NEW YORK -- Shortly after accepting his current position as Mets manager, Terry Collins insisted, amidst laughter, that he was "not the evil devil" many thought him to be. With those words as his credo, Collins stepped into his new role with uncharacteristic -- or at least unprecedented -- serenity.
Little has changed in the subsequent 10 months. Throughout the optimism, vindication and ultimate disappointment of his first season as manager, Collins remained the same steadying force, growing vocal only at the apex of frustration. Whether by coincidence or not, he and his team exceeded expectations amidst difficult circumstances, and for that the Mets have rewarded him.
The team on Tuesday exercised the 2013 option on Collins' contract, ensuring that he will remain manager for at least the next two seasons. Citing a desire to avoid the job speculation that typically surrounds expiring contracts, general manager Sandy Alderson made the announcement one day prior to the end of the season.
"It's certainly an honor," Collins said. "I'm very proud of the way the players have played. Managers, we get extended and we get contracts because your team plays well, plays hard."
Collins had previously been under a guaranteed contract through 2012.
"This is something that we feel he's earned as a result of this season," Alderson said. "One of the things I think I've mentioned from time to time is that we've made every effort to change the perception of New York Mets baseball, and Terry has gone a long way toward doing that."
In a transition season, perception mattered to the organization nearly as much as results. Though the Mets reached the brink of contention with a strong first half of the season, the front office knew that contending for a title in 2012 was a long shot. More important to the Mets was establishing a better blueprint for future success.
Alderson believes Collins has helped the team do so.
Coming to the Mets with a background in player development -- he spent all of last year as the organization's Minor League field coordinator -- Collins already possessed a keen knowledge of the organization's younger players. He supplemented that by establishing close relationships with the club's veteran stars, from Jose Reyes and David Wright to the departed Carlos Beltran.
The result was a player-friendly manager -- but not to an extreme. At the beginning of the season, for example, Collins played a significant role in maintaining the health of Beltran's balky knees, often resting Beltran somewhat against the outfielder's will. As it became apparent later in the year that Beltran was healthy, Collins began playing him every day.
He established similar jurisdiction with Reyes later in the season, and this week revealed plans to spend part of his October with rehabbing left-hander Johan Santana in Florida.
Through it all, Collins proved savvy in his dealings with the New York press corps, addressing media members by name and offering atypical honestly on a regular basis.
"He has been a great communicator with his players and a great communicator with his fans, and an authentic personality that hasn't changed over the last 10 months or so," Alderson said. "I'm looking forward to the winter and looking forward to Spring Training and beyond."
For Collins, the only disappointment of the summer was the end result. In his first season as Mets manager, Collins has guided the Mets to a 76-85 record through 161 games. He owns a career 520-519 record over seven seasons managing the Astros, Angels and Mets, leaving each of his previous two stops amidst regrettable circumstances.
He believes those experiences helped prepare him for the Mets.
"As I said in Spring Training, we asked them to come out and play the game right and they have," Collins said. "Certainly we're not very happy with the wins and losses, but we've hung in there all season long and made games out of games that people didn't think we would win or be close in. I'm real proud of them and because of that, I got this extension. I'm very happy about it."
Exercising Collins' option before the end of the season also offered him and the Mets the benefit of a seamless transition to winter. Collins and the front office plan to finalize decisions on the coaching staff Thursday, and should not have trouble meeting that goal with little expected turnover amongst the ranks. From there, it will be on to the pursuit of Reyes in free agency.
"It's probably been a year of two halves -- an extraordinary first half and a good-but-checkered second half given the injuries and so forth," Alderson said of Reyes, who finished 3-for-6 Tuesday to maintain a slim lead over Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the National League batting title. "But look, he's leading the batting race right now, and so on balance, I think you have to say it was an outstanding year for Jose."