Reese Kaplan -- The Hall of Fame vs. The Wall of Shame

34 years ago the Mets found themselves in a seemingly no-win situation.  George Bamberger outlived his usefulness as manager and Frank Howard finished up the disappointing 1983 campaign that ended with a last place finish and a record of 68-94, a full 22 games out of first in the then 6-team NL East. 

8 years ago the Mets operated under very similar circumstances.  They were shepherded by jokester Jerry Manuel and supervised by talent scout extraordinaire (albeit mediocre GM) Omar Minaya.  They actually finished a bit better than the 1983 squad, compiling a 4th place (out of 5 teams) record of 79-83 while trailing the division leading Philadelphia Phillies by 18 games.

During the off-season of the 1983-84 winter the Mets decided to hire one of their minor league managers to take over this team, a 41 year old with no major league managerial experience by the name of Davey Johnson.  It was a somewhat low risk move as they were already at rock bottom and had nowhere to go but up.  Furthermore, there was an influx of talent in the pipeline that Johnson had already managed so it seemed fitting to put him into a situation where he could integrate younger players into the lineup.

After the Mets decided to clean house in 2010, they also went in-house for their manager.  However it wasn’t some fresh-faced kid with no track record.  It was a seasoned manager, Terry Collins, who, after flaming out in Houston and Anaheim.  He was so poorly regarded that he was actually unemployed in baseball for a period of 7 full years before the Orix Buffaloes of Japan took a chance on him.  He quit with the team mired in 5th place and once he left they surged into second place.  After that he was so unemployable that the only gig he could land was to finish up the season with the Northwoods League Duluth Huskies.  The Mets tossed him a bone and made him a minor league field coordinator (whatever that means).  In retrospect that role was rather ironic considering how little regard the man has shown for younger ballplayers. 

At the time of his hiring, the Mets didn’t know what they were getting with the young Davey Johnson.  His track record as a minor league manager was spotty, but then so too is the talent in the minors.  He came into his NY Mets major league role with a 0-0 lifetime record in the majors.

By contrast, the Mets did know what they were getting with Terry Collins.  He was a perennial also ran, with a 444-434 record with the Astros and Angels, both of whom soared into first place finishes when a replacement manager was named.  He never made it to the post season with either club.  His record with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes reflected more of the same. 

So how did the roll of the dice turn out for the 1984 club?  Davey Johnson completely turned things around in a single year and has the enviable accomplishment of being the first NL manager to have his his team reached the 90-win plateau each of his first five seasons.  He brought the Mets their 2nd ever World Series Championsip in 1986.  Later he was twice named Manager of the Year. 

How did it progress for Terry Collins?  In his first full season of 2011 he finished 77-85, actually worse than the team he inherited.  In 2012 he sunk even further, with merely 74 wins yet inexplicably the team chose to pick up his managerial contract option.  He “rewarded” them with another 74 win season in 2013 and then soared all the way to 79 wins in 2014, matching the record of the since deposed manager, Jerry Manuel.  It took Terry Collins four full years to achieve that same level of mediocrity, yet inexplicably they stuck with him. 

The reason for this comparison is because Johnson is currently the longest serving manager in Mets history with 1012 games under his belt.  He finished his tenure with the club with a record of 595-417, a .588 winning percentage yet was fired because the club felt it could do better.  Even if you throw in the rest of his career, his .561 winning percentage as a manager is 9th best of all time in the history of the game. 

Very shortly Mr. Collins will eclipse Johnson’s tenure but his managerial resume isn’t quite as noteworthy.  His Mets record currently stands at 497-507, a .495 winning percentage, 10 games under .500.  Even if he goes on a massive winning streak he will still have a sub-.500 record once he eclipses Johnson's record for longevity.

Davey Johnson is already enshrined in the Mets Hall of Fame.  This year he was placed on the Today’s Game Era Hall of Fame Committee ballot for possible entry into Cooperstown. 

By contrast, the only way Terry Collins gets into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is if he buys a ticket. 

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  We’ve seen what Terry Collins did in the past.  He’s done the same again now.  The Astros got fed up (and flourished once he left).  The Angels got fed up (and dominated once he left).  The Japanese team ascended to 2nd place from 5th when he departed.  Why is he still here?  What makes his special brand of mediocrity acceptable?


Mack Ade said...

Reese -

If you are nothing you are consistent (yoda speak).

I agree with you that this should be the last year for Collins, but it would hard to make a James Comey move at this point in the season. No matter how bad the injuries and rotation are, we are four games down in the loss column.

I said to David last night that I see this season sort of like fighting on Iwo Jima. It did not matter how many shells the American battle ships put down on these hills, the Japanese army were dug in in the tunnels and it would eventually take American solders to burn them out with flame throwers.

Iwo Jima was that kind of fight. Kill 10, lose 6.

I do not think this would be the right time to fire Collins, what with the silliness of both Syndergaard and Harvey still floating around the clubhouse.

Dig in... get 6-7 quality innings out of your starter (Wheeler)... manage your bullpen as best as their talent allows... and score one more run than your opponent.

If you lose a game, win the series.

Thomas Brennan said...

As a contrarian, amidst the turmoil of losing Cespedes and Syndergaard, a Harvey firestorm, and missing starting players Duda and d'Arnaud, and Flores hurt for a while, not to mention the disabled Wright, Matz, and Lugo and 2 starting players (Reyes and Granderson) barely hitting .300 in total, Terry is 8-3 in his last 11.

Amazin'. Simply Amazin'.

That said, I'd like to see someone better at the helm. Granderson retire and manage instead?

Reese Kaplan said...

Throw David Wright into the managerial mix, too. He can follow in Mattingly's footsteps that way, too.

Regarding the current stumblebum in charge, think of the differences. Davey Johnson in the attempt to score more runs played Kevin Mitchell at shortstop. Not the old man. Damn it, Ruben Tejada was his man, kind of like Jose Oquendo without his powerful bat. (Look it up -- much better with the stick than the Sandwich, to say nothing of baserunning and fielding). He was a latter day Rafael Santana who the Mets had tried to minimize, not maximize by putting him at the top of the order. But then again, that manager won 90+ games each of his first five years. Collins did it once.

Anonymous said...

To compare Johnson and Collins without addressing the talent on their rosters is a shameless, empty-headed move.


Thomas Brennan said...

Dag nab if SOMEHOW we are only 4.5 games out.

Gary Seagren said...

It's just amazing what happens when the first two hitters in the batting order get on base...WOW :) I totally agree with this post but the FO will keep him till the season ends I'm afraid as the only way he gets dumped is if Harvey has another incident or if we completely crap the bed. (am I allowed to say that?)

Gary Seagren said...

By the way and not to beat a dead horse here but was it really necessary to pitch Reed AND/OR Familia last night??????

Hobie said...

Gary, I think you're changing a dead horse of a different color midstream after the barn door was closed.

David Rubin said...

During the past 2 weeks I've spoken to someone who used to cover both the Astros and Angels and told me that Tom Lasorda was one of Terry's influences as a manager. He once told Terry he was being "too soft" with his players. Getting hard-headed got him tossed from both positions. What I have NEVER understood is where he got the handle of being a "great game strategist" but not great with his team? I have NEVER seen him out-manage ANYONE and have yet to see evidence of him being even a sub-standard strategist. I know that a LOT of his managing is dictated from the front office, but he definitely has cost the team many victories over the past few years. To play Devil's Advocate though, this season there is NO ONE including Whitey Herzog who could steer this ship thru the multiple injuries and PR storms who would have the team better in the standings by more than 1-2 games at this point. Firing Terry in mid-stream isn't the right way to go about this, IMO, but certainly giving a young star on the rise a chance for 2018 (with Frank Viola as his pitching coach) would be a great start!!! And yes, it's unfair to compare what Davey had to work with, and to be fair, Davey's hands-off approach to the extra-circular affairs of his players is what got him fired. They lost respect for him in the end, sadly, and while he brought us a World Series some people remember him more from his failure to get us more than one Gold Ring. (Personally Davey is one of my all-time faves!)

Reese Kaplan said...

The point of this post was not to advocate firing him but to point out how at one time the team actually wanted to win and would not accept mediocrity. They took a chance on someone without a long track record (which was a gamble) and it paid off. This time around they knew the dubious record of the individual they chose to hire and despite the fact he did poorly, kept bringing him back again and again and again. But if they want to fire him now or at year's end, I won't whine about it :)

Mack Ade said...

Today's game...

Iwo Jima...

Win the series (we did)

Reese Kaplan said...

8 pitchers in a 9 inning game. I can't say for sure since I didn't see the game but at what point did it FINALLY dawn on the illustrious Skipper that Familia didn't have it? Maybe he would had he not been used in a non-save game yesterday.

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