May 15

Thoughts On Terry Collins Blasting the Fans

COLLINS: Lashes at fans.

COLLINS LASHES AT FANS OVER VALDESPIN ISSUE

Terry Collins did what no manager should do, especially one with a career losing record likely to be made a scapegoat for what figures to be the Mets’ fifth consecutive losing season.

Collins, who has been erratic and puzzling on several issues this season, took on the exceedingly frustrated Mets’ fan base Tuesday night, basically calling them clueless and he didn’t care for their perception of his team, which is rapidly falling out of relevance before June.

Not surprisingly, the catalyst for Collins’ anger was the lingering Jordany Valdespin issue. Neither Collins nor general manager Sandy Alderson has been able to get through to Valdespin, and both handled his self-glorifying home run and subsequent beaning poorly.

If the Mets were winning, it would have gone away. Because they are not and in the midst of a stretch that could blow up their season, Valdespin is an issue.

After Valdespin’s homer last Friday in a blowout loss, Collins alluded to the possibility of the temperamental outfielder getting beaned as payback. Collins spoke of baseball’s unwritten code, and how Valdespin’s attitude is the norm and he couldn’t do anything about it.

Basically, he left it up to the Pirates teach his player a lesson, when what he should have done was rip Valdespin’s actions. Collins could have also told Pirates manager Clint Hurdle he would handle Valdespin.

By not doing so, Collins invited the Pirates to throw at his player. After the plunking, Collins pretty much said, “that’s baseball,’’ and Alderson took the same milquetoast approach.

No Met approached Valdespin after his dugout temper tantrum, and only David Wright offered any verbal support. The perception is the Mets don’t have Valdespin’s back, and several nameless quotes say he is universally scorned in the clubhouse.

Collins was asked whether Valdespin is on an island and told reporters in St. Louis: “I don’t answer to fans. They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there.

“They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level. … I’ll tell you one thing: Jordany knew they were going to throw at him. He knew it. And you’ve got to go take your medicine. That’s part of being a big guy in this league.’’

If Valdespin knew he would get hit – and his reaction suggests he might be oblivious to the baseball code – then why would he put his player in that position?

Telling Hurdle he would handle things might have prevented the rib-banging pitch.

There are varying perceptions of the incident brought on by how Collins and Alderson handled things. Shipping Valdespin’s butt out the next day would have sent a strong message to the Pirates as well as his clubhouse his hot-dogging would not be tolerated.

The perception of that would have been clear and decisive. If nothing else, it would have shown Collins and his front office were in sync.

Instead, Collins put himself in position to handle another question of which its answer could grease the skids on his exit.

“I don’t care what the perception is,’’ Collins said. “All I know is what goes on here. I’ve been doing this for 42 years. I don’t care what anybody on the outside thinks.

“I know how to get it done in the clubhouse. I’ve been doing it a lot longer than a lot of people. He’s fine. He handled it great, I thought, the way he went about it. He went to first base. He didn’t throw his bat any place. … He did it the right way. And now it’s over. Now we move on.’’

Easier said than done, because Valdespin did not handle it the right way. No, he didn’t throw his bat or charge the mound, but he did slam his helmet, which prevents moving on.

Collins then went on to make excuses for Valdespin, saying he had a tough background. He also said Valdespin has to be careful not to alienate his teammates, which might already be the case.

One day, Collins spoke of baseball’s code and another made excuses for his polarizing player. You can’t help but wonder how Valdespin’s teammates might be annoyed by that defense.

Valdespin was not in the lineup Tuesday, and for a team struggling for offense, the perception is clear he’s on the outs. So, why is he still here?

Yes, Collins has been in the game for over 40 years, and in that time one would have thought he would have learned a few things.

One, managers are hired to be fired, so don’t align yourself with a seemingly lost cause like Valdespin, because by the time he gets it, you’ll be gone.

Secondly, this fire keeps on burning because Collins refused to put it out. He knows he could have given a neutral answer with the Cardinals media in the room, then after the session gathered the New York writers into his office for an off-the-record briefing. That way, his ripping the fans never gets out.

Finally, don’t take on the fans, as they always have the last word. That word is “boo,’’ and Collins will hear it loudly if things don’t change fast.

Thoughts from Joe D.

I get emails all day long asking me why don’t we let the story die. My answer to them we are not the story, the Mets are the story and we do what we’ve been doing which is to report and debate things as they happen.

Two weeks ago there were plenty here who told me that it was a non-story when I wrote that there was something amiss between Jordany Valdespin and his teammates in the clubhouse.

I picked up on that during the start of Spring Training when two players came into the clubhouse to find their lockers and said, “Thank god I’m nowhere near Valdespin’s locker.”

“Joe D. you are reading too much into things.”

I commented on the jokes that were made when Valdespin was hit right in the groin and lied on the ground in pain.

Then there was the pie.

All I did is what any rational and reasonable person who reports would do and connected the dots.

Now it’s a full blown controversy and the only story that anyone is talking about.

How can you hope it goes away when the General Manager only two days ago added more fuel to the fire by saying he wasn’t hung out to dry, and then learning that Valdespin ask out of going to the plate a second time after being plunked the first time. A fact that Collins even admitted to shortly after he ripped into the fans.

The Mets create the stories and it’s on the Mets to stop feeding us the stories, not me. I don’t have the power to keep players, coaches and management from saying things that are better left unsaid. I can fault the players for saying silly and inappropriate things, but when management does it how can you find that to be acceptable and professional behavior.

I agree with Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post regarding Collins who said:

Collins probably knew, as soon as he said this, he shouldn’t have said this. He knows the fastest way to be packing your belongings in boxes — faster than losing games in bunches — is to take on fans. Fans are undefeated. Fans are a franchise’s lifeblood. Fans …

 

Well, fans allow you to stay relevant, long past your expiration date. I’ve believed, and written, that Collins deserves a full and fair accounting before his time is done here. But Collins has also found trouble in Houston and Anaheim when the losing became too much for him. In both cities, he lost the players, and that’s bad enough (and judging from the listless way the Mets mailed in another game with the Cards last night, 10-4, that may be happening again).

My big concern right now is that the Mets are blind to their own problem. That means nothing is being done to keep more incidents like this one from taking place. The best way to fix a problem is to admit you have one. So far management seems to think everything is hunky-dory when it’s clearly not.

How many dog houses does Terry Collins have and why was Ruben Tejada apparently in one of them last night when the manager decided to scratch him from the starting lineup before last night’s trouncing at the hands of the Cardinals?

That factoid came from Eddie Coleman who is not known for exaggerating the truth and conjuring up false storylines. Eddie is as straight as an arrow.

Is there anyone else residing in these dog houses aside from Jordany Valdespin and Ruben Tejada and when are their parole dates?

I don’t make the stories, I just talk about them and ask the tough questions and am usually the first to do so. Ahh… the benefits of having an independent Mets site.

Nov 15

Collins emerges as frontrunner

With Clint Hurdle hired to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates, it is becoming more apparent that Terry Collins has become the frontrunner to land the Mets job.

The Mets really liked the job Collins did as minor league field coordinator, a position that gives him an advantage because of his familiarity with the minor league system. Bob Melvin, who was an AL scout for the Mets last season, is next in line.

Reportedly, both are ahead of Wally Backman because of their major league managerial experience.

It has also been reported Melvin could be in line to become bench coach, with Dave Jauss assuming Collins’ old role. It is believed Dan Warthen and Chip Hale will remain from Jerry Manuel’s staff.

Nov 02

Looking at the make-up of the new Mets’ manager.

Sandy Alderson is back from teaching in California and at Citi Field working on hiring the next manager of the Mets. There should be some interviews scheduled by the end of the day, with some to happen this week.

While Alderson said he’s not adverse to hiring a “fiery,” manager – relief to Wally Backman supporters – his preference is of an analytical and knowledgeable type. Middle management, if you will. Speculation has Bob Melvin and Clint Hurdle emerging as early favorites.

Yes, the manager could be important to sell tickets – in that regard Backman might have it over Melvin – but winning is the most important criteria and if Alderson believes a low-key, almost vanilla personality is better equipped to implement his vision he’ll get the job. If the Mets play a fundamentally sound, aggressive brand of baseball and prove to always be in the game, that will sell the tickets and steady the ship until they start spending after the 2011 season.

In addition to Melvin, Hurdle and Backman, also on Alderson’s list is third-base coach Chip Hale, Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell, Minor League field coordinator Terry Collins, Double-A Binghamton manager Tim Teufel, and former Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.

Not an established genius on the list, then again, neither was Bruce Bochy, whom Alderson had in San Diego.

The new Mets manager must have these traits:

SMARTS/ANALYSIS: It’s a complicated game and a manager must always be thinking two, three innings ahead. Bochy was flawless this October in how he juggled his lineup and bullpen. It’s an oversimplification to blame injuries for an unstable batting order and bullpen, but Jerry Manuel showed he didn’t think things through with his insistence in batting Jose Reyes third and for overworking his bullpen. Those were the most glaring as it showed he didn’t have an understanding of the talent of his players.

Sometimes a manager must act on instincts and guts, but hoping and flying by the seat of 0ne’s pants isn’t the best strategy. Alderson is big on probabilities and that comes in being prepared which puts the odds in your favor.

HAVE A PLAN: The bullpen and batting order were all over the place with Manuel. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a manager to do is assess bullpen roles and keep them in place. The bullpen was solvent and stable in 2006 under Willie Randolph but hasn’t been since even though the Mets spent lavishly on closers Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez.

ABILITY TO CONVINCE THE PLAYERS OF THE BIG PICTURE: The Giants proved it is possible to win without marquee players in the starting lineup. (As long as you have four quality starters, a strong bullpen and dominant closer, then the batting order doesn’t have to mash). Neither Manuel nor Omar Minaya could convince Oliver Perez to do what was right, and they didn’t have the backbone to broach moving Carlos Beltran to right field.

Convincing Beltran to move to another position in his walk year will require a delicate, yet firm touch, as it is likely we won’t see him after 2011. The new manager will have to convince Beltran to do what is best for a team  he won’t  be a part of after this season. Tough task.

The Giants won with serviceable, productive role players who performed in a relatively stable lineup. Their lineup might not be as talented as the Mets’ order, but they all knew their roles and had a disciplined approach at the plate. One thing watching the Giants during the year and in the playoffs is they gave away far less at-bats than the Mets.

The new manager and his hitting coach must overhaul the Mets’ far too often careless and sloppy approach at the plate, and this begins with convincing the stars Reyes to improve his on-base percentage and David Wright and Jason Bay to cut down on their strikeouts.

It was almost a novelty when the Mets worked counts, manufactured runs and hit with runners in scoring position. It should be common place.

One of the most memorable at-bats during the World Series was Aubrey Huff sacrificing late in the game last night to set up Edgar Renteria. Arguably their best power hitter was bunting. Clearly, the Giants bought into what Bochy was selling. We rarely saw that here.

THE ABILITY TO MOTIVATE: It’s hard to believe major league players with the money they make need motivation, but it’s true. This is personified by Reyes, whom Manuel lost by juggling in the order and pushing his return from injuries. Reyes is still the Mets’ offensive key and requires delicate handling at times because he does lose focus.

HAVE PATIENCE WITH THE YOUNG PLAYERS: This team has a young core with Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada. Angel Pagan, Reyes and Wright are also in the prime of their careers. Part of this is surrounding himself with the proper staff. Hale and Dan Warthen, reportedly, could stay in some capacity and this should ease the transition.

It was Manuel who insisted on Jenrry Mejia opening the season in the bullpen when it was clear he was not suited for that role. A manager must put his players in position where they have a chance to succeed. Not only was Manuel wrong here, so was Minaya for letting him.

KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THE MEDIA: There were many instances Manuel criticized and threw a player under the bus in the press, which showed he didn’t trust them. Conversely, those players returned that lack of trust. Two of the more enduring images of the season was Mike Pelfrey turning his back on Manuel when he took him out and the John Maine incident. Both illustrated the players’ lack of respect and trust in their manager and it filtered down.

Manuel also failed several times when it came to informing players of change. When it came to informing Wright of an off day or Jeff Francoeur of his role with the return of Beltran, Manuel handled it sloppily. If you’re a manager and you’re selling a new system, you must have diplomacy, tact and consideration, knowing you’re going to rely on those players in the future. The new guy needs this trait.

Manuel did a lot of double-speaking when it came to the press and wasn’t believable, and with that neither the Mets were as a contender.

Oct 29

Mets to introduce Alderson today; he’ll answer questions about the manager.

The Mets will introduce Sandy Alderson today as their new general manager, and he’ll answer a multitude of questions about his managerial preference.

This much we know already about Alderson: He’ll implement an organizational philosophy and the new manager must adhere to that way of thinking. Alderson is not as interested in the manager’s philosophy as he is the manager fitting into his.

We’ve already heard a lot of names and likely to hear a few more in the coming days. The following are some of the more popular candidates:

Bob Melvin: Melvin has managed in the major leagues, he’s smart, knows how to deal with players and carry through an organizational philosophy. He doesn’t have a dominant, fiery personality, but that’s not essential with Alderson. Slowly, his candidacy is gaining steam and could be emerging as a frontrunner. He’s already in the organization as the Mets’ AL scout.

Wally Backman: Fans and media have been clamoring for Backman even before Jerry Manuel was sacked. He’s a favorite of the Wilpons and Alderson has him on his list. He’ll likely get an interview, but is sliding in the polls. Alderson isn’t interested in a personality as much as he is getting somebody to follow through with his philosophy. Working against Backman is a lack of experience. It’s doubtful Alderson will tie his success to a candidate with a minimum of experience.

Terry Collins: Collins was hired to improve the farm system, and Alderson might find it best to leave him in that capacity. Collins managed Houston and the Angels, and is an organization man. I think he’ll stay in his current role, but he could draw an interview.

Clint Hurdle: Hurdle’s name popped up recently with Texas’ appearance in the World Series. The Ranger’s hitting coach had some success managing the Colorado Rockies. He has a Mets’ background, but I don’t know if he has enough to get over the top.

Chip Hale: Hale did a good job in his first season as Mets’ third base coach. He’s smart, well organized and has a strong work ethic. He’ll interview and could stay in the organization in some capacity, perhaps as a bench coach. He’s too good for the Mets to let him slide through their fingers.

Lee Mazzilli: If the Mets truly want somebody with organizational ties, there’s always the fan-favorite Mazzilli. Mazzilli didn’t get a fair shake managing Baltimore and has been waiting for the right opportunity. I’m not sure this will be it. Being a favorite of Fred Wilpon might not be enough.

Ken Oberkfell: Oberkfell has managed the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate and has logged more time in minor league dugouts than Backman. He obviously knows the Mets’ minor league system. As a second base man for St. Louis he learned under Whitey Herzog, so he learned from one of the best. He was a cerebral player and should mesh with Alderson.