The hiring of Collins, who served as Mets’ minor league coordinator in 2010, really shouldn’t come as a surprise considering his recent connection to both the organization and new vice president of player development and scouting Paul DePodesta. In 2004, Collins was one of three finalists for the Mets’ managerial position before losing out to Willie Randolph. Then, one year later when DePodesta was General Manager of the Dodgers, Collins was believed to be the front runner to replace Jim Tracy as skipper. However, midway through his search for a new manager, DePodesta was unexpectedly fired by Los Angeles, and the team’s new GM Ned Colletti eventually settled on Grady Little.
It’s been 11 years since Collins managed in the big leagues. His last game as a major league field general was a 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians on September 2, 1999, after which he resigned the position. With the Yankees in town to begin a four-game series, Collins held an emotional press conference to announce his decision, which then Angels’ GM Bill Bavasi insisted was completely voluntary.
Before serving as manager of the Angels from 1997 to the end of the 1999 season, and after several successful seasons leading the triple-A Alburquerque Dukes (Dodgers) and Buffalo Bisons (Pirates), Collins got his first shot at managing in the majors in Houston, where he led the Astros to a 224-197 record from 1994 to 1996. However, his first breakthrough almost came with the Yankees several seasons earlier.
Even before Dallas Green was fired during the 1989 season, the Yankees were rumored to have had an interest in both Collins and the Buffalo Bisons’ triple-A affiliate that he managed. Leading up to Green’s dismissal on August 18, 1989, the Yankees reportedly had expressed increasing interest in moving their triple-A operations from Columbus to Buffalo as well as adding Collins to the organization as a coach. Sure enough, the day after firing Green, two Yankees’ executives, including George Bradley, then vice president of player development, traveled to Buffalo, sparking rumors that Collins was either ticketed for the Bronx or Columbus, which was in need of a new manager after Bucky Dent was named interim manager.
Once again, however, fate played an unfortunate hand for Collins when Yankees GM Syd Thrift, who was hired only five months prior, resigned a little over one week after Green was fired. Thrift, whose four-year tenure as Pirates GM came to an end when he was fired after the 1988 season, was thought to be the driving force behind the Yankees’ interest in relocating their triple-A club to Buffalo as well as one of Collins’ biggest advocates in the organization. With Thrift gone from the picture, talk about Collins and Buffalo subsided, and the Yankees eventually decided to appoint Dent as full-time manager.
After two close calls, Terry Collins has finally made it to the top of the heap as a manager in New York. Some have expressed concerns about his high strung personality, particularly with regard to handling the pressure that comes with managing in the big city, but the Mets’ have clearly settled on a manager with extensive baseball experience. Even more importantly, their selection represents a complete break from the more laid back culture that the team has fostered since firing Bobby Valentine after the 2002 season. Although the Mets probably couldn’t turn back the clock and rehire Valentine, opting for Collins seems to be the next best thing. Ultimately, success on the field will be determined by the players that new GM Sandy Alderson is able to obtain, but in Collins, the Mets have definitely taken another step in a new direction.