Esposito: Managing The Mets Tends To Be A Last Exit to Manage

Funny thing about managing the Mets. Once you’re done, you’re done managing…for good.

Speculation continues to swirl around Mets skipper Terry Collins’ fate once the season ends in a few days. Most agree his fate is sealed and he’s history, as far as managing the Mets are concerned. Although it would seem at least slightly unfair that he takes the hit when virtually his entire team went on the DL multiple times.

But Collins launched the first salvo yesterday when he declared to the press he’s not going to retire…from baseball.

“I never said anything that I was going to retire,” Collins told Bergen Record. “I always wanted to work until I was 70. That’s two more years. I can put something to rest. I’m not going to go home and go fishing. Whatever anybody thinks about if I’m going to to be here or not, I can’t answer that. But I’m going to be doing something (in baseball).”

GM Sandy Alderson also continues to cloud the issue by not giving a definitive answer when broached about the subject.

“We will talk about that at the end of the season. I can’t really say there’s clarity, and if there were clarity, I couldn’t really discuss it at this point.”

Sounds like a death sentence anyway by his lack of commitment. If Collins was coming back, the comment would be more along the lines of, “Yes, Terry has done a fine job with this club despite all of the injuries, and we will discuss his future running the club after the season, just like we do evaluate all aspects of the organization every year.”

Nope, we didn’t hear that, so it’s bye-bye TC.

However, we might learn Terry will be asked to take a different position in the organization he has served for over seven years. With a World Series on his pelt and two playoff appearances, he at least deserves some considerable merit along those lines.

But even that seems, at best, a 50-50 thought. So the question of the day is whether or not Collins will be offered a job managing elsewhere in the major leagues after his tenure in New York. And that appears even more unlikely than the odds of his being issued a new contract to remain.

The trend in baseball has been to go young, someone to relate to today’s ballplayers. Recent new hires in places like San Diego (Andy Green), Houston (A,J, Hinch), Milwaukee (Craig Counsell), Philadelphia (Pete Mackanin), Arizona (Torey Lovullo), have seen new managers that are sometimes a couple of decades away from signing up for Medicare. And in some cases, the first time these guys have taken the helm of a major league club.

Is that the direction Alderson takes – who by the way, is up for contract renewal himself – or will he go for someone more established, or someone who has already been in the organization, such as a Chip Hale, a Bob Geren, or Ron Gardenhire?

We’ll know in a few days, maybe, but perhaps we’d better warn the new skipper that this may be his last post in the majors to manage. History tells us that.

Collins was, excuse, me, still is, the 20th manager in the history of the franchise that goes back to 1962. But would you believe of that list of 20, only eight have ever managed another club after leaving the Mets.

That’s a sub-par percentage, for sure, although there have been some extenuating circumstances…

The first manager, Casey Stengel – was 70 when he was hired, by the way – was forced to retire in 1965 after falling and injuring his hip at the age of 75. So he was put on the permanent managerial DL and thus remained one of the greatest ambassadors for the game until his passing in 1975 at age 85.

Casey’s replacement was his coach, Wes Westrum, who was named manager for the first time in his career and ran the club for two and a half years until near the end of the 1967 season. The ex-catcher was let go with 11 games left on the schedule and a managerial mark of 142-237 for a .375 winning percentage.

Those last 11 games were covered by coach Salty Parker, who won just four and lost seven.

Westrum went on to manage the San Francisco Giants from 1974-75, where he earned a .478 winning percentage (118-129).

Parker actually managed one more game in his career, when he filled in for the Houston Astros in 1972 and won that game. Yay! A 1.000 winning percentage!

Gil Hodges came back to New York to run the club in 1968, and many wish he was able to fulfill his destiny for a decade or more, as he won the World Series in 1969 and was considered by just about everyone under his guidance as the greatest manager they ever played for. Just ask Tom “Terrific” Seaver or anyone from that team.

But Hodges died from a heart attack on the golf course – surrounded by his coaches – during spring training in 1972 at just 47. Coach Yogi Berra was named manager after having managed the Yankees in 1964. He brought the Mets to its second World Series appearance in 1973 and was in charge until about two-thirds into the ‘75 season.

Berra was let go with 53 games left (and not even one harmonica was to blame). Coach Roy McMillan was named interim manager and he finished with a 26-27 record. Gee, Mac missed a .500 mark by that much.

The Hall of Fame catcher went back to the Yankees and was eventually named to manage again where he made his greatest achievements when George Steinbrenner called on Yogi to run the team in 1984. Berra lasted until the beginning of the ‘85 season, when Steinbrenner famously erupted after just 16 games and cut Berra loose with a 6-10 mark for the young season. Berra was insulted and didn’t return to pinstripes for many, many years.

McMillan, who had a stint managing the Milwaukee Brewers in 1972, never managed again.

Joe Frazier (not the boxer) was named manager for the ‘76 season. It was the first – and last – time he was asked to manage a major league team, and he actually had a winning record his first year (86-76). But the clouds of doom were prevalent from the git-go in ‘77 and he was given his walking papers with a 15-30 mark in ‘77.

Another Joe, name of Torre, who you may have heard of, was concluding his playing career at third base for the team, was named player-manager. And it fell to him to be the unlucky skipper to explain the Midnight Massacre at the trading deadline, when Tom Seaver, Dave Kingman, and others were dealt. This cast a pall on the organization that literally lasted years.

Ironically, one of the players acquired that night was Bobby Valentine. More on him shortly.

Torre lasted until 1981, his Met record signing the lineup card a disappointing 286-420 (.405). The former MVP went on to manage the Braves (‘82-84), and Cardinals (‘90-’95), and had greater success. And then we hear he got hired by Steinbrenner, who was more patient this time. Torre managed the Yankees for a dozen years, and well, you know…

George Bamberger came over in 1982 after managing the Brewers for two and a half years from 1980-82 with a winning record. Interestingly, it was the first time a former pitcher was in the skipper’s chair for the Mets. Only his wins now came far too infrequently. Bambi was gone after nearly 50 games in ‘83, when Frank Howard was handed the reins.

Bamberger later went back to again manage the Brewers from 1985-86.

Hondo, as big Frank Howard was known, first managed the Padres in 1981, but after ‘83, he went back to coaching once more, never to manage again.

And then we have Davey Johnson, who took over in ‘84. It was his first experience managing, but wouldn’t every Mets fan want those golden days back again. Davey won the big prize in ‘86, as all Mets fans know, and kept his club in the thick of it every year, albeit with only one ring on the ledger.

By 1990 however, having had to deal with aging veterans such as Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez, Johnson was beginning to lose his touch and was let go when the club was in Cincinnati that season. His third base coach, Bud Harrelson, got the call.

Johnson later went on to manage the Reds, ironically (1993-95), Orioles (‘96-’97), the Dodgers (‘99-2000), and the Nationals (2011-13).

Harrelson’s era was brief, from mid ‘90 to the tail end of ‘91, but at least he finished with a plus winning percentage (145-129, .529). Despite finishing fifth in the NL Manager of the Year voting in 1990, Buddy never got another shot at calling the shots for a major league club.

Buddy’s third base coach, former Met Mike Cubbage, finished the ‘91 season, winning just three of the seven games he was in command. And Cubby never got another chance at managing as well.

Jeff Torborg was brought in for the ‘92 campaign after managing the Indians (1977-79) and White Sox (‘89-’91). He didn’t fare too well with a roster filled with high-priced talent, including future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, and was gone about a quarter into the ‘93 season with an overall mark of 85-115 (.425).

Torborg’s laid-back personna was replaced by the intimidating Dallas Green some 38 games into ‘93.

Torborg was back in the manager’s hot seat with Montreal in 2001, managing the last 109 games, and again with the Marlins in ‘02. But he lasted just 38 games -again – in ‘03 with a 16-22 record.

Green, who had managed Philadelphia from 1979-81, and almost one full season in the Bronx in 1989, settled into the Mets gig for nearly four years. He managed the Yankees for just 121 games before the wrath of George struck again in ‘89 and terminated his stay in pinstripes.

Green didn’t survive the entire ‘96 season with the Mets as well – his last stint as a major league skipper – when Valentine came to the rescue.

Bobby V’s reign (1996-2002) was a positive one, highlighted by the club’s Subway Series showing in 2000, and his overall mark of 536-467 (.534) still the third highest winning percentage in Mets history.

Valentine, who first managed the Texas Rangers for most of 1985 til about halfway through 1992, was not renewed after ‘02, but he did have another opportunity to manage, with the Red Sox in 2012. Red Sox fans probably wish that year never happened, as Valentine’s troops that year finished in last place.

The next three Mets managers, Art Howe (2003-04), Willie Randolph (2005-08), and Jerry Manuel (2008-10), all became “Mets and done” managers, meaning this was their last stop as well. While Howe first managed the A’s, and Manuel the White Sox, their Mets records basically left stains on their managerial resumes.

Randolph’s record as Mets manager – his first and only managerial gig – remains as the second highest winning percentage running this club (302-253, .544), yet no other club seems interested in giving him another chance. He might still get an opportunity, but it sure doesn’t appear likely.

And now we wait to see who’s next. And will this be his last port of call as a manager? Time will tell.

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