The Clock Is Ticking for Collins

On the face of it, Terry Collins has done a great job.

Who else could get more out of the Mets, even with them winning seventy some odd games each year.

But after this season, his contact is up and general manager Sandy Alderson will be evaluating the manager after the season to see if he will keep Collins on or go a different direction.

It’s that lame duck situation that makes you wonder if Collins is long for the Citi Field dugout.

Look, I have praised Collins in Inside Pitch over the years and thought he did a tremendous job with many of the younger Mets players. His honest and direct approach was a breath of fresh air after years of clichés (Art Howe), distrust (Willie Randolph) and jokes (Jerry Manuel).

The players seem to enjoy playing for him and many of them like his energetic approach.

And this time around we are seeing a different Collins. When he last managed in Houston and Anaheim, his high octane style eventually wore on the players, and at least at Disneyland, they revolted.

The Mets seemed to have stuck with Terry and even excelled with him. Players like Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Jose Reyes – when he was here – praised Collins for his approach.

He still hasn’t had a .500 season here and during his first two seasons, he was blessed with a Batting Champion and a Cy Young Winner and the elusive 81 win mark still hasn’t found his way to the door.

This season, Collins has Matt Harvey looking like an ace, commanding the Mets to around the .500 mark, but there’s still plenty of season to go.

And that’s why Alderson wants to wait. If Collins isn’t the right guy for the job with Harvey, Zach Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud on the team, he could look elsewhere, with both Wally Backman in Triple-A and Tim Teufel coaching third base as the leading candidates.

Of course, they could also look elsewhere, especially with nine other managers in their last years as well. If Jim Leyland or Ron Gardenhire hit the market, it may make some sense for Alderson to kick the tires, while re-evaluating their current guy.

So unlike the last two years, where Collins was dealt a tough hand, he now has to show some improvement in 2013. Although Alderson will probably allow his manager the season, he will keep his options open as the Mets look towards 2014.

The clock is ticking.

 

Posted under Batting Champion, Breath Of Fresh Air, Cy Young, Cy Young Winner, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Dugout, Energetic Approach, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Lame Duck, Mets Players, New York Mets, Odd Games, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Wally Backman, Willie Randolph

Collins Is The Right Man For Right Now

Flushing, NY – Put yourself in Sandy Alderson’s shoes for one moment. After being hired to resurrect the Mets, he couldn’t just write off 2011, no matter how difficult it will be with the payroll hamstrung, and the team’s best pitcher on the shelf.

And Alderson, knowing how things can turn on you in New York, knew that laying an egg next year will erase all the good will be brought to the table from just being not Omar Minaya.

That’s why he needed to get a manager to do more with less in 2011. He needed someone who could possible whip the current Mets into shape, while keeping watch for 2012 when $60 million in payroll comes off the books and the new general manager can shape the club in his image.

So Alderson went to the well and interviewed 10 candidates and came up with Terry Collins, because based on his track record, the 61 year-old will provide the short term boost to the team with his drill sergeant mentality and fiery personality.

“We can win, our goal is to win and we’re not going into spring training with the notion this is a bridge to something else,” Alderson said. “We’re going to focus hard on 2011 and do what we can to give ourselves our best shot.”

Some would say Bobby Valentine would have been the best choice for that kind of style, especially after pressing out 88 wins in 1997 with essentially the same team that quit on Dallas Green the year before. Yet, Valentine comes with baggage, such as a large salary to match his large ego. Bobby V. would have demanded a commitment from the Mets, something the club didn’t need to do with Collins.

And others – including this reporter – would have preferred Wally Backman, a strong finalist in the managerial race, but also someone who doesn’t have any prior Major League managerial experience. With that comes risk. No matter how attractive Backman looked in Brooklyn last year, no one knows if it would translate to Citi Field. Single-A players are much more eager to buy into Backman’s team philosophy than big league overpaid stars. By putting the fan favorite in that position, it could have turned ugly quickly, especially with the country club atmosphere that was present the last few years in Queens.

Frankly, Alderson probably did Backman a favor by not giving him the job. Right now, the Met job is Russian Roulette for any manager, and if Backman failed in Queens, based on his past, he would probably never get hired with another affiliated club. Even though he doesn’t know it now, he’s probably better off waiting for a few years after Alderson has a clubhouse in his image.

And that’s why Collins is the perfect man for 2011. With winning records five of his six seasons and a 444-434 record overall, the Mets got themselves someone with a track record. Although he claimed he mellowed in his old age, he still is the same fiery guy who jumpstarted the Astros and Angels, only to eventually lose both teams after three seasons. Essentially Alderson is throwing a Collins firecracker in the rook to see if there is any redeeming value to this clubhouse, and using it as an evaluation on the long term.

If Collins’s in your face style works, then the Mets could be competitive in 2011. If it doesn’t then Alderson knows that a complete facelift is needed on this club, while not spending any of the Wilpons’ money for a high priced manager or burning a dugout prospect in the process.

This is just another smart move from a smart baseball man, which may be the reason why there are a lot of skeptics, as smart baseball moves have been rare in Queens recently.

Posted under 60 Million, Best Choice, Bobby Valentine, Brooklyn, Dallas Green, Drill Sergeant, Egg, Ego, Fiery Personality, Joe Mcdonald, Keeping Watch, Managerial Experience, Mentality, New York Mets, Notion, Omar Minaya, Payroll, Right Man, Salary, Sandy Alderson, Spring Training, Top Story, Wally Backman

This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 25, 2010

It’s Now Collins Turn To Lead The Mets

New York – Now it is up to Terry Collins to lead the New York Mets, at least for the next two years with an option for a third at least to 2013.  He was introduced as the 20th manager of the New York Mets at Citi Field Tuesday morning and the questions were asked.

What must be done to turn the tide in Flushing? After two consecutive losing seasons and questions about who will be where in the lineup, Collins certainly has a huge task. Expectations for the Mets to contend in 2011 are very slim with limited payroll flexibility, and probably no significant additions to the roster.

The new manager immediately said he wants to win. He emphasized speed on the bases and mentioned how important it was for Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay to stay healthy.  Previous manager Jerry Manuel knew how important that was, but for Collins to see success it will require more than Beltran and Bay playing at full strength.

“I want to win, and there is no doubt in my mind we have the talent to win,” said the 61-year old Collins, an intense and competitive individual who expects nothing more than winning. He reminds you of a general leading his troops to war. A veteran baseball man with expertise coming back to the dugout after an 11-year hiatus should not be an issue.

Collins knows the game, so adjusting to a new situation, in the big city will be the question. Can he handle a losing situation?  Time will tell because Collins will always have a skeptical past to his resume after dismissing himself from his managerial duties with the California Angels with 29 games remaining in 1999.

But that had no bearing on the decision to bring him on board. He beat out Mets homegrown favorite Wally Backman, third base coach Chip Hale, and minor league instructor Bob Melvin who had the previous managerial background to lead.

“We believe Terry’s knowledge of our players, intensity and direct approach will make an immediate, positive impact both in the clubhouse and on the field,” said new General Manager Sandy Alderson.

There is also intensity that comes with Collins. An emotional man in the dugout when he piloted the Houston Astros before the Angels, and perhaps what his predecessor Jerry Manuel could not do, Collins will be able to. That is bringing the intensity and fire to the Mets clubhouse.

Though we can’t put the entire blame on Manuel’s personality and Collins will inherit most of the mess that Manuel had to work with. Luis Castillo with the big contract, probably no way Oliver Perez gets traded, and if the Mets can’t eat the remaining $36 million of his contract, Collins may have to put him back on the mound. And he has to deal with a controversial closer Francisco Rodriguez who is coming off thumb surgery and a legal issue of assault.

An immediate impact will be on the youngsters that Collins knows well. He served as the Mets minor league field coordinator this past season and is familiar with Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis and Josh Thole.  No doubt Alderson and the new Mets regime, all familiar with Alderson, took that into consideration when they hired their new manager.

What Mets fans will see is a more intense and feisty individual, something Manuel lacked. There will be no laugh in the pre and post game meetings with members of the media that symbolized Manuel during his tenure as manager. Collins is straight to the point and on a mission to try and turn things around at Citi Field.

“I really hope that when we get together as a team in spring training that the lines of communication open up,” stated Collins. “They have to be open on a daily basis and the players have to realize my passion for the game and my passion for excellence.”

Time will tell how the Terry Collins managerial reign will unfold. “We want to be the last team standing net October,” said Collins who definitely has proved to have a passion for the game.

A bold statement for sure, and an experienced leader who immediately took charge as a new era has officially started at Citi Field.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Bob Melvin, California Angels, Carlos Beltran, Citi, Doubt In My Mind, Dugout, Full Strength, Hiatus, Homegrown, Jason Bay, Managerial Background, Managerial Duties, Mets New York, Minor League, New Situation, New York Mets, No Doubt, Rich Mancuso, Third Base Coach, Top Story, Tuesday Morning, Wally Backman

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on November 25, 2010

Report: Alderson To Be Named Next GM

According to a report on SI.com, the Mets have decided to hire Sandy Alderson as their 12th general manager. An announcement could happen as early as Friday, the day off for the World Series.

After three weeks of interviews, it seems like the Mets Office of the Chairman consisting of Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, President Saul Katz, and COO Jeff Wilpon decided on the 62 year-old Alderson, who will bring instant credibility to the club after building the Oakland A’s in the 1990s as general manager, presiding over the San Diego Padres in the mid to late 2000s and having two stints in the Commissioner’s Office, most recently cleaning up the Dominican Republic.

Alderson’s candidacy comes with the blessing of Commissioner Bud Selig, who has had a very close relationship with the Wilpons over the years.

The new GM, though, will have his work cut out for him as he inherits a Mets club that suffered from dysfunction and bad contracts over the Omar Minaya era. Alderson will need to make decisions on center fielder Carlos Beltran, second baseman Luis Castillo, and pitcher Oliver Perez, all of whom have disappointed in 2010 and have expiring contracts next season.

But his first order of business will be the next Met manager. A pioneer of Sabermatrics, Alderson may want to hire a manger in the mold of the Red Sox Terry Francona, who will implement front office policy, rather than manage from the gut. That would seem to eliminate former Met Wally Backman will not be hired, but past reports indicate the Wilpons would prefer a manager with some Met connections.

That remains to be seen as Alderson probably commands full autonomy and the Wilpons stated publicly the new GM will pick the manager for the club.

An Alderson seems to be up to the job. He is a Vietnam veteran, who has a law degree from Harvard. Alderson’s Oakland A’s won the 1989 World Series, while his shoestring San Diego Padres were strong contenders during his years as CEO.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Center Fielder, Commissioner Bud Selig, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Law Degree, Luis Castillo, Mets Club, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Order Of Business, San Diego Padres, Sandy Alderson, Saul Katz, Second Baseman, Shoestring, Stints, Terry Francona, Top Story, Vietnam Veteran, Wally Backman

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 27, 2010

Reports: Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel On The Way Out

NEW YORK – With three days left in the season, the Mets are coming to a decision.

Multiple sources reported today the club will fire general manager Omar Minaya as early as Monday and also decline the option on manager Jerry Manuel’s contract.

The move comes as the Mets close out another disappointing season, where they will finish under the .500 mark for the second year in a row.

In his six years as general manager, Minaya had a number of highs early on which quickly turned to lows with the signings of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez to bloated and under-producing contracts. The club struggled as the top heavy salaries blocked the team from overcoming injuries.

COO Jeff Wilpon will begin the search for a new general manager as soon as the season ends. He is expected to interview a wide variety of candidates, including former Oakland A’s general manager Sandy Alderson and Tampa Bay Rays VP Gerry Hunsicker.

As for Manuel, his tenure ends in utter failure. After an impressive run in 2008, after replacing Willie Randolph, the season quickly ended in failure when the Mets collapsed for the second year in a row. That was followed by two under .500 seasons, which triggered the coming moves.

Although, Brooklyn manager Wally Backman remains the front runner, Wilpon will wait until a new GM is named before bringing in a manager. Former manager Bobby Valentine will also be considered, but there may still be open wounds from his last go around which was highly successful in 1999 and 2000 but ultimately his outspokenness got him fired in 2002.

Any announcement is expected Monday at the earliest.

Posted under Bobby Valentine, Brooklyn, Gm, Jeff Wilpon, Lows, Luis Castillo, Manager Bobby Valentine, Mets, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Open Wounds, Salaries, Sandy Alderson, Six Years, Tampa Bay Rays, Tenure, Top Story, Utter Failure, Vp, Wally Backman, Willie Randolph

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 1, 2010

Brooklyn Cyclones defeat State College Spikes, 6-2

Brooklyn, NY – The Brooklyn Cyclones (11-9) defeated the State College Spikes (11-9) in New York-Penn  League action on Saturday night at MCU Park by the score of 6-2. Playing a very team orientated style of ball the Cyclones were not only able to get key hits, but also played small ball having two successful sacrifice bunts along with five stolen bases in tonight’s game.

“The small ball is a huge part of our game,” manager Wally Backman said afterward. “We try to force our opponents to make a mistake. It’s another weapon and forces the defense to have to rush, and when you rush you are more likely to make mistakes.”

Catcher Juan Centeno was one of the offensive leaders for Brooklyn going two-for-three with three RBI while lifting his first professional home run over the right field fence in the bottom of the second inning. Another offensive leader was center fielder Darrell Ceciliani who had three base hits with three of the five stolen bases recorded tonight. Also contributing offensively was Jeff Flagg who had a RBI single in the bottom of the third inning. J.B. Brown scorched a triple to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning, which led to the final run for Brooklyn.

“I was looking for a fastball inside and was able to get good contact on it,” Centeno said of his home run. “I didn’t know right away that it was gone but it felt good to be able to get my first one tonight.” The catcher also had another key hit in the bottom of the seventh inning which plated the sixth and final run for the Cyclones. “I had a runner in scoring position and just wanted to make sure that I made good contact to drive the runner in.”

Starting pitcher Mitch Houck (3-0) had another outstanding outing going six and two-thirds innings striking out eight batters, while giving up five hits, two runs and one walk. Houck, who had Tommy John surgery in 2008, looked great tonight showing an electric changeup throughout the game, and had several State College batters off balance.

“Tonight Centeno did a great job of calling the game,” Houck said of his performance. “We did a really good job of changing speeds tonight, mixing pitches and location. He really did a great job behind the plate tonight.”

Backman had this to say of his young pitcher, “He has been great for us every time out. He has been very consistent for us and has been our number one guy.”

When speaking of the success that he has had thus far Houck said, “Most of the credit goes to pitching coach Rick Tomlin, he’s really helped me to develop into the pitcher that I want to be. I want to go out and attack hitters and let my stuff work for me.”

Work it did as Houck had blanked the Spikes until the top of the seventh inning as Matt Skirving plated the first State College run with a single to left field.  Kyle Saukko hit a single to right field before Backman made the call for reliever Ryan Frasier whose only blemish tonight was an RBI single to Gift Ngoepe. Hamilton Bennett had an impressive ninth inning striking out two batters and getting a fly ball out to secure the victory.

Backman has been asking for someone in the bullpen to step it up and had two guys do so tonight. “Frasier is one of the guys that we can consistently count on in the back end of the bullpen; he has had back-to-back good outings and will absolutely one of those guys that will step up for us.”

The two teams will continue the next two days in Brooklyn before the team goes on the road to take on the Lowell Spinners over the weekend.

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Pre-game notes: Mets centerfielder Angel Pagan was honored before tonight’s game. Pagan who played with the team in its inaugural season in 2001 had his number 35 retired before the game, while also throwing out the first pitch. “I am really grateful for the blessings I have had, it is great to come back and an honor to have been recognized like this.”

Posted under B Brown, Brooklyn Cyclones, Brooklyn Ny, Bunts, Centeno, Center Fielder, Changeup, Field Fence, Flagg, Game Manager, Houck, New York Mets, New York Penn League, Offensive Leader, Offensive Leaders, Sixth Inning, Starting Pitcher, State College Spikes, Tommy John, Tommy John Surgery, Wally Backman

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on July 9, 2010

The Return of WallyBall

This was where Wally Backman wants to be most.  Where he “oughta be”, as the slogan used to go.  Twenty-five years later, those simple words still hold true.

Those old enough to remember New York’s championship in 1986 celebrated his return.  They appreciated his nine years with the Mets, which included a .283 career batting average and 106 stolen bases, both Top 10 numbers on the franchise’s all-time list.

In the interim, Backman had bounced around as a minor league manager, most notably winning a Southern League title with the 2002 Birmingham Barons (the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) and the Sporting News’ 2004 Minor League Manager of the Year, upon leading the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Lancaster Jethawks squad (A) to an 86-54 record.

But, within 96 hours after he was tabbed as the Diamondbacks’ manager later that year, all hell broke loose.  Reports surfaced that Backman’s recent history included several legal and financial issues.  Management -obviously embarrassed for conducting a less-than-stellar background check- retracted its offer and promptly axed him before the week was over.

Still, he continued to persevere.  In 2007, Backman led the South Georgia Peanuts, an independent team, to the South Coast League’s inaugural title.  The following year, he was with the Joliet JackHammers of the Northern League.

In November 2009, Backman was chosen to take the Brooklyn Cyclones into their 10th season.

That began on Friday, with a come-from-behind 5-3 victory in Staten Island.  A 1-0 record was, at the least, a good start.  At the most, it pushed his highly anticipated managerial debut at MCU Park that much closer.

“I am thrilled and grateful to be coming back to the Mets’ organization,” Backman said when he was introduced as manager.  “The greatest days of my professional career were spent here in New York, and I have always felt a special connection to the city.  Brooklyn is a major minor-league team, and I know the borough’s fans are – like me – intensely passionate about baseball and about winning.”

Backman knows how baseball in this town is supposed to be played.  After all, he epitomized the player who maximized his ability, and never -ever- cheated his audience.  His return to the metropolis was, at first, a curious one because Jerry Manuel’s tenure as Mets’ skipper was in jeopardy;  now it is lauded for what it actually is -a chance for young men to learn the right way to play the game.

By chance, this is where he had received his start after New York drafted him 16th overall in the 1977 Draft.  Fresh out of Aloha High School in Orgeon, the 18 year-old newbie hit .325 over 69 games for Little Falls, then a New York-Penn League affiliate.

Thus, it was inevitable that when the 50 year-old former second baseman emerged one-half hour before Saturday’s opening pitch, fans alongside the Cyclones’ dugout cheered wildly.  Instantly, Backman was besieged by autograph seekers.

“The fans haven’t changed,” he said, after Brooklyn won its second straight over the rival Yankees, 9-6, which drew a franchise record crowd of 9,888.  “It was a good reception; even better that we got the win for them.”

Do not be fooled by the nine runs.  Staten Island committed five errors, which produced a wild line score of 6-7-5.  Only five of the Cyclones’ runs were earned, lending even more credence that WallyBall will be very much in play over the summer.

“I was told, from Day One, that -when the wind blows in- a ball hit to rightfield is not going anywhere,” Backman noted.  “We will have to manufacture runs here.  We don’t have a lot of power guys, so we’ll have to hit-and-run, and move guys over.  And, try to force the defense to make some mistakes.”

After all the miles in between, he is finally back home -to a place where everyone knows his name, as that famous lyric goes- and doing what he likes to do.  And, at this moment, it doesn’t get much better.

John Buro covers the New York Mets for Examiner.com.

Posted under Arizona Diamondbacks, Background Check, Birmingham Barons, Boro, Brooklyn Cyclones, Career Batting Average, Chicago White Sox, Georgia Peanuts, Independent Team, Issues Management, Joliet Jackhammers, Lancaster Jethawks, Minor League Manager, Minor League Team, New York Mets, Professional Career, Recent History, South Coast League, Sporting News, Th Season, Top Story, Twenty Five Years, Wally Backman

This post was written by John J. Buro on June 21, 2010