Tag Archives: Terry Collins

Mets, 2015: A Year to Remember

It hasn’t been 72 hours and I’m still thinking about the Mets season that ended too soon.  I haven’t had a chance to write that paragraph since 2008 which in baseball years is equivalent to forever.  So forgive me if I write this from the perspective of a 16 year old girl that just broke up with her boyfriend all too publicly and thinks her life is over.

Yes, life moves on.  Yes its only sports.  I get all that but at the same time, I don’t.  When a baseball season ends, you’re almost glad, right?  From February through September, its nearly 8 months of ups and downs that you can’t possibly predict or pretend to not agonize over.  There will be stretches of absolute brutal play that will make you turn the game off in the 4th inning and want to sit outside and watch your wife garden without a cold one in your hand because you drank enough for two frat guys at a kegger in that four inning stretch that you’re embarrassed to be this drunk at 3pm.

But here we are writing the epitaph of the 2015 Mets season and feeling strange.  The Mets opened up as 10/1 favorites to win the world series, tied with the Washington Nationals, the presumptive favorites heading into this past season.  That sentence alone is unbelievable to write because the Nationals spent $210 million to bolster a pitching staff already thought to be the best in the major leagues.  Yet, somehow the Mets not only beat them, they destroyed them from within.

One of many criticisms that I have as a Mets fan is that the ownership group, I lovingly call the Coupon family (real name Wilpons but ya know), is too cheap to keep a contender around for the long haul.  Somewhere along the line they will try to nickel and dime their way to a championship because they didn’t want to pay the $7 fee to invest through Scottrade and instead decided to trust a guy named Bernie Madoff with their money and well, the rest is Ponzi history.  But now the stakes are different and we all know it.  Over the coming weeks, we will get into who the Mets should keep, should let walk, and who they should start the car, drive to the airport and make sure the plane took off before fist pumping.  Whether the Coupon family will bow to public sentiment is anyone’s guess, but like any parental unit on a budget they will have to do some spending to keep the house in order.

However, today is the time to look over the season and digest it all because Lord knows Mets fans deserved a season like this.  Did the Mets deserve to win?  Sure says any Mets fan.  But in reality, they faced a better version of what everyone was convinced the Cubs were.  They faced a team with the heart of a champion and a team with some serious playoff chops.  They got beat by a better team.  Those are the facts no matter what any Mets fan wants to convince you of.

Sure you can talk yourself into the fact that the Mets had a lead in three of the four games they lost to the Royals but that would only be fooling yourself into a false narrative that the Mets were close to the Royals in the intangible department.  Wanna know how I know this as fact?  Think back to every single sick feeling you got when the Royals got to our bullpen, save game 1.  When was the first time you realized that Daniel Murphy stopped snorting the good stuff he was on during the first two rounds when he was a mix of 2002 Barry Bonds and 1926 Babe Ruth? The only surprise was game one.  Had the Mets won that first game and they had every chance to do so, this series may have swung in the Mets favor, but once Alex Gordon launched Familia’s pitch into the center field stands and Familia had blown his first save of the playoffs, you knew as a Mets fan that this was a different beast the Mets were playing.

So let’s forget that every Terry Collins move that worked in the first two series didn’t seem to play to the same tune in the World Series because he wasn’t facing a team with serious flaws that could be exposed.  Playoffs are oftentimes about match ups.  Once you beat a team at its own game, you can see the wall of confidence crumbling around them.  The Dodgers had the decided pitching advantage in the Division series because they could pitch Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke four times in five games.  But when the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in two* out of the five games the math said that the Mets would win.

*= and it should’ve been over in 3 had it not been for that coward Chase Utley but let’s not open that wound. That’s a HBP for another day.

Jon Lester was a postseason veteran with experience and one could argue that Jake Arrieta was the best pitcher in all of baseball and the Cubs had the best under 25 positional talent in all of baseball and yet the Mets outhomered them and beat their two best pitchers en route to a sweep that even the most optimistic of Mets fans NEVER saw coming.  Surely we would, at best, beat the Cubs in 5 games.  But Daniel effing Murphy happened.

With 8 days to revel in their dominance, the Mets ran out of steam and gas that launched them into the playoffs.  From July 25th on, when they acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, finally after fans and columnists had wasted countless calls to sports talk radio shows and typed thousands of words imploring the front office to get some help, the Mets seemed to take off.  From the moment Justin Upton launched a cruel 3 run home run to help the Padres beat the Mets in a new twisted way things changed.  Or maybe, and this is everyone’s favorite version, from the time Wilmer Flores came out to play the field minutes after finding out what everyone else in the stadium seemed to know, that he had been tentatively traded along with Zack Wheeler to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez, wiping tears from his eyes because he was hurt being traded FROM the Mets.

Aside from Bret Saberhagen and Bobby Bonilla both of whom will be paid more than some of the Mets current crop of pitching beasts, nobody had ever been that open about loving the Mets.  Nobody.  And then Sandy Alderson for his next trick pulled a Yoenis Cespedes out of his hat and off they went.  From a team that could barely muster two runs to a juggernaut that couldn’t be stopped the Mets blasted their way through August.  As luck would have it the first opponents for the Mets were the Nationals.  The Nationals had underachieved all season yet were trying to convince everyone that everything would be ok with the old “wait till Denard Span comes back- then watch out world.”  Of course we had heard that line before.  The Nationals have had an excuse for every disappointment.  Who can forget sticking to their guns on Stephen Strassburg’s innings limit and ruining their best chance at a deep run?  Who can forget lifting Jordan Zimmerman after 8 and 2/3 innings because well Matt Williams knows how baseball is played and we don’t know shit.  

The Nationals always talked before the season about what they were going to do because they had the talent and deserved to be everyone’s lead dog heading in, but there was always that championship DNA that was missing.  When the Mets had acquired the pieces to legitimately threaten the Nationals, you saw how far from the title the Nationals were.  Not only did the Mets sweep that first series in late July, they then went Labor Day weekend to Washington and soul punched the Nationals in three straight games, coming back each time in stunning fashion.

To be honest, when you look back at the Wilmer Flores game, that was so typical of the Mets.  They left Flores in the game clueless to the fact that we live in an age where information gets shared so quickly that of course the fans would find out before the player does that they were traded.  That’s what the Mets do.  They fuck these things up.  Yet, it worked because of Flores’ outward show of loyalty.  That was the first sign that this team was going to do amazing things.  When the Nationals took a 4-3 lead during the Labor day weekend series opener, with Max Scherzer on the mound, and the Mets mounted a stunning comeback, you kinda sorta knew but you didn’t want to believe it.  When the Mets came back down 7-1 the following night you were almost there.  When they beat Strassburg to complete the sweep of the three game series, you knew this season was going to be special.

But that’s how fandom is when you root for a baseball team.  The fear of failure and another lost season can flip on the dime.  We as fans are allowed to change our minds when it comes to our baseball team because the baseball season is so freaking long that its like watching the Christmas story marathon on TBS every Christmas.  You fall asleep to the movie and wake up and find yourself amazed that you are in the exact spot you left it and its still going.

The season had plenty of questionable decisions that we can point to in detail.  None more so than the he said, agent said, they said, controversy over Matt Harvey’s innings limits.  Somehow the Mets again appeared to have public sentiment on their side after Harvey did damage to his tough guy, Dark Knight rep when he agreed with Scott Boras’ poorly timed and executed public demand of cutting short Matt Harvey’s workload a year removed from Tommy John.  In a case of curious Karma, it was Harvey’s tough guy rep that again did him damage when he demanded the ball in the ninth inning and began the set of events that ultimately cost the Mets the game and the World Series.

This is all to say that while the season ended badly and from late April to late July was depressing as all hell (remember the days when John Mayberry Jr was our clean up hitter?), the Mets ultimately did enough in early April and from July 31’st on to make this season memorable.  In a slog of a 162 game season, the downs usually outnumber the ups when it comes to the Mets given their recent history.  But not this season.  For Mets fans it was the culmination of all the talk of promise they had heard.  We had heard about how the pitching staff would vault the Mets into contention.  They did.  The front office promised that once they were ready to contend they would make moves and increase payroll and they did.  Despite all the criticism we were told that once Terry Collins had a major league team to manage, he would manage it well and he did.

Everything we had heard or thought about, happened.  But then the Royals came and took it all away and left us Mets fans in a sea of disappointment.  When I stepped off a flight on Monday night, I got an alert from the Mets to relive the 2015 season and they were already talking us into the old “hey atleast we got there” talk.

But that’s not what I wanted to hear.  This is what I wanted to hear:

This is what I wanted to see:

thank you

There’s work to be done this offseason and like I said its still early.  But here’s to the 2015 Mets.  They gave us moments of tension, of dominance, of history, of awesome comebacks and deflating failures.  Ultimately they went to the World Series and got beat by a better team that had an enormous chip on their shoulder after losing in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.  But take hope Mets fans.  The pitching staff will come back no matter what Scott Boras threatens.  Michael Conforto will see actual at bats against lefties next year when he transitions to everyday player.  Jeurys Familia will be the closer and from the looks of it a damn good one.  We will be adding a fifth ace in Zack Wheeler in July.

So let’s remember fondly Bartolo being Bartolo:

this tweet:

or this tweet:

Or that time the Mets made fans of even their biggest rivals.

Or that time the Captain made his return to the Mets in style.

Or the time that Cespedes just flexed on the Pirates Sean Rodriguez, 

Or that time Terry Collins hugged the fans after a huge Game 5 win against the Dodgers. 

Or the time Reuben Tejada caned in like Willis Reed into Citi Field 

Or that time that Flores became the most popular Met like in ever. 

Or that time the Mets soul punched their biggest rivals. 

Or the time Will from Queens called Mike Francesa and well, yeah.  

Or that time Daniel Murphy went insane in the playoffs.  

Or that time Jacob deGrom convinced Mets fans and baseball that he was the ace on the team during the All Star game.  

Or the time Steven Matz’s grandfather lost his collective shit at just how good his grandson was.  

Or the time Noah Syndergaard took to his superhero nickname in an awesome way.  

Or everytime you stared into the outfield and you saw just a sea of orange clapping plastic thundersticks and cheering like crazy people.  

Or the time you had to follow a Met game on Twitter, refreshed your feed and saw this at the very top and the fear/disappointment that would ultimately follow:

Or the time that somebody else stood looking at strike three while we got to go to the World Series.  Carlos Beltran, you’re finally off the hook (though its bullshit you ever were considering the..ok I’m over it)

Or the time you go back to back in a clinching game to completely take the home team out of it in the first inning:

But most importantly, here’s to the future:

See you in Spring Training!

LETS GO METS!

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Meet the Mess part 5020304?

Consider Friday’s news about the Mets as a good thing.  A sign that things are finally improving for the better.

A year ago, I may not have been so forgiving but at this point, who really cares?  At this point, the Mets are so far along in the punchline scale that its very difficult to see them recovering.

As a Met fan, I must admit the next few hundred or maybe thousand words (who knows where this will go and it may be fragmented arguments and a lot of run on thoughts about the Mets) may sound very redundant on the point I’ve been making about the Mets: the ownership situation has been the liability.

I”ve been pretty much anti-Coupon* family for a long time.  After 2006 in which everything went right for the Mets and there was actual hope within the organization the Mets began basically deconstructing a very good team in hopes that they could strike lightning in a bottle again.  For some time I, like many Met fans began putting it all on the lap of the General Manager Omar Minaya.  Usually the GM is the first people blame.

*= Coupon= Wilpons

But as I began reading more and more reports it became obvious that there was a higher power involved in personnel decisions.  Rumblings of GM’s complaining about Jeff Wilpon’s inclusion in the decision making process led many to believe that Minaya was more of a worker bee- given instructions by the Queen Bee and ordered to make it happen.

Many of the decisions that followed were done to improve the bottom line more so than the actual product on the field.  Many of their decisions had very little on building a good team as much as it had to do with building a good product.  The Mets became obsessed with big ticket items surrounded by middling salaried players.

I always felt that the Mets, in their minds, were competing with the Yankees.  They defended their decisions and poor results by saying that they were one of the Top 5 payrolls cluelessly not realizing that it was in that very argument that they were being made to look like fools.  A top 5 payroll and these are the results?

But nothing made me more aware of their absolute lack of common sense than when the Madoff Ponzi scheme came to light and rumors began swirling about the Coupon family’s involvement.  They weren’t in collusion with Bernie Madoff- they too were swindled for sums of cash.  That figure was kept under wraps but became fodder for writers to discuss and ponder over.

I would never suggest that the Coupons actually reveal the figure they lost, but their continued refusal to accept that it would affect the day to day operations for the Mets was comical.  How in the world could you stand to lose anywhere between $250-$700 million and insist to the fan base that this would NOT affect payroll?

It was then that the $145 million payroll became a burden than a badge of honor for the Wilpons.  The situation became even more dire when according to multiple reports Bud Selig, the Commissioner of baseball, had to get hands and “suggest”* that the Coupons hire Sandy Alderson who was at the time working for MLB in the Commissioner’s office coincidentally cleaning up another mess- the baseball academies in the Dominican Republic

*= read demand

The thing that always irked me about the Coupons was their insistence in pushing this myth of fiscal security down our throats.  While the Madoff scandal was breaking before our very eyes, it became clear that Sterling Equities, the Coupon family owned corporation and majority holder of the Mets, had taken a dent thanks to Bernie and Co.

They continued to insist to the fans that nothing would change and repeated so everyone could hear, that the Mets had one of the highest payrolls in baseball which to them may have sounded great but to me or any other fan with a clue sounded like a cop out.  An excuse that a major corporate CEO should never have to use to justify anything.  That’s like Terrell Owens’ financial adviser saying that he had $25 million reasons to live in response to allegations that he tried to take his own life.

Are you serious?  That’s what you’re going to say?  The Jason Bay signing was a mirage.  A move intended to shift the focus off of darker days ahead.  The day when the lie was no longer going to work.  That day came Friday.

Friday, like a kid who had no excuse left, tried one last ploy to ease concern.  Except like every move since 2006- it only created a bigger sense of worry.  The Mets announced Friday that they would look to sell 20-25% of minority stake in the Mets.  Which naturally begs the question: why would anyone go through such a risk?  They’d be paying to help ease the cost of bills when the truth behind the Madoff scandal comes out.

And this decision can make one assume that there is more revelations to come.  The Mets were seen as winners in the Madoff scandal when it was revealed that they had withdrawn somewhere between 40-50 million dollars.  Irving Picard, the man in charge with collecting money to pay back investors burned by Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, is going after the Wilpons and truth is no one really knows what he does.  In fact, it stands to reason that one should only assume the worst: that the Mets will owe between $700 million to $1 billion when all is said and done which will lead to the greatest thing this Met fan can ever hope to hear:  The Coupon family must sell the Mets.

To say that someone wouldn’t be interested in minority stake would be foolish.  If there is more bad news, whoever buys the 25% would stand to gain from the windfall as only Sterling Equities would be held accountable for the Madoff mess and would automatically give the minority owner exclusive rights to negotiate a purchase which is very appealing.

Let’s not forget that the Mets have several things going for them.  They are located in the world’s number one market, they have their own television network which is a cash cow.  They have a brand new stadium which, under the right ownership group and situation could make it a very lucrative building.  Also, more importantly, baseball will not allow the Mets to fold.  They have the might and backing of the league office which always helps.

Organizationally the Mets are headed in the right direction.  They are trimming payroll and refusing to get involved in long term contracts that make no sense.  Its incredible that GM’s get paid ridiculous sums to go out there and sign free agents to ridiculous deals but if there is ONE thing that’s very clear nowadays its this: most sports franchise owners have Jerry Jones syndrome.

They’d rather spend more time figuring out how to maximize their profit potential by building these crazy state of the art stadiums than actually go the time-tested formula of building a perennial contender that will actually draw fans into said building.  How is that such a difficult formula to go by?

The gift and curse of today’s society is technology.  Now that we’ve been given all this technology and ability to have all this information at our finger tips we’re now complaining that we have TOO much information as if that’s a bad thing.

Nowadays, you can Google anyone and find something about them that five years ago may not have been possible.  The biggest problem, the fastest rising tech company today (Facebook) faces is privacy concerns.  People are so scared that they will be found out on the internet for their weird tendencies that they don’t want anyone to know about.  Of course, that information ends up on the internet and it is very difficult to keep that from happening unless you’re like Mikhail Prokhorov and hate technology and computers and don’t believe in them like they are some myth concocted by teenage geeks who made everyone believe their fantasy world of Warcraft was some realistic universe that somehow NORMAL people are slowly becoming a part of.*

*= I have  very good excuse for that weird run on sentence.  A few days ago I had a conversation with a tech friend.  I’ve recently been on Engadget, CNet and other techy blogs and like any person who found this vast amount of information I naturally brought it up to friends who I felt would be versed in such things so I could know even more.  Needless to say, telling tech geeks about their own world is somehow insulting to them and they make this very earnest attempt to make you feel and sound stupid.  Its in the looks of bewilderment like for instance bringing up IPAD 2 and Iphone 5 rumors.  I read up on what NFC is and as a sports geek myself I made the joke about how before two weeks the only NFC I knew was in football.  There were crickets at night that were louder than the silence that I got on that joke.  He went on to tell me that this technology is the future but that word has been floating around for the last couple of years and most new products will include this technology which by the way is basically a way for you to pay for your Starbucks treinte with your cell phone.  But you get what I’m saying.  And before anyone makes the counter argument that sports geeks are the same way let me remind you that the stereotype is that we’re stupid morons with pot bellies and we’re in the beer and wings crowd and not the wine and cheese.  We don’t snub our noses at the novices, we merely detest people with ten thousand questions while the biggest game in the universe (that being whatever we’re presently watching) is going on.  Please don’t do that, there is a time and place for such things and THAT is not it.

But the idea that TOO much information is somehow bad is not true in every sector of society which includes sports management.  I’ve long been a fan of learning how championship teams are built.  There isn’t a formula involved that is true but there are a few maxims that General Managers hold on to: you need guys who keep the clubhouse loose- because when the going gets tough, they are the ones that will calm your superstars down by coming into the clubhouse and farting real loud.  They are as important to a team as the superstar.

A few years ago I wrote an article about what I felt was missing from the Mets and what changed in the locker room dynamic between 2006 and 2007.  How could the Mets go from being a dominant contender in 06 to a bunch of choke artists in 2007?  For one, David Wright who was their cornerstone player, did not have Cliff Floyd who was both mentor and best friend on the team.  He played a valuable role in teaching Wright, then a novice, on all things baseball related and always kept him comfortable even under the duress of the media maelstorm that is New York.  Most notably I remember a TRL appearance by David Wright where he brought along Cliff Floyd.  For some the guessture was nice but many stories after that intimated that Wright needed Floyd there to get over the nerves of being on national TV because he was only now coming into his own.

Missing players like that have been the Mets problem.  Which of course makes the entirety of the Mets product look shoddy.  Reyes, Wright, etc are not built to be leaders who can motivate a group and get them out of the doldrums of a losing season.  That attitude needs to be built in and come from somewhere which is why the Mets needed a Terry Collins type.

But that we’ll get to.  The Mets need more than just a fiery manager.  They need a culture shift which is what Sandy Alderson and staff hope to do.  They’ve spent pennies in comparison to the old regime and it doesn’t automatically invite parades but its nice to see business done in other ways.  That throwing money at a situation doesn’t make it ok.  That telling everyone about how much money you are spending isn’t going to make anyone respect you anymore.  That its about how you spend that money and not how much.

If this episode has taught us anything its this: the Coupons lie is finally coming to bite them where it hurts.  It is no longer a secret.  The Mets ownership group has to continue their coming clean act.  They have to be forthcoming in the next few months in order to put any rumors to rest.

What does that entail?  If the situation is as bad as everyone’s assuming, cut the crap Coupon family.  Just sell.  Don’t sell minority stakes and stave off the eventual: cut your losses and let go.  Their stubborn refusal is still evident when they made it a point to emphasize that this is NOT about them selling the team.

Its clear they know more than they are letting on and will allow the system to leak the information.  That eventually we will learn what they already know.  But here’s what I’ve known for a while now: the Wilpons are what’s wrong with the Mets.  They have never been completely honest about anything.  Its all coming back to haunt the Mets and honestly its about time.  The Mets ownership group needs new blood and not a moment sooner.

The front office looks solid and sounds like they know what they are doing, but given the Coupons history of being honest maybe they had no idea what they were getting into and the promise of reinvesting that 50-70 million that will come off the books may not be realistic.  We will get into that in part two of this.  But for now the message is clear: Sell Coupons.  Save yourselves and just sell the Mets and be on your way.  You’ve done more harm than good.  If you love the Mets as much as you say you do then just sell the team to people who will do something with them.

 

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Thoughts on the manager.

I listened to the interviews. I read the analysts. I spoke and heard the opinions of the fans. Then Sunday, I got the news alert on my cell phone: Terry Collins, 61, named 20th manager in Mets history.

I saw it, and moved on. That’s it.

Not to sound like a buzz kill, but I was muted in response for a reason. I often find myself reacting to every single bit of Met news like its personal. When its your favorite team, ideas like family, loyalty etc begin to over take any bit of reason. Which is why I’m happy these last few seasons happened.

Like a girl who gets walked all over by her man, one day I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to take it anymore. Not that I don’t care anymore, no. But I won’t be suckered into anything anymore. I refuse to be reeled in.

So the Mets couldve hired a manager who hadn’t managed in over a decade, alienated almost every team he had coached, and was seen as too high strung for a high profile job like one in NYC. And the Mets couldve overlooked the overwhelming fan favorite in this managerial search, a member of the 1986 world champion Mets*, a fiery personality who certainly would have had people coming back to Citi Field considering the last few seasons and especially since new GM Sandy Alderson has said over and over again that they have no plans to dip into the top end of the free agent pool meaning no Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford.
*= the 86 Mets are remembered like no other team in the history of sports. They won the world series and had a cast of characters that, if you add the fact that they played in New York, makes them larger than life.

The Mets hired the former, taking their chances on the guy with major league experience while holding onto the fan favorite as an escape clause in case the Terry town experience doesn’t go as planned.

And what’s planned? Let me take a crack at it. Collins was given a 2 year contract. Wally Backman will likely be given a promotion in the minors and stashed away for a later date. In baseball terms, think of Terry Collins as the starter in the 8th inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd protecting a lead. The manager has made his trip to the mound and given him a chance to get out of the inning. Backman is the closer. He will come in at some point and end this game.*
*= here’s your analogy key
Game= win a championship
Manager= Sandy Alderson

But its clear the Mets front office brought in Collins to clean the operation up and sets up Backman very well. Collins major selling point was teaching and his major role over the next two years is to motivate the Mets and create a new clubhouse culture that is more conducive to winning. And you need a Type A personality to fight those battles with players who may be used to getting their way too often.

Backman will enter his first managerial position with a team full of young homegrown players, taught to play the game the right way and his job will be to manage, which he’s shown he’s pretty good at already.

But that’s just an opinion of a clear headed Met fan who now can see the light. I’m removed from the B.S. of it all which sapped my energy.

Aldersons job is to get a fan like me back into the fold. The Mets have one of the most passionate fan bases. We aren’t devoid of bandwagoners, because if we’ve learned anything, its that America loves teams with tortured histories (They gravitate to them like leeches for God knows what reason) but we aren’t as bad as some.

Butt I like being here. I’m not at happy hours watching the Mets lose on a summer night. I’m not checking scores on my phone during dinner. I’m not on Metsblog.com everyday hitting refresh just to see if the Mets are trading for/linked to a free agent.*
*= I’m going to act like I never wrote this paragraph in about 6 months, I know it.

I’m not even negative nancy waiting for the Mets to screw up. I’m just here, void of feelings, still in love but a lot more cool about it.

Maybe I’m just writing to convince myself. Maybe its easier for me to tell myself this to save myself the misery. Maybe I had to write it down in order for it to stick. Who knows?

What I do know is this: the Mets are operating under a new vision. It may not be what we want, but I suppose having a plan is a good thing. A plan that accounts for the organization. A plan that looks to the long term. All I can do is believe that that’s what’s happening. If it doesn’t happen, just know I won’t be crying in my room. I will be living my life. Life goes on.

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