Nine days before the end of the dismal 2017 season I asked Mets general manager Sandy Alderson if it was fair to judge field manager Terry Collins given the inordinate number of man-games lost to injury. “Well, we have to look at the underlying reasons for those injuries and other reasons why we’ve underachieved,” Alderson responded.
Clearly that was not a vote of confidence and it became obvious to all that Terry Collins would not be back next season. Collins had spent seven season as the team’s skipper and got the Mets to the playoffs the previous two years. He knew however that he would pay the price for the horrible 2017 season.
In typical Mets ineptitude, rather than be up front about his pending dismissal and allow Terry to enjoy a victory lap during their last games at Citi Field, the team’s management refused to formally admit that he would be axed. Alderson was steadfast in insisting that he’d issue a statement only after the season concluded.
Dragging things out only created backbiting which could easily have been avoided.
Terry Collins refused to play ball with the Mets ownership’s wish that he would announce his retirement in order to spare them from having to do the dirty job of a public firing.
Suddenly stories were leaked out that Collins ran his players into the ground, particularly closer Jeurys Familia who missed most of this season with shoulder injury, by not giving them proper rest. Some anonymous young players claimed that Collins favored veterans and did not communicate well with them. That kind of cowardice rightfully angered Mets captain David Wright who went public with his displeasure at their disloyalty.
While it’s patently unfair to blame Collins for the spate of injuries that have happened to the Mets this season, there may be some veracity to the complaint about how he handled Familia. I remember when the Mets were winning a rare blowout against the Dodgers late in the summer of 2016. I was shocked that Collins had Familia pitch the top of the ninth inning with his team up 15-2.
On the other hand I can’t understand how any Mets player could have a serious beef with Collins. When a player was struggling, Terry never threw him under the proverbial bus. He would always say “We’ve got to find a way to get him going.” New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo could learn a thing or two from Terry Collins.
As far as the charge of favoring veteran players, Collins was guilty as charged and so is nearly every other baseball team manager in history. Veterans tend to have the highest salaries and you can be sure that Mets’ ownership would have been enraged had he not played them.
In the end Terry Collins was offered a job in the Mets organization and my guess is that happened because of a confluence of events that helped him.
The scathing reaction from both fans and the media to the poor handling of his imminent dismissal certainly had to have bothered both Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.
To add to the embarrassment, the Mets’ opponent the final weekend of this dreadful season, the Philadelphia Phillies, dismissed their manager Pete Mackanin but informed of him that he would n’t be returning as the team’s skipper in 2018
last Thursday. Mackanin was offered a job in the organization and received a standing ovation on Sunday from the fans at Citizens Bank Park. The fact that the Mets observed in person the Phillies doing things in a classy way had to have had an effect.
SNY Mets field reporter Steve Gelbs joined Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez in the booth for the Mets’ home finale against the Braves last Wednesday night. Gelbs led a poignant discussion about the stresses that players feel when things aren’t going well such as “Will they be traded, or worse, sent to the minor leagues? What will happen to their families if either happens?” and “Will they be able to support their families if they find themselves out of baseball?” It’s surprising how infrequently those kind of player concerns are every brought up to the public.
The annual Buoniconti Fund New York City dinner to raise money for the Miami Project, which was held last week, has raised over $500 million since its inception in 1985. The Miami Project in South Florida is the leading research facility in finding a cure for paralysis.
The organization started when Citadel linebacker Marc Buoniconti was paralyzed making a tackle in the game. Marc’s dad, Hall of Fame Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti, made it his life’s mission to find a cure for anyone whose life could change in a split second because of an accident.
Marc Buoniconti has just written an autobiography titled “Undefeated” (Post Hill Press). He writes that no one under age 18 should be allowed to play tackle football. I asked him at the dinner if he was worried that his book would not be received well in Texas where high school football is a religion, he did not back down. “Given what we know now about both paralysis and concussions, you can be sure that a lot of lawsuits from former players will be filed against school districts in Texas and other places where high school football is played.”
Former Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Oritz was an honoree at the 2017 Buoniconti Fund Dinner. I asked him if he is in touch with actor Kenan Thompson who does a spot-on impression of him during occasional “Weekend Update” segments on “Saturday Night Live.” Oritz flashed his trademark smile and replied “Kenan is my man. We text all of the time!” He added that he thinks more people know who he is from Thompson’s caricature of him than from his 20 seasons in the majors. Oritz added that he hopes to make an appearance on “SNL” this year.
Giants offensive tackle Justin Pugh doubled as a pitch man for the newest men’s grooming products from Conair Men last Tuesday night at a media launch in the East Village. Pugh has one of the best-maintained beards in sports so he certainly was a smart choice on Conair’s part to be a celebrity endorser.
Justin Pugh’s appearance for Conair came two days after the Giants were beaten by the Philadelphia Eagles 27-24 in a heartbreaking last second defeat at Lincoln Financial Field. “I’ve never been in a game where my team lost on a 61-yard field goal!” Pugh said philosophically.
Ironically Justin grew up a big Eagles fan in the northeast Philadelphia suburb of Holland located in Bucks County. I asked him if that has caused any issues over the years. “My family are all now Giants fans but my friends are still big Eagles fans and they get on me!” he said with a laugh.
Last year Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks signed Portland Trailblazers guard/forward Allen Crabbe to a lucrative contract when he became a restricted free agent last summer. The Blazers matched the Nets’ offer and Crabbe remained in Portland.
Marks didn’t give up and last June the Blazers traded Crabbe to the Nets in order to reduce their payroll. At last Monday’s Nets media day, Crabbe was thrilled with Marks’ pursuit of him. “It’s great to be wanted!” he laughed.
Crabbe will welcome the relative anonymity of playing in this market. “In Portland I couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized. My teammates and I were treated like rock stars.” I told him that he could probably take the subway and it would be doubtful that anyone would know who he is and that he’d still be left alone if they did.
The death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner at age 91 last week brought out a lot of the old tropes about how men bought it for the articles. While that line always generated a few guffaws, the reality is that Playboy did have well written articles and that extended to sports where Anson Mount’s college football and NFL previews were always anticipated. Mount’s son, also named Anson, is the lead actor in ABC’s new action series, “Marvel’s Inhumans.” RIP, Hef.
If you are looking for a healthy and still fun-to-eat snack, check out Superfood Veggie Cakes from Jamaica-based Garden Lites. The cakes contain some combination of kale, quinoa, and cauliflower, and have less than 100 calories. Garden Lites also has different lines of muffins.