Fiery Collins takes over as Mets manager
Front office lauds intense personality, willingness to teach
NEW YORK -- When Terry Collins left his post with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan's Pacific League back in May 2008, he thought he was "done," in his words, finally prepared to retire. But a little over a year later, then-Mets general manager Omar Minaya called and asked Collins to take control of his farm system.
"I don't think so," was the reply. "I think I'm done."
Minaya, though, was resolute, calling again a week later and asking Collins to reconsider. He relented.
Flash forward roughly a year, when Collins received another call, this time from new Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. The GM didn't want to talk about the Minor Leagues. He wanted to talk about the Majors.
"And I said, 'Sandy, that's why I've put on the uniform for 40 years,'" Collins said. "'This is what I do. This is what I think I do well. Yeah, I'd love the opportunity to talk about it.'"
So it came to be that Collins was introduced Tuesday as the 20th on-field manager of the Mets, bringing with him all the excitement, benefits, risks and baggage that a man of his reputation and caliber must possess. In reconstructing the hierarchy of the Mets, Alderson has already imported a slew of like-minded front-office executives.
For the role of manager, Alderson wanted someone different, someone fiery, someone perhaps even a bit edgy.
"We were not looking for someone who was an extension of us," Alderson said. "We were looking for someone who was going to be complementary to us. I think that's what we're getting."
What the Mets are getting is a man who holds a 444-434 record over six seasons with the Astros and Angels in the 1990s, leaving both jobs under controversial circumstances. Collins has made enemies along the way, yes, but he has also made friends, gaining a reputation as one of the most intense, passionate men in baseball.
The Mets can stomach the former qualities as long as now, at 61 years old, Collins can still provide the latter.
Terry Collins' career record
"From my standpoint, I don't view this as high-risk at all," Alderson said. "Terry separated himself from the other candidates. We had some good ones. So I'm very comfortable."
Though the Mets did not officially announce Collins as their choice until Monday afternoon, Alderson and his staff had reached a preliminary decision by the time they left last week's industry meetings in Orlando, Fla. He had impressed them in his interviews with his intensity; he had impressed them on paper with his resume. In addition to possessing more big league experience than any candidate other than Bob Melvin, Collins also boasts a working familiarity with the young Mets -- and a willingness to teach them -- due to his time as Minor League field coordinator.
It was that package of skills and experience that made him a match.
"There's only 30 of these jobs," Collins said. "They're very, very difficult to get. They're very, very difficult to do."
As he said those words, his eyes flashed around the Caesar's Club at Citi Field. Collins is the type of man whose eyebrows arch when he talks, whose arms flail in all directions, whose eyes dart from here to there. Actions like that only underscore his reputation, which has preceded him here -- both for better and for worse.
Those seeking to condemn Collins have pointed to his final days in Anaheim, where an on-field scuffle in 1999 led to clubhouse strife and, eventually, a player petition for Collins to be removed as manager. Collins ultimately resigned as a result of the incident and did not resurface as a big league manager until now, 11 years later.
He believes, if nothing else, that the incident made him wiser.
"I did a bad job managing the clubhouse, no question about it," Collins said. "I'm accountable for that. I was the manager of that team. I should have done a better job of staying on top of it. I didn't. I learned from it. And it will never happen here. I guarantee it will not happen here."
To change, though, the Mets need Collins only to adapt -- not necessarily to transform. Despite insinuations that he may have grown mellower with age -- "I'm not the evil devil that a lot of people have made me out to be," he said -- Collins remains one of the most intense and fiery individuals in the game. That won't change and can't change, nor do the Mets wish it to.
Alderson hired Collins for precisely that reputation.
At his core, the Mets know, Collins is a baseball man. He is obsessed with fundamentals. He prefers sacrifice bunts, strike-throwing pitchers and fundamentally-sound infielders. He requested uniform No. 10 in honor of one of his first managerial mentors, Jim Leyland. He may not succeed here, but there's also a chance he will thrive.
In his brief time in New York, Alderson has stressed that the organization cannot guarantee success, only the probability of it. With Collins, Alderson knows, they have opened themselves to the possibilities of criticism. But they have increased their probabilities of success.
"I have been around Tommy Lasorda, Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland, and excuse me if they're not intense," Collins said. "I believe to manage this game, you've got to have some intensity and some desire."
Collins, if nothing else, most certainly has both.