Reese Kaplan -- Managing to Succeed

While the Miami Marlins were on the verge of being no-hit by the Atlanta Braves pitcher Shelby Miller, the second ax of the 2015 baseball season fell, this time on the neck of longtime manager Mike Redmond, who was replaced by his boss Dan Jennings as the field manager of the fish.  Some felt that the young hitting core of the team should propel them higher in the standings, but in the end a pitching staff missing its top three pitchers was not able to win consistently despite the presence of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and others. 

This termination was the second of the still relatively young 2015 season which followed the Milwaukee Brewers’ dismissal of embattled manager Ron Roenicke who, despite a winning record for the Brew Crew, was told his services were no longer required.  When that decision was made it immediately struck me as a parallel to one Terry Collins who was hired at the same time as his now erstwhile Brewers’ counterpart but who was seemingly held to a lower standard of performance.

Out of curiosity I looked up the records of other managers fired during the Collins’ tenure with the Mets and surprisingly there were a few with winning records who were handed their walking papers:

Charlie Manuel
Philadelphia Phillies
Dusty Baker
Cincinnati Reds
Ron Roenicke
Milwaukee Brewers
Ron Gardenhire
Minnesota Twins
Kirk Gibson
Arizona Diamondbacks
Terry Collins
New York Mets
Mike Redmond
Florida Marlins

Redmond of the Marlins was actually the worst of the bunch with a consistently bad record leading to a paltry .428 winning percentage during his tenure in south Florida, but Roenicke joined a collection of three other winning managers – Charlie Manuel, Dusty Baker and Ron Gardenhire – whose employers felt were still not getting as much out of their teams as possible. 

Kirk Gibson was hired to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to the promised land of post season success.  In his first full season in charge he did just that, but couldn’t replicate that performance and after four years and a losing record of 353 and 375 they decided to shift gears and let former Mets 3B coach Chip Hale try to motivate the Snakes to overtake the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West. 

While the Mets soared out to an improbably 13-3 record there were a great many people trumpeting the managerial genius of the man whose previous track record of failure was dismissed as “never having had the horses to win a championship”.  An argument could be made in that regard for the Mets, but in each of his previous stints as manager in Houston, Anaheim and Japan the teams flourished after he left, so I’m not sure that argument holds water.

Then came the swoon in the Mets 2015 season.  Starting with the Subway Series against the Yankees the Mets have performed at a 9-16 record, a .360 winning percentage, far below anything done by Terry Collins in the past and evidence more of the mind boggling rash of injuries that has seen the team had to go without Zack Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Bobby Parnell, Vic Black, Rafael Montero, Dillon Gee, Jerry Blevins, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Dilson Herrera.  Throw in the lackluster performance of the corner outfielders, Daniel Murphy, the lack of power from Lucas Duda and the subpar defense of Wilmer Flores, and it’s easy to see why the team sputtered. 

What’s less understandable is the proclamation from the manager that the veterans need to step up and lead the way.  Huh?  Call me crazy, but isn’t the manager the person whose job description includes motivating and leading the team? 

I’m not here to call for Terry Collins’ head with the team in first place (by its fingernails, anyway – at least as of May 18th in the daytime while this article is being written).  However, I am calling out to the manager to remind him to set standards, not to accept mediocrity, to put players in a position to succeed and not to keep trotting out the same old tired solutions that haven’t worked in the hopes that they somehow miraculously will.  Playing Eric Campbell while he’s hot is a step in the right direction.  Benching him until he goes ice cold while playing Ruben Tejada would be an example of what  doesn’t work. 

I’m perfectly willing to see how Terry Collins handles this team when his two missing starters from the lineup return from the disabled list.  If he can keep the team in first place or within shouting distance of a post season spot, then perhaps it was the horses after all.  However, if they have a June like their May, then changes better be afoot come the All Star break before the team sinks to join the Phillies and the Marlins in the basement.  


Anonymous said...

It's silly that you fixate on Collins and almost never talk about Alderson.

You remind me of the patron in the restuarant who has a hissy fit at the waiter because the steak is overcooked.

Hint: the waiter didn't cook the steak.

I am not a fan of Terry, but:

* He was accurate to say that the veterans need to step up; that's a basic truth for every team in a time of trouble.

* By mashing together the W-L totals of all those managers, you completely obscure the narrative of regression that many of them showed.

* When the Mets went 13-3, it is in no way true, as you assert, that "many were trumpeting the managerial genius," etc.

* There's been a shipload of injuries -- the team's two best hitters -- and the two free agent signings have failed spectacularly (so far). There's a SS who can't field the position. And so on.

I find Terry annoying, and at times, frustrating. But look at the players, look at the GM.

Sorry, respectfully,

James Preller

Thomas Brennan said...

James and Reese, I will turn to Collins' defense in a different way. David Wright has done him wrong. In 4 1/4 seasons since the beginning of 2011, Wright has missed 176 games. In 2012, he played in 156 games. In the other 4 seasons, he is missing games at a rate of 52 per season. In 2013-15, he has missed 110 games, and in the 254 he has played, 27 homers and 125 RBIs.

Give Collins the 2012 Wright (156 games, 21 HR, 93 RBI, .306) and we're cruising. Wright went out with a hammy. Now it is the back. Face it, David, you need to be cautious when you return.

Steve from Norfolk said...

David's injuries have finally caught up with him. I don't fault him - he got these injuries in the line of duty. He got a broken back from staying in the lineup when he felt the team needed him. Now, it's become a chronic injury that needs constant management. The days of 152 games a year are over. With regular rest, we may get 120 games a year from him for three or four more years. He's going to need one or two days of rest a week to stay in the lineup. The thing I've been predicting for years has come to pass. David Wright has become Scott Rolen. His back problems are always going to be a factor from now on. Expect him to keep a catcher's schedule from now on. In three or four years, he will probably be a bench player. He has given his all for the Mets, and should, with any luck, get a ring out of it. That's his goal, and what he wants out of baseball - to win a World Series with the Mets. Give him that, and he'll be happy for the rest of his life.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Steve. Tired of hearing Wright scolded for sliding. He's not a Faberge egg and baseball is the sport.

Further, if Steve is correct (and it sounds right to me, more or less), I'd like to see the Mets: 1) Get a real SS; and 2) Slide Wilmer into the supersub role, backing up 3B, SS, and 2B. Should get him 3-4 games a week, easily; and that allows us to do 3) Dump Tejada, who still sucks.

The point is that if Wright needs regular rest, the Mets need a real backup at 3B.

And, yes, Reese: a manager with the balls to sit the guys who need the rest -- and not sweetly ask their permission.

James Preller

Thomas Brennan said...

Good points, James. My reference to Wright has been repetitive, but here it was toxsay that Wright's extended absences will make Collins look worse than otherwise. Because Wright leaves such a gaping hole.

Some people probably thought the great Phil Jackson would waive his guru wand coming to the Knicks, but without talent, there are limits to what he could achieve. N ot such a geniusxwithout Jordan or Kobe.

Collins misses the Wright who hit .333 the first 8 games a great deal, including in the W/L column.

Mack's Mets © 2012