Terry Collins: 10 Things He Needs to Do ASAP As Manager of the New York Mets
Terry Collins has been selected as the new manager of the New York Mets, a source confirmed to MLB.com on Sunday evening.
He wasn't my first choice to replace Jerry Manuel, but I'll support him and trust that Sandy Alderson and Co. have made the right decision.
Now the Mets have a manager for the 2011 season, there's work to be done and Collins will have a busy offseason.
Some things will take time, such as learning how to deal with the media. Others might be a little simpler, like immediately moving Carlos Beltran to right field. Whatever happens, let's hope Collins has a successful first year, because 2012 is when the Mets could really come into their own when payroll dead weight is slashed.
Fans, both before and after his two-year hire, have had things to say on the state of the club. James Stewart-Meudt said fans should just let events run their course as they play a "sit and wait" game. Sammy Makki has written a great article on what to expect next season and featured columnist Robert Knapel has posted a piece about why Collins was the wrong man for the job. Jim Mancari has also written an article about ways the Mets can look to improve.
Still, he's here and he will be introduced to the media over the next day or two. Here are 10 things Collins needs to sort out as soon as possible.
Earn the Trust of His Players
It has been well-documented that he had struggles with personnel at each of his previous two Major League managerial jobs.
He was fired under a veil of needing to "change dynamics" at the Astros and replaced by a “fan friendly” broadcaster and then he was ran out of town from the California Angels when several players criticized his passive managerial style and inability to manage a diverse group of players in the clubhouse.
Collins has some experience which guys like Hale and Backman lacked, but unless he earns the trust and respect of his players early into his time with the club, he’s not going to be successful.
He is known for being a fiery-tempered boss who will stick up for his players, and as long as he keeps a healthy dynamic in the locker room he should be fine.
Learn How to Use the Bullpen
Jerry Manuel had a serious problem mis-managing his bullpen late in games, and Terry Collins can’t afford to make that same mistake.
The Mets had more than a dozen walk-off losses last year and Manuel refused to bring K-Rod into tied ballgames on the road, especially in extra-inning contests. Instead, he got Rodriguez up and then sat him down time and time again.
More importantly, he went to relievers like Oliver Perez in these situations, saying his eighth-inning guy comes into tight games on the road but K-Rod is his guy at home because the Mets would have a chance to win it in the bottom of the inning.
Yes, there are some merits to this, but very few. The Mets lost way too many (30) one-run games, and this might not have happened if Manuel had more sense in using his most highly-paid reliever instead of letting him mop up six-run leads.
Move Carlos Beltran to Right Field
This seems like a pretty obvious move considering Beltran himself has already said he would be willing to move to a corner outfield position.
Beltran doesn’t have the tools to play in center anymore and, coupled with the surge of Angel Pagan in 2010, there is no reason to keep him in the middle of Citi Field’s cavernous spaces.
His knee problems at the end of last season showed he just doesn’t have the ability to cover the ground as effectively as he needs to, and it’s clear that he will have considerably less work—and stress on his knee—in right.
Pagan earned his spot, and even though I’m not expecting quite as much output next year, I think it’s a must to have this Angel in the outfield. Beltran is in a contract year and it’s in his interest to maximize his value to teams.
That means playing every day and he won’t do that in center. As I've said before, his injury has him over a barrel and he has very few choices right now.
Figure Out What To Do With Daniel Murphy
Murphy entered spring training last year as the Opening Day first baseman. Then he hurt his knee in a rundown, lost his job to Ike Davis and sat on the sidelines as the rookie shone.
Murphy played just a handful of games in the Minors last year, but he has been extremely impressive in the Arizona Fall League. He has hit safely in 18 of his last 20 games for Cibaenas, and he is drawing walks and driving runs in.
Davis did enough in 2010 to earn the role that was initially handed to him on a plate, but I think a homegrown guy like Murphy adds something to the team and should be on the field.
The question is, does Collins move him to second base? Murphy played second in the AFL it’s not like Luis Castillo is a great option there. It’s difficult to have Castillo and his big contract on the bench, but in the event of not being able to move him, maybe it’s the only option. A platoon should be the minimum Collins considers, and Murphy could start once a week at first and twice a week at second, should Collins
not want to make him an everyday guy.
I would even prefer having Murphy at second against right-handers and Ruben Tejada against lefties, eliminating the need for Castillo further.
Things get more complicated if Orlando Hudson comes aboard, as some have suggested might happen, but for now they have to consider Murphy an asset.
Teach Ike Davis How To Hit a Changeup
As good as Davis was in his rookie year both with the bat and in the field, one of his biggest weaknesses was handling the changeup.
While it certainly took him a while to adjust to a Major League fastball, he was often fooled with the off-speed stuff. He swung through 40 percent of pitches outside the zone and changeups down at the knees gave him particular problem.
As long as he can continue to identify pitches a little more, there's every reason to expect 20 homers and 80 RBIs next year.
Tap into the Knowledge Of His Other Coaches and Field Staff
Learning the team inside out should really go without saying, but let me elaborate. Collins has a limited history with the Mets. He has only been with the organization a year and that was very much in a player development capacity.
Very few of the players he dealt with in his previous role will have a direct impact on the Mets in his first year at Citi Field and he needs to tap into the wealth of knowledge already in his staff.
Chip Hale was considered one of the very best managerial candidates available a few weeks ago, and the fact that he was one of four people on the Mets' shortlist tells you how highly they think of him. Hale should be one of Collins' main go-to guys in the early months because few people know the team like he does.
Similarly, Collins needs to utilize Dave Jauss. I was signing this man's praises long before he was invited to interview for the vacant position and I think Collins could learn a lot from him, both about the team and personally.
Jauss will be the calm to Collins' storm and not only can he bring knowledge about the current state of the team he can also relate on a player development basis.
Collins shouldn't be expected to know everything about the team right away, be he should be expected to be up to speed by February. Hale and Jauss, among others, can help him with this.
Figure Out What He Wants From David Wright on the Basepaths
Wright’s power returned in 2010 after just 10 homers in 2009. The bad news is that he wasn’t as effective on the basepaths.
Would I trade seven or eight steals for 20 home runs? Absolutely. But the Mets need to know whether they’re giving him the green light in 2011.
Sandy Alderson isn’t particularly enamored with giving up free outs by having guys thrown out, so we’ll have to see what Collins’ approach is.
Look at it this way. Wright stole 27 bases and succeeded 75 percent of the time in 2009. Last season he stole 19 bases and succeeded just 63 percent. The days of him swiping 35 bags is long gone, and he hasn’t been particularly close to having a 30-30 season since ’07.
Does Collins let him loose more, give him the red light or just ask him to be more selective?
Does Collins have faith that the Mets can score runs without being active on the basepaths? New York led the NL in steals so it’s certainly part of its gameplan, maybe they just need to hold Wright back just a little bit.
Handle the New York Media
With no disrespect to Houston and California, there just wasn’t the media scrutiny there that he will face in New York.
From day one, he’s going to face questions about his past, about his expectations and aspirations and about managing essentially an overpriced and underperforming team.
Bloggers will want to know how he plans to handle Oliver Perez. Beat writers will want to know what he’ll do with Carlos Beltran. Radio stations will want to know why he mthinks he’s the person who can guide the Mets back to the playoffs. Sports anchors will want to know why they should be taken seriously like the Braves or the Phillies.
In short, everyone will want to know what makes him the guy who can make this team relevant again. The New York media, like the team’s fans, are demanding and often fickle.
Everyone expects a new start in 2011 and he’ll have to have answers to these questions if he doesn’t want to get slammed on the back pages.
Urge Alderson to Bring in Bullpen Help
The bullpen is a mess.
The Mets failed to come to a deal with Hisanori Takahashi which essentially killed all hopes of him coming back and Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano and Kelvim Escobar filed for free agency.
I don’t care too much about Dessens and Escobar, but Feliciano and Takahashi are big losses. I’ve already written about the value that Taka brought to the club, and Feliciano and his rubber arm were invaluable. The guy pitched in 92 games and logged 62.2 innings out of the pen. Ignore his 3-6 record, because he was a work horse who will be really missed.
Who’s going to fill these rolls? Bobby Parnell? Pat Misch? Manny Acosta? I shudder at the thought of Ryota Igarashi handing the ball to Oliver Perez handing the ball to Sean Green just to get to K-Rod.
Now, I’m not talking about bringing in guys like Huston Street and Rafael Soriano. Alderson has already said he’s not looking to make any big moves, and I’m okay with that. But there are a ton of undervalued guys who could eat innings and provide real cost-effective value.
I loved like Angel Guzman and Cory Wade, but they’ve been snapped up. I also like Scot Shields, Jesse Crain and Justin Duchscherer just to name a few.
Restore a Sense of Pride
This isn't something tangible, but he has to bring that winning mentality back to the Mets.
The Mets, rightfully so at the minute, are in the shadow of the Yankees in their own city and the shadows of the Phillies in their division. People don't expect too much from the Mets next season.
When healthy, and I know how uncertain that point alone is, the Mets have a solid team that can compete with the best of them. Would they win 100 games even when they have everybody fit? No. But they could maybe be a contender to win a wildcard spot if they can collected 85 wins or so.
They really are just a few small pieces away from this, although the influx of these pieces, however small is pretty unlikely.
There are holes in the lineup, the bullpen and the rotation, but a sense of pride goes a long way. These players need to believe that they can win close games. They need to believe that they can use Citi Field to their advantage. They need to believe that everyone around them can lift them up and help them improve.
Just as importantly, the fans need something to believe in. There have been a string of disappointments for Mets fans over the last four or five years, when each year their big-payroll team has failed to live up to expectations.
Collins need to fire this team up and show them they are good enough to win. If he doesn't believe they can win, he shouldn't have taken this job.