This Date In Mets History: November 22 – Terry Collins Takes The Helm In The Post-Madoff Era

Chris McGrath

He knew the job was dangerous when he took it.

Two years ago on this date, the Mets named Terry Collins as their new manager. Like many in the "We Want Wally" camp, I questioned the wisdom of this choice. Collins hadn’t managed in the major leagues in more than a decade and his resume was uncomfortably reminiscent of those of Jeff Torborg and Art Howe. But if nothing else, new GM Sandy Alderson deserved the benefit of the doubt.

Over these past two seasons he has been an able enough skipper, keeping a rudderless ship from running completely aground. I have probably second-guessed his managerial maneuvers less often than those of his three most recent predecessors and in most instances he proved why he belongs in the dugout and I in my armchair.

His post-game meetings with the press on SNY are refreshing in their candor and one in particular left an indelible mark. When Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history—hurling a career-high 134 pitches with his recently repaired shoulder in the process—who among us wasn’t moved by the anguish on Collins’s face in the dugout and in his voice at the post-game conference? His heart knew he had to let Santana finish, but his mind couldn’t help but dread ponder the potential long-term consequences.

Kevin Burkhart: “He (Santana) did say, also on the field, that you told him that he was your hero.”

Terry Collins: “That’s what I told him.”

—postgame SNY press conference, June 1, 2012

For the record, after a couple of poor post-no-no starts, Santana had three splendid outings; a subsequent ankle sprain was the more likely culprit for Santana’s season turning sour in July. Still, that decision will likely gnaw at Collins until Johan makes his first successful back-to-back starts in 2013.

The team’s second-half collapse, for which he must accept his share of the blame, is surely preying on Terry Collins's mind as well. His Mets legacy will ultimately be determined by what unfold next season, piloting a team with some promising young talent but still hamstrung by fiscal constraints.

Birthdays

Happy 65th birthday to GM Sandy Alderson, His "Not-Omar-Minaya Honeymoon" with the fans will be over if he doesn't sign Wright and Dickey to new contracts.

Recognizing the 39th birthday of Ricky Ledee, who played a handful of games for the Mets in 2006 and 2007, begs the question: Why can't ex-Yankees do even half as well in Flushing as Mets retreads seem to do in the Bronx?

Happy big four-oh to Jay Payton, a natural-born hitter who missed an entire AAA season and then some due to Tommy John surgery, worked hard to get his stroke back and, while others saw only “DH” in his future, made himself into a pretty good center fielder too. Unfortunately his instincts, especially on the base paths, left something to be desired and his manager, Bobby Valentine, never seemed to be in his corner. He had a solid rookie season in 2000 and hit especially well in the World Series, but was unable to really build on that. Still, Payton proved good enough to play regularly on five other teams before hanging up his spikes in 2010.

Gene Walter, who is now 52, was not the complete bust that most pitchers who come to the Mets via San Diego seem to be (Donne Wall, Mike Maddux, Randy Jones, Jason Middlebrook, Frank Seminara, et al). On the other hand, he wasn’t the lefty specialist they needed him to be: Portside swingers posted a .980 OPS against him in 1987.

Even more than Ledee, 54-year-old Lee Guetterman excelled as a Yankee (3.32 ERA in 233 games) and flopped as a Met (5.82 ERA in 43 games). He fit right in with a very bad bullpen that undermined a pretty good starting rotation in 1992.

Rich Chiles is 63 today. This was the best we could get for Tommie Agee? Really Bob Scheffing? Nothing in his minor league resume indicated he would ever be anything better than a fifth outfielder in the bigs.

Transactions

The Sid Fernandez era official ended on this day in 1993 with the hefty Hawaiian signing a three-year deal with the Orioles.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

"Human" by Human League hit number one on the Billboard singles charts on this date in 1986. While the Mets seemed almost superhuman that year, there have been too many seasons before and after for which the song's chorus could serve as the team's anthem: "I'm only human / Of flesh and blood I'm made / Human / Born to make mistakes"

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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