PHILADELPHIA – You got to hand it to Terry Collins. All season long, you wondered if he was the man to take the Mets to the promised land moving forward, but after clinching the Wild Card berth yesterday , the answer is obviously a resounding yes.
Collins is never going to be the best in-game manager out there and outside of a handful of bench jockeys, there aren’t many in baseball anyway. He’s not going to be Joe Maddon, Bruce Bochy, or Clint Hurdle. That’s not his style.
But he is Terry Collins and that’s a good thing.
If you look at the Mets in 2016, this was not a plug and play type of team. After the first month of the season, players started going down like a perverse version of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the only thing missing were the Oompa-Loopas singing at his press conference.
But Collins was able to keep the team together and the eyes on the ball. Without Lucas Duda, they picked up James Loney off the scrap heap and he contributed. Without David Wright, Jose Reyes was brought back under controversy and the former shortstop made a successful transition to third.
Michael Conforto struggled and then Jay Bruce struggled too until the past week. Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, and Juan Lagares all spent time of the shelf.
And that’s just the starting eight. Only one is left standing from the Big Four in the rotation. Thankfully Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman were able to fill in admirably, after posting 5-ERAs in Triple-A.
The players like him. They play for him and that may be the most importing part of managing in 2016. This is not the same manager that was run out of Anaheim last century. No, Collins is truly a players manager, but one that won’t be run over by his troops.
We saw that this year. Collins was no afraid to call out the team after a bas loss in Aug. 11. He protects his team, like when he was hesitant to reveal Noah Syndergaard’s injury to the press because he didn’t have a chance to tell the clubhouse.
And they know he’s behind them, each and every one.
This is why the Mets didn’t give up, even after being two games under .500 on Aug. 19. Sure they had an easy schedule and sure, the competition for the Wild Card has its flaws. But they took care of business and played almost .700 baseball over the past month and a half.
The same way Met fans have been berating the manager for some suspicious moves, now they have to give credit when credit is due.
Collins has done a heck of a job with the Mets this year, which is why he got a huge champagne bath yesterday from his troops.
He deserves it. Even more than last season when it was a cake walk after the middle of August.
They scratched and clawed this year and Collins kept the eye on the prize.
And his reward is a game on Wednesday at Citi Field.