Marlon Byrd and the Importance of Terry Collins

Chris McGrath

Byrd's recent comments about a return to the Mets affirm Collins's new contract.

Not everyone is a Terry Collins fan. There are many Mets fans out there with gripes about his bullpen management and his somewhat archaic lineup construction methods: "the second baseman bats second." And I can't say that they are necessarily wrong; Collins is not a perfect in-game strategist. Still, if we can take away anything from Marlon Byrd's recent comments about a possible return to the Mets, it's that the team needs Terry Collins in order to remain competitive going forward.

The role of the manager has dramatically changed from what it was in the past. At the turn of the century, Bobby Valentine could be considered one of the best in the game: a brilliant baseball strategist with the brains and charisma to lead a team to the World Series. Changes in the game, however, have altered the necessary skillset to manage. Sabermetrics and analytics have become mainstream to the point where even the layman knows much more about the game than ever before. The need for baseball instinct in the dugout has diminished significantly over the past decade.

The manager of today needs to not only know the game, but also know how to communicate with conviction and finesse. Players know the game they grew up with, manufacturing runs by moving guys over. Second basemen batting second. They have been taught to play the game, and that is where their focus lies, as it should be. They cannot afford think about Markov chaining in pitch sequencing or Win Probability Added as they watch an Aroldis Chapman fastball whiz over the plate; they simply don't have the time.

Meanwhile, front offices strive to find the next competitive advantage in their player acquisitions and organizational philosophies. It is the role of the manager to communicate to the players why certain changes are being made, or simply say no to certain front office suggestions for the sake of stability in the clubhouse. When a player making tens of millions of years is placed in a platoon role, it takes a deft communicator to tell him why it's best for the team. When the front office suggests that a big hitter bat second instead of fourth, and the result will be a pouty under-performer, it takes a careful communicator to tell the boss why he's wrong.

This is where Bobby Valentine failed. He is a phenomenal baseball mind, but he never meshed with his players. This turned a losing streak into a losing season. Insert John Farrell back into the organization, and the change is dramatically positive. The Red Sox have a shot at the World Series this season, and while they made many strong off-season moves, perhaps the most important was their managerial selection. Farrell has been with the team before. He communicates well. The effect he has had is immeasurable.

When a player like Marlon Byrd, who only spent five months with the team and was traded mid-season, makes such positive comments about the Mets' organization, praise is due for Sandy Alderson, but I give the majority of the credit to Collins. It's not easy to keep a positive clubhouse atmosphere after your boss trades away your Cy Young winner, and a certain player—let's call him Mordany Taldespin—aggravates everyone on the team. To receive that kind of review from a player like Byrd makes the New York Mets look like a destination to free agents, which is extremely important as the winter approaches and the Mets look to make big moves.

One can look at the Mariners' history over the past couple of years to show the effect poor management from the top down can have on a team. Josh Hamilton elected not to sign in Seattle even though he was offered a contract with the same average annual value as the he accepted from the Angels. Justin Upton exercised his no-trade clause not to go to Seattle, and Eric Wedge just quit. A dysfunctional organization will lose games, and it will not sign the top talents. Byrd's comments and Collins's extension suggest that the Mets, as an organization, are in good shape.

Terry Collins has been an important part of this team and an integral part of Mets players' development. The fact that the organization is getting glowing reviews from a player that is not even on the team anymore is a true testament to his ability as a manager, and it's not as if he's making everyone in the lineup bunt in inane situations. The Mets' incredible success on the basepaths can also be attributed to him in some way. It's obvious that he is the perfect liaison between the front office, the players, and the media, and he will be instrumental in the Mets' future success. If there were any doubts that he earned his extension, Marlon Byrd should have quelled them.

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