mets in November 2010, the franchise was headed nowhere.
The Mets were attempting to rebound from an injury-riddled 2009 season, but instead slumped their way to a second straight fourth-place finish in the NL East. As a result, Jerry Manuel was fired as manager and Omar Minaya was fired as GM. He was replaced by Sandy Alderson.
Weeks after the Mets named Collins as the new manager, the Wilpons were sued by a bankruptcy trustee attempting to recover funds for victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. This crippled the Mets' payroll, despite Wilpon’s claims that it would not, and they could not restock the team with any free-agent talent for Collins.
Even worse, the Mets got rid of what little talent they had and even ate the contracts of disappointing players like slumping Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Johan Santana also missed the entire season recovering from his shoulder surgery.
Despite the major setbacks heading into his first season, Collins made sure this team would compete.
After an embarrassing 4-11 start to the season, the Mets were 55-53 by the end of July.
But the injury bug always seems to bite the Mets the hardest. Many players got hurt, and the Mets later fell to 77-85 and a fourth-place finish again. Those 77 wins were only two fewer wins than in 2010. It is also worth noting that Collins lost two of his best players to midseason trades, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.
Nevertheless, Collins remained adamant that the Mets fight all season. It is even tougher when the front office trades players like Beltran and Rodriguez, because that effectively tells the rest of the team that they are selling the season, and you should too.
Collins still forced the Mets to fight. He even openly called out his team after a September slump, even though they were well out of contention.
Although this team still seemed destined for rock bottom, Collins refused to let that happen.
Before the 2012 season, the Mets once again made no splashes in free agency, aside from signing the injury-riddled and inconsistent closer, Frank Francisco. The team also traded Angel Pagan and lost star shortstop Jose Reyes in free agency.
Once again, though, Collins had the Mets contending.
By the All-Star break, David Wright was a bona fide MVP candidate, and the Mets were a half-game out of a wild-card spot at 46-40.
But injuries once again took their toll, as well as the drastic dip in form from Wright and the post-no-hitter Santana. The Mets finished 74-88, and again in fourth place.
The fact that the Mets contended at all is a testament to Collins’ leadership abilities, especially with the rosters he was given.
Alderson has torn down the faulty structure that Minaya left behind and rebuilt it brick by brick. After the splendid 2006 season, the Mets locker room had a sense of entitlement that only a team full of spoiled, aging stars could produce.
Collins’ hiring was likely due to his passion for baseball being played the right way. His job was to groom the younger players while the front office worried about getting rid of the old guard.
But Collins has exceeded expectations.
He had the team believing they could contend in 2012, and he believes the same in 2013. And with an extra wild-card spot up for grabs now, as well as a number of young, talented and motivated prospects finally ready to play in the majors, who’s to say he will be wrong?
Yet, there is no denying that one theme of Collins’ two seasons is a second-half swoon. Injuries and midseason trades do play a huge role, but Collins must show he can lead an overachieving team for an entire season even with injuries to key players.
Indeed, Alderson stated in a recent interview that Collins will be judged by wins and losses, as well as the improvement of players on the team. Alderson stresses that Collins will not be judged solely by his record but also by how motivated players are to improve.
By all accounts, Collins is already proving that.
Even though a majority of the men did not have to show up for days or weeks, Collins had 55 players report to spring training on the first day. This number included 20 major league hitters a week early.
Already, this Mets team is motivated. And considering the Mets have a long streak of consecutive fourth-place finishes, Collins should get even more credit.
Two years ago, the team seemed destined for the punch line of any baseball joke for the next decade. But with the patient oversight of Alderson and the understated leadership of Collins, this team is already thinking seriously about contending again.
Realistically, this franchise is a year or two away from its prospects hitting their stride and the team reaching that goal.
Nonetheless, Collins has a young team with something to prove.
Collins deserves a majority of the credit for the turnaround. The players respect him and want to play for him. While the end-of-season record has never been pretty, the team is now improving, and there is always some positive to take from each season under him.
And that is precisely why Collins must stay. This team will improve drastically, regardless of what the record may show.
If Collins can continue to push his enthusiasm and passion for baseball onto the younger players, then there is no reason why he should not also continue to be the man to lead the Mets back into contention.