The Terry Collins Experience

Terry Collins, the new Mets manager, is energetic. On a leafless and gray November morning, that’s what I took away from the press conference at Citi Field. Energy.

Collins’ speech consists of amplified, rapid-fire bursts — he spit out thirty-seven words within the first ten seconds of his opening remarks: “Well-thank-you-all-for-coming-and-obviously-this-is-a-huge-day-for-me-and-I’d-like-to-certainly-start-out-by-thanking-Fred-and-Jeff-Wilpon-and-Saul-Katz-for-allowing-me-this-tremendous-responsibility.” For comparison’s sake, Andre 3000 drops just four more words within the first ten seconds of his rap on Outkast’s “B.O.B.” Collins’ machine gun delivery, loudly projected from his generously listed 5’9“ frame, is made even more impressive as he occasionally takes the time to stress two syllables in a single word. Pitching ROW-TA-tion. Jim LEY-LAND. If Napoleon was raised in Michigan on a strict diet of Red Bull and amphetamines, he would probably wind up sounding something like Terry Collins.

“My intenseness comes with I think there’s only one way to go about playing this game,” Collins said, somewhat intensely. “But I will tell you something. I have been around Tommy Lasorda. Lou Piniella. Jim Leyland. And excuse me if they’re not intense … I believe to manage this game you’ve got to have some intensity and some desire.” Collins was sometimes funny, occasionally prone to head-scratching managerspeak — “And some guys, when they don’t like it, or if you say something about it, especially at the major league level, you become too intense” — and seemingly very aware of how he is portrayed in the press. But mostly he just seemed thrilled, and maybe a little surprised, to have the another managerial job. Collins never paused his session with the writing press to do an overly enthusiastic set of jumping jacks, but it also did not seem outside the realm of possibilities.

It was difficult not to notice a contrast between the boundlessly energetic Collins and the somewhat restrained man who hired him, general manager Sandy Alderson, both in terms of energy levels and volume. This was apparently intentional.

“We were not looking for someone that was an extension of us,” said Alderson. “We were looking for somebody who was going to be complementary to us. We’re getting someone who is somewhat different from me, someone different from Paul [DePodesta], J.P. [Ricciardi], John Ricco, others.” In picking their manager, it seems the Mets’ new super-egos made a conscious choice that they needed a little more baseball id in the mix. The quiet, non-traditional baseball men hired a loud, traditional baseball man to manage their club. Welcome to the new state of Flushing.

Whatever you think of the Terry Collins hiring, here’s what it is not: a reactionary move. Collins was not the managerial candidate favored by the largest and most troglodytic section of the fan base. He was not the candidate favored by at least one owner-person. He was not the candidate favored by anyone, really, except for the people that ultimately mattered. Besides that, Collins is not being brought in as a quick fix manager, a duct tape attempt to mend the supposedly broken clubhouse culture. As Sandy Alderson said, “It’s not about changing something [clubhouse culture] I haven’t experienced.” Terry Collins is not supposed to be a response to anything or anyone — this is a good thing. This is a break from the methodology of the previous regime, and this is what progress looks like. You don’t continually patch a broken system. You build a new one that works better.

The hiring of Collins is just the next step for the new, no-BS-Mets. It’s Sandy Alderson and Co. effectively saying, “We don’t care one way or the other how things used to be around here, because that’s irrelevant to us. This is the team we’re going to build, this is how we’re going to build it, and we don’t really care what you think right now. Thank us later.” One gets a sense that when Alderson speaks to the media, he’s somewhat amused at how clueless we all are about this whole “baseball” thing. He makes me feel like I don’t understand anything about the sport — which is probably true — and I find that simultaneously intimidating and comforting. It’s not that he talks down to the press, but rather that he doesn’t seem to care about their reaction. I suspect it’s important to remember that, like most of the media, Alderson is originally an outsider. Unlike the media, however, he’s now an insider who actually understands how it all goes down. He is amused by our cluelessness because he understands why we’re all so clueless. That, and he’s confident he knows way, way more. That’s the kind of guy I want running my favorite team — someone who makes me feel clueless in comparison.

That isn’t necessarily the same feeling one gets from Terry Collins, but I think that’s the point. He didn’t come off as any more intimidating than your standard overcaffeinated gym teacher. Collins claimed that he had “learned to mellow a little bit,” and I’m inclined to believe him. “I’m full of energy. I’m full of enthusiasm,” Collins said. “And over the past years, I’m not the evil devil a lot of people have made me out to be.” Based on a single press conference, I think we can drop the eleven year old super intense label and change it to a super enthused. I imagine the latter has less potential to be grating over the course of 162 games.

While I suspect that Collins’ personality will be a good, if secondary, thing, of greater importance is that Collins brings a background in player development and previous managerial experience. Alderson emphasized both those points repeatedly, and I think that’s the way to look at Collins. He mentioned several Mets farmhands by name. Collins can help the team build from within. Sustainable success. That’s why he’s here.

But the most important thing I took away from yesterday’s press conference was the end of reactionary baseball. Collins is not a pyschobabble hire, a riot pleasing hire, and he’s not a response to the problems of old. He’s part a new plan that has nothing do to with the past. That’s what I took away from yesterday — the old stuff is finally gone. The new boss doesn’t care about that past, and neither should we. Collins was the candidate no one but the front office wanted, and that’s awesome. Let’s all do some overly enthusiastic jumping jacks.

2 Comments

Filed under Columns, Mets

2 responses to “The Terry Collins Experience

  1. Great post, as always. I, too, am comforted by the fact that the Mets front office is smarter than the fan base for the first time.

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