The Mets apparently have hired Terry Collins to be their new manager. Collins has been away from the major league dugout as a skipper for eleven years. He has six years major league experience and five of those years included winning records. It was his last year in 1999 that was the only clunker in the bunch. But if you look at that California Angels team, you can't really pin the blame on Collins. It was an awful team. Before that, every team he managed (three years with the Astros and two others with the Angels) came in second place.
The Mets have to hope that managing is like riding a bike and that you can simply pick it back up again. Collins was a young 45 when he picked up his first opportunity managing the Astros. He'll be 61 when he manages the Mets this year. But you have to wonder why he's been away for so long. Did that last year in California burn his chances for a long time? His Angels team that season was 51-82 when he was fired. His replacement, a young man by the name of Joe Maddon replaced him for the remainder of the season and went 19-10. But it was a brutal team. How bad was it?
Chuck Finley was the best pitcher and he went 12-11. Every other starter had a losing record. There was the knuckleballer, Steve Sparks. There was the immortal Ken Hill and the perennial loser, Tim Belcher. There was a young Jarrod Washburn, who did terrible and there was Jack McDowell, pitching his last season. McDowell lost all four of his starts. And that was just the rotation.
The 1999 Angels featured two shortstops who didn't reach 100 in OPS+ when you added them both together. Their starting catcher had a 59 OPS+. The back up catcher, a young kid named Bengie Molina, finished with a 74 OPS+. Darin Erstad, his body ruined, was a first baseman by then and contributed with a 74 OPS+. Tim Salmon was almost done. The only offensive threat they had was Mo Vaughan, who was also nearing the end of his offensive seasons. That team finished dead last in the AL in batting and On Base Percentage and next to last in slugging.
So you really can't hold that team against Collins except for that nagging fact that Maddon finished so strongly. But you can wonder about all those second place finishes. Collins was the perennial Avis which is sort of like the Mets have been up until the last two years. And you have to wonder about the choice because of that reality. After eleven years away from the head job, can Collins get the Mets over the hump or is he simply a guy who will get them through the transition as they retool the next couple of years?
Collins was the front runner from the beginning and won out over the likes of Bob Melvin (thank goodness) and Wally Bachman (who would have been colorful). Time will tell how it all works out. Fortunately, it can't be much worse than the Manuel seasons.