Reese Kaplan -- Fake News & Alternative Facts

A recent article on the “official” blog of the New York Mets pointed out the fact that Skipper Terry Collins is closing in on some very noteworthy achievements.  With another contending season he will become the 2nd winningest manager in Mets history, surpassing Bobby Valentine.  He will have managed longer than anyone else and he has the chance to be the first to achieve three straight post-season appearances.  The conclusion, therefore, was that Terry Collins’ legacy will be that of a winner.


Terry Collins long ago was a winner when he was in charge of the Houston Astros.  In fact, he finished with a statistically winning record here in my home state with a career mark of 224-197.  That’s a positive winning percentage of .532 yet after three consecutive 2nd place finishes the Astros had seen enough and fired him.  (Statistical footnote – the following year Larry Dierker took over and took the Astros to three straight 1st place finishes.  But no…the manager doesn’t make a difference according to the apologists…)

The braintrust for southern California’s AL team decided that the fiery Collins was just what they needed to propel themselves back to the postseason as the newly minted Anaheim Angels in 1997.  Underachieving as usual, he led them to two straight 2nd place finishes and then a 4th place finish.  It was while he was mired 28 games out of 1st and his players appealing directly to the front office to can him that Terry Collins resigned.  His ending numbers in Anaheim were not pretty – a .481 winning percentage over three years, but the club knew it had to change direction.  (Sandy Alderson, by contrast, did not feel compelled to improve the team the way Bill Bavasi did.  Similar footnote – shortly after his departure the Angels went onto win 1st place 5 out of 6 consecutive years.)

For the next seven years no one in baseball would give Terry Collins a job but he bounced back to crash and burn in Japan and then in China.  He eventually landed as manager of the Duluth Huskies of the Northwest League where he shepherded them to a 7th place finish.  He had pretty much hit rock bottom when the Mets decided that perhaps managing wasn’t his best role.  They offered him a job as a roving minor league instructor and he spent 2010 doing just that.

Inexplicably in 2011 when Sandy Alderson took over he turned to the man with the very checkered record who’d never won anything to be the face of the franchise as it tried to emerge from the Madoff madness.  The old stressed out, fiery Collins was long gone and replaced with a perplexed looking but mellower guy who routinely made head scratching decisions, yet the GM stuck with him.  By 2015 he (and mostly Yoenis Cespedes) got the Mets into the World Series and many felt vindicated for their long and tried patience with the man.  His subsequent follow up to the post season in 2016 reinforced the apologists’ mantra that given the horses he was the right jockey. 

Of course, all those years that Sparky Anderson was winning with the Big Red Machine the conventional wisdom was that a monkey could finish in first place with that kind of lineup.  It seems that the test of a good manager is one who can motivate his team to perform at an elite level even when the talent was not quite there.  On that front Terry Collins has not succeeded. 

Take, for example, some of the players who performed under Terry Collins and then witness how they did when they left.  Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy are the two most glaring examples.  However, the flip side also must be considered.  There are players he kept trotting out there again and again when alternatives existed until eventually the GM relieved him of the opportunity to do so.  They’re no longer in the major leagues – Ruben Tejada, Eric Young and Eric Campbell immediately spring to mind. 

Put another way, some people felt that Don Sutton's induction into the Hall of Fame was a travesty because he was never even in the conversation as one of the best pitchers of his era.  The term "compiler" was coined to describe someone who, through longevity and modest talent, aggregated large enough totals that people who didn't watch him on a day-in, day-out basis might misread as superstar.  He won 20 games but once in his long career and won one ERA title.  He was not going to hurt you but to put him in the same breath as people like Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton is heresy.  

So too, it is to call Terry Collins "good" on the basis of simply having been around and owning a career losing record as the Mets manager.  For his entire career he sits at exactly .500 -- the very definition of mediocre.  Why Sandy Alderson dragged him out of obscurity and thrust him into the dugout with that kind of track record is anyone's guess, but he's certainly not done anything to distinguish himself.  Even when he improbably took a team to the World Series (and lost in embarrassing fashion) he didn't get the Manager of the Year award from his peers.  In fact, two guys who didn't even make it to the World Series finished ahead of him.  

To hear some tell it, he deserves accolades for what he’s accomplished.  To me, he’s Milton, the beleaguered and put upon guy with the red stapler from “Office Space” who keeps getting shuffled around because no one has the heart to tell him he’s no longer relevant or productive.   Just as Sandy Alderson has done nothing to improve the roster, he’s willingly embraced a sub-optimal manager and has no rings to show for his decision and loyalty.  


Mack Ade said...

Matt and I were 'close' when I started out writing my blog. In fact, he and I were working on creating a separate new blog for SNY that was orchestrated by him.

We then had a dust up when I wrote a post on sports reporters and how I felt that the vast majority of them never played the game nor had the physical attributes to do so. I even made some jokes about their average height.

Matt went nuts in the comment section of my own blog. He banned me from SNY and I have never heard from him again.

I did try and reach him early this week in hopes of him joining in with the other writers that I am including in my series of Mets player focuses, but, to date, he has not returned my email.

bill metsiac said...

I wonder what Reese would say about Moses, who only "almost" made it up tje mountain.

cocoabeachnut said...

My conclusion as well.

I will never forget Collins leaving Cespedes in game at a critical point in Game 5 of WS after Ces hurt his leg while at bat. After Ces was writhing on the ground, Collins didn't even check to see if Ces could run (he couldn't). We were ahead at the time. Had runner on base. Ces popped out and limped towrd 1B before being pulled from the game between innings.

At the time I was wondering if Ces could run. How could Collins not wonder the same thing. That iced it for me on Collins.

Reese Kaplan said...

Was he a .500 lose-as-often-as-you-win type, too?

Sandy Anderson, let my people go! We deserve better.

TP said...

Terry definitely has his faults and blemishes, which you well point out. His in game management is middle of the road by all objective accounts. And, last year, in game management he was poor, probably his worst performance s Met manager. However, it would be wise to recognize that he brings positives as well. Like many others, say Joe Torre and Tom Coughlin to mention two, he has made adjustments over time to address some of his flaws. By all accounts (for those of us not privy to first hand information), he has kept the team together each season, regardless of the talent level. They have played hard for 162 games, even when out of it. Last season, they certainly could have folded give all the injuries, but found a way to finish strong and make the wild card game. His team showed a lot of class in Miami after the Fernandez tragedy. As of now, he will go into 2017 with no improvements, as the 2nd best team in his division and maybe 4th or 5th best in the league (on paper, and barring great health and performances from all he 2016 walking wounded). He has a team with no true leadoff hitter, little speed, and 2-3 weak links in the bullpen. Yet, NYC expects a championship. He faces the media twice every day, and has only rarely had a bad appearance. He is generally well respected by the press. He routinely mentions the supportive fan base, and made a point to acknowledge the fans when the Mets clinched the division on the road in Cincinnati. Yes, the Mets can likely do better, but they can also do much worse. I have come to appreciate the "full package" and the stability the Collins has brought to the team, despite a day here or there that has me cursing at the TV. Joe Maddon, so often raved about and highly paid, did some of the dumbest things I have ever witnessed in any baseball game at any level, in game 7 of the World Series no less. I am good to go with Terry at the helm for 2017

Reese Kaplan said...

@TP -- much of what you said is true, just as what I said in comparing him to Don Sutton. He's not going to hurt you but he's not nearly as good as his aggregate numbers would lead you to believe. Of course, when the aggregate numbers amount ot a 925-925 for an entire career, it becomes harder to defend him as a selection by a team that actually cares about winning.

Thomas Brennan said...

Reese Casey Stengel retired at age 75, so only 8 more seasons for Collins.

Richard Herr said...

I'm pretty much of the same opinion as TP. I think Collins has shown the ability to change, helped make the clubhouse a place Cespedes wanted to come back to. I will add to his blemishes that he burned out his primary lefty reliever in about three straight years.
But the real point is: I don't hear anyone suggesting anyone else. Qwitcherbellyachin' and come up with someone you think would do better. Don't fire Terry without coming up with the guy you want to replace him. A bunch of people wanted Joe Madden when he was free. That's the same guy you're saying made some really dumb mistakes in game 7 of the WS.

Reese Kaplan said...

You may have a solution there, Tom. Ship him cross town to the Yankees.

Reese Kaplan said...

I'd take Pedro Lopez as manager, I'd take a chance on David Wright as manager, I'd also look to some other resources outside this organization for a fresh perspective. My primary criteria would be someone with a good track record of developing young talent and having them flourish.

eraff said...

You Guys are a One Hit Wonder!!! I guess I could forgive this as off-season, Slow News, Click bait---but you guys talk about this incessantly, along with the "Met's are Cheap" crap.

Get oevr it!!...it's 2017...yes, I despise the Wilpons, but the team has been to 2 straight Playoffs, and The Manager has done one helluva Job.

Mack Ade said...

eraff -

is this the same as a One Trick Pony?

TP said...

by the way, despite the Cespedes signing the Wilpons are still cheap until proven otherwise.

bill metsiac said...

Interesting how some here are all for signing Blevins, who has career #s tjat were mediocre at best until last year, but want to dump Terry, whose #s were mediocre at best until the last TWO years.

Which is the criterion--- career #s or recent/current ones? Or does it vary based on your personal likes for the individual?

Reese Kaplan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reese Kaplan said...

I guess his career ERA for 6 years in Oakland of about 3.25 is Bill's definition of mediocre. If Terry Collins was as good a manager as Blevins has been as a pitcher then this rebuttal would not have been necessary.

Reese Kaplan said...

@TP -- "Dumb" Joe Maddon has a ring. Terry Collins does not.

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