Collins introduced as Mets' manager
Terry Collins chased jobs all the way to Japan and China in the 11 years since he last managed a major league club just to find a place in a dugout. Rejuvenating the New York Mets, though, might be his toughest challenge of all.
Collins was introduced Tuesday as the 20th manager in the history of the Mets, a franchise in the midst of an overhaul since missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Collins, the team's minor league field coordinator last year, signed a two-year contract with a club option for 2013.
''I love this job,'' said Collins, after putting on a No. 10 jersey in honor of friend and Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. ''I will do whatever it takes to bring success for the New York Mets and win more ballgames, and we want to be the last team standing next October.''
New general manager Sandy Alderson chose Collins over fellow Mets employees Bob Melvin, Chip Hale and Wally Backman. The 61-year-old Collins succeeds Jerry Manuel, who was fired along with general manager Omar Minaya in October, and will try to revitalize a club that languished near the bottom of the NL East the past two seasons.
Hale will return to his role as the Mets' third base coach, and Backman will manage in the minor league system again. Alderson also said pitching coach Dan Warthen will return. Hitting coach Howard Johnson will be reassigned in the organization.
Collins last managed in the big leagues in 1999, when he resigned as manager of the Angels in his third season in Anaheim. He was manager of the Houston Astros from 1994-96 and has a 444-434 record overall. He led teams to second-place finishes in each of his five full seasons. He also was skipper of Orix in Japan from 2007-08 and led China to its first win in the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
''To some extent, what he has done over the last 11 years in different capacities actually might be a positive,'' Alderson said.
Heading into spring training the Mets face many of the same problems that led them to a 79-83 record last season: injured stars and bloated contracts for underperforming players. But Collins will have the support of a more focused front office led by Alderson and his personally chosen top aides, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, both former GMs.
Discontented fans favored the fiery Backman, a popular member of the Mets' 1986 championship club, but his lack of major league experience likely ruled him out. In Collins, New York will be getting an energetic and feisty figure in contrast to the laid-back Manuel.
''A lot has been said about his intensity. Certainly that was a factor, an attractive quality for us. His major league managing experience also came into play. But also I have to emphasize that his time spent in player development was also a significant factor,'' Alderson said. ''This job is all about leadership, but it's also about teaching.''
Collins, however, comes with a reputation for alienating players with his hard-charging style. In Anaheim, he resigned with 29 games to go in the season after a near player revolt. He also quit his job with Orix.
''I'm not the evil devil that a lot of people made me out to be,'' Collins said, ''I learned to mellow a little bit.''
Collins took responsibility for allowing problems to fester in the Angels' clubhouse.
''I will guarantee you that will not happen here,'' he said.
Alderson is not worried.
''From my standpoint I don't consider this high-risk at all,'' he said.
Collins joins a team that finished 18 games behind the Phillies last season despite an opening-day payroll of $133 million, fifth-highest in the majors. Collins insists this group can win.
''I'm sure one year ago today nobody thought the San Francisco Giants would be standing as champions today. It could happen,'' Collins said. ''So you got to believe it, you got to believe in your heart you can do it and once you believe in it you do what it takes to get there.''
He immediately confronts a number of issues:
— Ace Johan Santana will miss the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery.
— Jason Bay provided little power in his first season as the left fielder before a season-ending concussion in late July.
— Center fielder Carlos Beltran has been slowed the past two seasons by a knee injury. Collins might have to ask the five-time All-Star to switch to a corner outfield spot depending on his health.
— Closer Francisco Rodriguez is coming off thumb surgery for an injury sustained in an August fight with his girlfriend's father outside the family lounge at Citi Field.
— Oliver Perez ($12 million) and Luis Castillo ($6 million) both have one year left on unwieldy deals. Beltran is owed $18.5 million in the final season of a seven-year deal.
The issues also extend beyond the roster. Popular equipment manager Charlie Samuels was fired after it was learned he was a subject in an investigation into illegal gambling.
Notes: The Mets will offer LHP Pedro Feliciano arbitration. ... Alderson said he will talk to Minaya about possibly staying with the organization.