One year ago today, the Mets were limping along through August in fourth place with a .500 record, an ugly 11 1/2 game deficit in the NL East (8 1/12 in the NL Wild Card), and a catcher that had long since fallen out of favor in Rod Barajas who was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles for the stretch run.
Howard Johnson had called a team meeting just two days prior to tell his hitters how awful they were, which echoed Jerry Manuel's sentiment from the day before in describing his club as "pathetic." The Mets rewarded HoJo's tactics by letting a quality Johan Santana start go to waste courtesy of a Lastings Milledge solo home run and a 2-1 Pittsburgh Pirates win.
Today, the Mets are limping along through August in fourth place with a below-.500 record, an uglier 22 1/2 games back in the NL East (16 games in the NL Wild Card), and a shortstop in Jose Reyes who everyone hopes will come back before season's end in case it winds up being the last time the most tenured Met sports the orange and blue. No one's calling the Mets pathetic these days because no one expected anything more of them, even if yesterday's soul-crushing 10-0 defeat to those goddamned Philadelphia Phillies hardly musters up the "fighters" and "gamer" description we've used to put a positive spin on the 2011 Hump.
So can we fire Terry Collins yet?I'm kidding, of course. My blogging peer Brian Joura over at Mets360, however, may not be so tongue-in-cheek about the matter of Terry Collins's continued employment. Joura compares Collins's club in 2011 to date to where Manuel found himself at this point last year and makes the following assessment:
We know that the Mets' offense is better than it was in 2010. We think the manager and general manager are both better than a season ago. So if the Mets finish the same (or worse) than they did in the second half of last year what conclusion can we draw?
My belief is that we need to re-think our opinion of the manager. And after that, we need to give a long and hard look at the pitching coach. If our reevaluation of Collins determines that he's not to blame for the poor play, than the blame has to land at the feet of Dan Warthen.
If the Mets continue their poor play for the remainder of the season, then either Collins or Warthen should not be here for Opening Day 2012.
Let me preface this by saying I respect Brian's writing a great deal, that I believe he writes a compelling and thoughtful blog which is in my daily rotation, and that I consider him a friend.
But he's got to be out of his mind.
In a season we all knew would end ugly but hoped and prayed would go otherwise, it's ending ugly right on schedule. The defense stinks. Carlos Beltran is gone. Santana and Reyes are hurt. Guys who we'd like to look at for 2012 -- Daniel Murphy, Jenrry Mejia, every name you'd heard in the upper levels of the farm system in the past year -- are all out of commission and unavailable for a September sneak-peek at whatever positions they'll audition for next season.
We're going to fire Terry Collins for that? Sandy Alderson hired Collins as the captain of the Titanic with an explicit understanding that the Mets skipper would not redirect his ship's course from the dead-ahead iceberg under any circumstances and that Collins would go down with this ship this season. Next season, if Collins didn't drown, would be the manager's reward.
I, like many of you out there, denied myself for as long as I could about this team's capabilities in hopes of maybe seeing some meaningful baseball in September. But the 2011 Hump loomed and, even with some clever Alderson trades to shed burdensome payroll commitments, ultimately overshadowed even the most optimistic of forecasts for this team.
In Brian's defense, I think there's a more notable point about Collins et al. that's embedded in his post:
Now, I'm not saying that Manuel deserved another chance. What I am saying is that if it was fair to hold Manuel accountable for the second half of 2010, it's fair to hold Collins to the same standard.
That statement holds water for me, and here's why: Terry Collins has been the manager of this club long enough that we have a general understanding of how he goes about his business. He's likable thus far and hasn't worn out his welcome and there's a spirit about this club that's more positive in tone than the defeatist alarms that suffocated Manuel's tenure.
Because of that appraisal, it's fair to say that the honeymoon period should now be over. He's making decisions that will affect not just the rest of this season, but that of the players who could conceivably contribute next season and beyond. This isn't somebody else's ship anymore; it's Collins. And it's not a stretch to ask that we hold him accountable for it.
But fire him? We're simply not at that point yet.