When the Mets hired Terry Collins as their manager in November of 2010, the organization was in a state of uncertainty both on and off the field. The team was already starting to crumble under the weight of a bloated budget filled with aging and unproductive players when the Madoff scandal put it in a deeper financial bind. After two straight losing seasons, the Mets had what was thought to be a depleted farm system and little clear direction.
After the 2010 season, the team hired general manager Sandy Alderson to clear payroll and remake the organization. It then turned to Collins, an experienced baseball man with a background in player development, to manage its young squad through a rebuild. The goal was to build a team based on young, homegrown talent that could compete on a consistent basis, and one that exercised more long-term organizational vision and stability. Despite a disappointing and injury-plagued 2017 season, the Mets appear to have achieved this goal under Collins’s stewardship as manager.
After steering his team through a long rebuilding process, Collins became the fifth person to manage the Mets to a World Series and the second to experience back-to-back playoff runs as Mets manager. Collins retires as the longest-tenured skipper in Mets history, leaving behind a better team than the one he inherited and rehabilitating a public image that was damaged in previous managerial stints.
Collins had his flaws, to be sure. The manager had a habit of overusing certain relievers and of giving aging veterans more playing time than their performance justified. Collins also made a couple of moves that backfired in a big way on a national stage, and that will inevitably be part of his legacy in New York. The first was his decision to let Matt Harvey pitch the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. Harvey, of course, blew the lead and the Mets eventually lost the game and the series. While it’s legitimate to criticize Collins’s decision, this wasn’t like putting a hobbled Bill Buckner on the field in the late innings of the ’86 Fall Classic. Collins stuck with his ace in a game he was dominating.
The following year, Collins did the opposite, removing Noah Syndergaard from a scoreless Wild Card Game after seven innings. Jeurys Familia later surrendered what proved to be the winning run. It’s easy—and fair—to criticize the manager when his moves don’t work out. Still, it’s important to remember that razor-tight games played at the highest level can fall either way and that blaming the manager for what happens on the field oftentimes misses the point.
The bigger picture is that Collins capably managed a team when, for the most part, he was given very little to work with. If you look back at his seven years as Mets skipper and consider how much of that time Collins had a good, healthy team to manage, you’ll probably find a handful of months, at most.
In the early years, Collins kept his young teams motivated and competitive. Those teams never won fewer than 74 games and generally outperformed expectations. Over the last few years, Collins’s teams have been decimated by injuries—some of which you could at least partly blame on him, but most of which you can’t. While Collins had every opportunity to gripe, call people out, or make excuses, he never really did. That speaks to both his professionalism and his character.
Collins’s Mets career is actually pretty emblematic of the franchise as a whole. Collins managed a number of young, rebuilding teams that weren’t very good, but that had heart and for whom it was easy to root. He then experienced a period of success involving wild, late-season playoff runs that, in 2015, produced one of the most exciting seasons in the history of Mets baseball. The team followed its two winning years with an epically disappointing one fueled by devastating injuries. It’s a very Metsian story. In fact, Collins’s .486 winning percentage as Mets manager is pretty similar to the franchise’s overall .480 mark.
After seven years, Collins leaves behind a largely positive legacy in New York. The length of his tenure alone earns him an important place in Mets history. If the team continues to build on the progress it’s made over the last seven years, Collins will be remembered for helping to establish a foundation of winning Mets baseball and for experiencing a significant degree of that success himself. The Mets did the right thing by keeping Collins around in a front office role, both to benefit from his experience and to thank him for the many years of service he gave to the organization.