NEW YORK (AP) By the end of this week, Terry Collins will be the longest-tenured manager in New York Mets history.
Hard to believe, really.
Then again, nothing is ever easy when it comes to Collins and the Mets.
With his team on a seven-game losing streak 6 1/2 weeks into a trying season, Collins is set to catch Davey Johnson on Friday night for most games managed in a Mets uniform (1,012). Nifty feat for a senior citizen some considered just a stopgap when he was hired in November 2010 as New York began to rebuild under general manager Sandy Alderson.
Told about his upcoming milestone, Collins was surprised.
”That’s a lot of games here, so I’m humbled to think that I’ve been here that long,” he said. ”I’ve been very lucky I have a general manager who believes in consistency, and there’s something to that.
”Sandy certainly over the years – and especially here in this town – had every reason to make changes.”
The only major league franchises without a manager who lasted 1,000 games are the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks, both born in the 1990s.
The Mets, meanwhile, have been around for 55 years. Their bench bosses include Hall of Famers Casey Stengel (1962-65), Yogi Berra (1972-75) and Joe Torre (1977-81) – along with forgettable cameos by Mike Cubbage (seven games), Salty Parker (11 games) and Roy McMillan (53 games).
None of them managed to stick nearly as long as the silver-haired Collins, who is 497-514 in seven seasons with the Mets. The eldest skipper in the majors turns 68 on May 27, making him 19 days older than Dusty Baker of the rival Washington Nationals.
”It’s pretty cool. It’s a tough business to be consistent, to I guess manage or even play on the same team for a long period of time. So I think it’s a pretty special thing,” said Mets rookie T.J. Rivera, raised in New York City. ”He’s a great manager. He lets us play our game and keeps us in line and he’s really good at trying to keep the team motivated when times are tough and we need a positive voice in the clubhouse.”
Collins arrived with a reputation for having a hot temper and little patience. But he’s become popular with his players and the press, engendering loyalty in a complicated clubhouse amid the daily squalls and pressure-packed atmosphere of New York City.
”You’ve just got to realize,” Collins explained, ”you’re going to take body blows, and it comes with the territory.”
Of course, success has certainly helped.
After starting his Mets career with four straight losing seasons, Collins was finally given enough talent to contend in 2015 and guided the team to its first World Series appearance in 15 years. He followed that up with another excellent job last year, keeping an injury-depleted club intact as New York reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time in franchise history.
”I’m very familiar with what goes on with managing in this town,” Collins said. ”Every lineup move, every bullpen move – how you wear your hat – is criticized. But you can’t allow that to interfere with what you think’s the right move to make.
”I can’t worry about what happens tomorrow.”
This season, it’s usually something bad.
New York opened with lofty expectations, but another mind-boggling string of injuries to star players – some of them seemingly mismanaged – has left the team in tatters. Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, Jeurys Familia, Steven Matz, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis d’Arnaud, David Wright and Seth Lugo are all on the disabled list, and some aren’t coming back anytime soon.
A ballyhooed pitching staff has fallen apart, and the Mets (16-23) are seven games under .500 for the first time since September 2014. They headed home Wednesday after going 0-6 in Milwaukee and Arizona – their longest road trip without a win since 1999, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In a different sort of soap opera, embattled former ace Matt Harvey missed a home game after a late night on the town this month and was suspended three days by the club.
Collins acknowledged all the injuries have been frustrating.
”We don’t have a lot of options,” he said this week in Phoenix.
But he still loves what he’s doing.
Collins, who often cites Jim Leyland as a vital mentor, went 11 seasons between big league managing jobs before the Mets promoted him following a year as their minor league field coordinator. He nearly got the position years earlier when he was one of three finalists for the vacancy former GM Omar Minaya filled with Willie Randolph in November 2004.
So when Alderson took over in late 2010 and got in touch about possibly managing the Mets, Collins said he was ”shocked.” When he actually was offered the gig, he was beside himself.
No. 10 became the 20th manager in team history – and made a significant change to his approach.
”I was extremely thankful that I was getting another opportunity,” Collins said. ”There were no guarantees and that’s why I said when I got the job, I’m going to have fun with this one. I’m going to enjoy this, instead of putting all the pressure on myself to try to succeed. I’m just going to go enjoy it and see if I can get the players to enjoy it.”
It was a big difference from his days managing the Astros and Angels, when his teams finished second five straight times in the 1990s. Players were so embittered with him when he resigned from the Angels in September 1999, there was even talk of mutiny.
”Cripes, I thought when I was in Anaheim, I was going to be there a long time,” said Collins, a feisty little pepper pot who never imagined he’d step down from a job that way. ”All hell broke loose and I was gone.”
Now, in a full-circle twist, it’s none other than the Angels who are coming to town for an interleague series this weekend as Collins prepares to pass Johnson on the Mets’ career list.
Further down the road, the future is uncertain. Collins is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, just like a bevy of players in his everyday lineup.
”Would I like to keep managing? Yeah,” Collins said. ”Because of my age, I don’t know how long – two years, three years. I don’t know how long I can keep doing it. But all’s I know is, I enjoy this. I enjoy it here. The energy these fans here bring, gets you fired up every day.”
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum and freelance writer Jose M. Romero in Phoenix contributed to this story.
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