By: Paul DiSclafani
On Tuesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will announce the National League Manager of the Year, selecting from three candidates: Joe Maddon from the Cubs, Mike Matheny from the Cardinals and Terry Collins from the Mets.
All three of these managers led their teams to success in the regular season and the Mets and Cubs played in the National League Championship Series, with the Mets representing the National League in the World Series. But this award is not based on postseason success or failure. The Manager of the Year is usually the skipper that led his team beyond their preseason expectations.
Was there anyone out there who thought the Mets would be able to not only make the playoffs, but win the National League East? Most baseball pundits felt that Collins would probably not even finish the season with the Mets.
Granted both the Cardinals (100-62) and Cubs (97-65) had better regular season records than the Mets (90-72), but what was expected of the Mets this year? There was talk of a possible Wild Card run, but so many things needed to happen. When the Mets lost projected starter Zack Wheeler in Spring Training and then closer Jenrry Mejia was suspended for 80 games, both the media and the fans had to lower expectations and would have been happy with an 81-81 finish.
Someone had to juggle that pitching staff. Someone had to fill out that lineup card game after game. Someone had to keep all their heads in the game and help them tread water and hang in there.
All three of these managers had a lot of baggage to shed to get their teams into the post season. Matheny ran his team out to a huge lead, then patched his injury riddled team together and limped to the finish. Maddon battled the huge black cloud that is The Curse all season long, but his team was a lot like the Mets in that their kids came through in the clutch. All three of them are worthy candidates.
As a field tactician, I always thought Collins was a little behind the curve. His use or overuse of the Mets bullpen is also well documented. But somehow the players respond to him.
The phrase “The Mets win in spite of Collins” was uttered a lot during the course of the season and a lot of his moves late in the season were questionable, yet they all seemed to work out in the end, didn’t they?
But if the criteria were exceeding preseason expectation, then Collins should win hands down. It is one thing to be the “surprise” team of a baseball season and a feel good story. The Mets were that plus a surprise Division Champion.
The Manager of The Year has been awarded by the BBWAA since 1983 and no Mets Manager has ever won it. Davey Johnson won it twice (1997 with Baltimore and 2012 with Washington), but not in 1986 when his Mets won 108 Regular Season games. The Mets had begun their run in 1984 and almost made it in 1985. They were expected to get over the hump in 1986. The winner that year? It was Hal Lanier and the surprising (remember that word) Houston Astros. If there were an award in 1969, I’m sure Gil Hodges would have won it for the Miracle Mets.
This year it should go to the pilot of the surprising NY Mets, Terry Collins.