(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Forget about that ninth inning Sunday night at Citi Field. Matt Harvey convinced his manager to keep him in there and Terry Collins made a decision that probably cost the New York Mets from extending the season and take the Kansas City Royals to a sixth game in the World Series.
Either way, that decision was not going to determine if Collins would be the leader for the Mets next year, or the year after. Harvey was good, so was the rest of that young Mets pitching staff and Collins was a major reason why there was so much success at Citi Field this season.
And it was a season that went beyond expectations because there was that veteran leadership from Terry Collins. The reward was a two year extension to guide the Mets the next two years, and even with changes coming on the roster there is no reason to believe the results will be different.
Terry Collins is a player’s type of manager. You hear that from the guys in the clubhouse before and after the game, and that is an affirmation that the Mets are in good hands with the decisions made with the lineup and moves made during a game.
“The reason Terry is back as manager is not just because of the season we had,” explained general manager Sandy Alderson at a customary closing meeting with the media Wednesday morning when the extension became official Collins was by his side and looked at his boss, and at one point he said, “Thank you.”
Alderson added, “Over the previous four years, without the talent base, without the resources he ultimately had for part of the season he did an extraordinary job as well. This is an expression of our appreciation and our confidence in Terry going forward.”
And there is every reason to understand why there is confidence in the manager. The respect and decision making has never seemed to be an issue. Collins has dealt with the adversity. Even this season there were those moments when the team was on a brink of disaster.
But the manager stepped in and said the right things to his players and to the media he addressed prior to and after the 162 game season. Even before Alderson made some moves and provided some resources to make the Mets better, Collins was always optimistic. That optimism and saying the right thing goes a long way in the clubhouse.
The manager retained his confidence with Ruben Tejada at shortstop. and prior to a controversial slide by the Dodgers’ Chase Utley in the NLDS, it was the right move. Tejada was handling the ball well at the position and got his share of hits at the bottom of the order.
Tejada knew about that confidence builder that came from the manager.
“He has always been good to me and always says the right thing,” Tejada said days ago as the Mets said goodbye and prepared for their short off season away from the ballpark.
At times it is not about the statistics. It is what you get from your players and one of the reasons that Harvey stayed on the mound Sunday night was the manager and the love and confidence for his players. Collins said he has not slept much about making that decision to keep Harvey in the game. The Mets fan base agreed, and then they disagreed with the outcome but that comes with tools of the trade.
“You know what,” Collins said, “We made a decision. It didn’t work. Let’s get ready for next year. because, as I’ve said to our fan base for a long time there’s a big light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is now shining bright.”
And through his five year tenure in the Mets dugout, this manager has always asked that fan base to be patient and that soon they will get what they deserve. It certainly went beyond what was expected because the Mets played baseball into the first day of November.
“Continued direction and trust from ownership and front office,” commented SNY TV Mets analyst Nelson Figueroa Jr. about the Collins contract extension. “Good move and timing showing confidence in him as a leader.”
The key word, leader. Terry Collins showed that Sunday night despite the skeptics saying that Matt Harvey was running the team. The late Yankees manager Billy Martin may have done it differently but you can’t compare the temperament of Collins to Martin. That would not be fair because Martin had a different attitude and was that confrontational individual in the dugout.
Collins has never had a secret or quiet war with his players. With lineup changes, especially when this past season was going in the wrong direction, it was never heard what went on behind closed doors. The adjustments and the correct moves made the Mets a better team even before Yoenis Cespedes, the rookie Michael Conforto and other additions came along and helped with the magical ride from late July to October.
He relied on a coaching staff that will all return. Daniel Murphy went on that offensive tear in October which makes a manager look good and then he became a goat in the five games with Kansas City. The adversity in July, and in the span of 24 hours with the second suspension of Jenrry Mejia for PED’s, and the trade that never happened with Wilmer Flores and how that was handled.
Collins was there for Flores. He said the right things and the leader asked veterans Michael Cuddyer and David Wright to console Flores in the dugout. He said Mejia made a mistake again and had to pay the consequences, again with the right approach to the media that wanted answers.
The Mets, because of Collins got stronger with those moments. And this is a manager that has a rapore with the media that has never been seen on their side of town. The humor, getting to the issues of the last game and the one to come also had to stick with the ownership and Alderson decision to retain their manager.
And most importantly, they were patient with Collins in the process of rebuilding.
“As I sat up here last year, I said, ‘It’s time to win,’”Collins said. “That’s the same goal we’re going to have this year. But our expectations are a little bit higher than they were last year. It’ll be fun to go meet that challenge.”
Of course that challenge is returning to the World Series, similar to what the Royals did a few nights ago and win it all. That is the goal and mindset that Collins relayed to his team Sunday night, and will again in February to many who will return and to a cast of some new characters that will come along during the off season.
Alderson concluded, “Our expectations into next season should be higher than our expectations were going into this season. The 66-year old father figure and manager of the New York Mets was the right choice to continue those expectations.
So forget about that Matt Harvey plea to stay on the mound. and the outcome. The good news is Terry Collins is returning to the Mets dugout because there is still work to be done and we all know what that is.
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