We've all heard the name bandied about among the various lists of potential managerial candidates, and it was recently reported that Collins will get his shot to convince management why he deserves the job. However, it always seems that Collins is one of the "other guys" while it's always the bigger names getting all the ink. We know who Ken Oberkfell is. We know Chip Hale & Tim Teufel. Obviously Backman is the clubhouse leader for most name-drops in the past month. I doubt we've gone more than one full week without a "Bobby V is out of the running" story. Guys like Clint Hurdle, Bob Melvin and suddenly even Don Wakamatsu are getting the tires kicked all while the media continues to basically ignore Collins. So let's get to know the guy a little bit:
As a player, Collins was an infielder (primarily second base & shortstop) in the Pirates & Dodgers organizations. He compiled a .255 average with just six homers in 671 career minor league games over ten seasons. At 5'9", 160 lbs, he was known more for his defense than his bat (he made only 49 errors in his career). Unfortunately, he never broke into the bigs, spending six different seasons in Triple-A.
We currently know Terry Collins from his role as the Mets Minor League Field Coordinator, succeeding Tony Bernazard in the aftermath of that debacle. From all accounts, Collins has done an exemplary job whipping the system back into shape considering the state of the organization when he took over. This means things like individual development plans, organizational philosophies and player assignments, which were seriously out of whack under Bernazard. In an interview shortly after being hired, Collins said of his assignment policy, "We’re going to try to slow the process down just a bit. I know everybody wants to rush players to the big leagues. I think that can be a hindrance as much as it can be a help."
Managing in the Minors
Collins has a history of success in the minor leagues dating back to his eleven-year stint as a minor league manager starting in 1981. He manned the helm at various levels of the minors (primarily with the Dodgers), starting with the now defunct Lo-A Lodi Dodgers and eventually rising up to (wouldn't you know it) the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Collins finally reached the show as the bullpen coach with the Pirates, under then-manager Jim Leyland. Collins would state that he developed his managerial style based on the principles Leyland had taught him. Obviously we've got to take minor league records with a grain of salt but in his eleven seasons he racked up an 811-742 record, with four first place and two second place finishes.
The Astros Years
After two years with the Pirates, in 1994 Collins succeeded Art Howe as the manager of the Astros. Collins held the reigns in the heart of the Bagwell-Biggo era, a very successful time for them. He managed a young Derek Bell and Mike Hampton, an old Dave Magadan, harnessed a flamethrowing kid named Billy Wagner as well as a Venezuelan rookie relief ace named Santana. Collins wouldn't have a losing season in his three years with Houston though he was ultimately fired after the '96 campaign, the club's third straight second-place finish. He brought the club to the doorstep but in the end management felt they needed someone else to get them through the door; sounds a lot like the Willie Randolph story. Either way, the Astros went on to the playoffs the following three seasons. Collins' final record with Houston was 224-197.
The Angels Years
Collins was scooped right up by the newly monikered Anaheim Angels, looking for some stability after a tumultuous '96 season that saw three managers come and go (including Joe Maddon's first foray as a skipper). Despite the change of scenery, the story read the same for Collins: Winning seasons in '97 & '98, yet both second-place finishes. Like before, the third year spelled the end for Collins as the Angels suffered through an injury-ravaged season not unlike the Mets' 2009. This time Collins left of his own volition, resigning in September of 1999 after he'd already inked a two-year extension. Collins reportedly felt overwhelmed by a bad situation in LA including toxic clubhouse chemistry and a team that just wouldn't respond. Then GM Bill Bavasi acknowledged the conflict between Collins and his players, saying the move was made "a little bit for the club and mostly for Terry...This is just bad chemistry in the clubhouse...I don't know how they're going to react to this, and I'd be less than honest if I said I cared." The organization's sentiment was once again that Collins successfully primed the club for success and now it would take a shakeup to get them over the hump. Mike Scoscia was up to that task, eventually leading the club to a WS title by 2002. Suddenly I'm seeing parallels between Terry Collins and the ultimate jilted bride, Buck Showalter. Collins final record with the club was 220-237 (muddied by the injury-marred 51-82 final season).
Meet the Mets
Following two successful but ultimately fruitless stints, Collins then had his first brush with the Mets organization in his first attempt at the managerial role (and his second at succeeding Art Howe) back before the '05 season. The Wilpons liked what Collins had to say as well as the fact that he seemed to be extremely well-respected throughout the game. He would reach the second round of interviews along with Cubs Hitting Coach Rudy Jaramillo, but ultimately they both lost out to Willie Randolph. Then after brief stints as an advanced scout for the Cubs and the bullpen coach for the then Devil Rays, Collins found his way back to his roots in the Dodgers organization where he'd enter his first purely developmental role, as the director of Player Personnel. He helped reorganize a Dodgers system that would produce names like Adrian Beltre, Cesar Izturis, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Russ Martin, Eric Gagne, Edwin Jackson, Chad Billingsley & Clayton Kershaw during his tenure.
Managing in Asia
Longing for another shot in the big chair, Collins called it quits on his player personnel gig and inked a three-year deal to manage Japan's Orix Buffaloes. Unfortunately for Collins, Orix was short on talent and after a last-place finish, he eventually resigned mid-way through his second season. Yet, thanks to the comeback of none other than NPB legend Tuffy Rhodes, Orix made the playoffs that season following Collins' departure.
This parlayed Collins into a gig managing the Chinese National team in the inaugural WBC tournament in '09. The team lacked raw ability but responded well to Collins' central message of crisp defense and simple, fundamental baseball. With a 1-2 record, Collins' team didn't advance past the first round but it was a tough out considering those losses came to eventual champions (Japan) and runners up (South Korea).
Following his time in Asia, Collins managed a college summer league team (the Duluth Huskies of the Northwoods League) closer to his home in Michigan and then, heeding a call from old friend Omar Minaya, he found his way in to his current role as the Mets Field Coordinator. Interestingly, the 61-year old Collins has indicated before that his managerial days are behind him: "I did my thing. I had a great time. I was very fortunate to be around good players. When I first got my first major-league managing job, my whole thing was to prove that I belonged there, and I think I did that." Who knows if he was posturing or maybe his attitude has changed or perhaps the interview is just for show. Either way, there's definitely a lot that the Mets can gain from Collins' experience and at the very least it's an interview worth having.