Esposito: Mets Terry Collins Managing To Forever

Who would have thought back in November of 2010 that the Mets were now hiring the manager who would be leading the club in more games than any other Mets skipper? But that’s what Terry Collins has now achieved, surpassing Davey Johnson last night as the longest tenured skipper in the club’s 55-year history.

With last night’s 7-5 victory over the Angels at Citi Field, Collins has now signed 1,013 regular season lineup cards on behalf of the Mets. And with a total mark of 499-514 (.493), Collins has a chance to inch closer and maybe reach or better the .500 mark by the end of this season, should the club rebound from its injury-riddled deficits in the first quarter of the year.

Collins became the 20th Mets manager in 2010, and would you believe only five from this fraternity own a batter than .500 record? Well, if you’re a longtime suffering Mets fan you’re not surprised, as the team has endured many disappointing seasons.

Davey still holds the club mark for best winning percentage (.588) at 595-417, and of course led the club to its last World Championship in 1986. Willie Randolph (Why isn’t this man getting the chance to manage another club somewhere?) is a distant second at .544 (302-253), and right behind him is Bobby Valentine (.534) 536-467, Bud Harrelson (.529) 145-129, and the still-revered Gil Hodges (.523) 339-309.

Collins knows there is no secret to his longevity. Winning is the recipe.

“I’ve been blessed,” Collins said in regards to his tenure. “I’ve had the support of a great organization, great people, and great players who know how to play the game right.”

As only the second manager to lead the team to consecutive playoff appearances, and of course, a World Series run helps, and he has the support of his clubhouse, which is something he failed to conquer in two previous shots at managing in the bigs, with the Astros from 1994-96, and with the Angels from 1997-99.

In both previous stints, Collins was defined as being too intense, and occasionally distant from his players. He vowed to change, and in New York, he has a crew willing to run through the proverbial wall for him. He’s at the ballpark as much as eight hours before gametime to prepare and makes sure he checks in with just about everyone on the team before the game. Communication is the key.

Some of his game decisions drive his critics batty, of course. Sometimes it seems like he earns a spiff for every pitching change, but then again, that’s baseball in the 21st Century. Bullpens are the workhorses, but when the ponies turn into plow drivers, well, you’ve seen the results of late.

Already the oldest manager in the bigs, Collins is only days away from turning 68 (May 27), and in the final year of a two-year contract extension, but deflects any thoughts about how long he wants to manage.

“You know, I made a decision to change my personality when I came here and tried to do things differently. I think for the most part, it has worked.”

After all, the decision to how long Collins manages is mostly up to the GM, Sandy Alderson, or executives higher up. But as long as he keeps the clubhouse and maintains a competitive club, despite all of the injuries and mixed results on the field, that shouldn’t be a conflict.

Some fans call for the manager’s head when the team dive bombs into a losing streak. But Collins maintains a positive attitude, and won’t let the club’s collective personna get depressed. Like a closer with a short memory, the next game has nothing to do with the previous game. It’s all brand new again.

By the end of the season, Collins will have managed over 1100 games. Only three Mets managers called the shots for at least 1,000 games, Collins, Johnson, and Valentine.

Below this trio, six managers held court for at least 500 games – Joe Torre (709 games, 286-420), Hodges (649), Yogi Berra (588, 292-296), the legendary Casey Stengel (582, 175-404), Randolph (555, 302-253), and Dallas Green, who we lost recently (512, 229-283).

A handful of Mets managers were basically fill-ins after a manager was fired. Mike Cubbage finished out the 1991 season after Harrelson was let go with just one week left to the season in 1991, and went 3-4 in his only chance at managing. Salty Parker had limited opportunities to manage in 1967 when Wes Westrum didn’t make it to the finish line. Parker won four of 11 games, which is a nice way of saying he lost seven of 11.

Roy McMillan was promoted out of Berra’s staff in 1975 when Yogi was dismissed with 51 games to go. Mac came close to a winning record at 26-27. And big Frank Howard took over for George Bamberger in 1983 when Bambi essentially said, “I’ve had enough, thank you.”

Collins certainly has not had enough, and is still enjoying the game every day. Mets fans are certainly hoping Collins will be managing for a long time more, because that will mean the team will be winning.

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