Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive. For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month. Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment. There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection. It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets. Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad). For the tenth and final set of grades, here is Terry Collins grade:
Sometimes grading a manager can be difficult. For starters, we cannot truly know how much of an impact the manager has in the clubhouse. For example, one person’s “player’s manager” is another person’s “letting the inmates run the asylum.” Essentially, that narrative is written based upon the type of year the team had.
Furthermore, in the modern game, we are unsure how much of an impact the front office has on daily decision making. It used to be that the General Manager would hire a manager, and then he would step aside and let the manager run the team as he saw fit. Now, there is a some level of interference in each organization. Some provide data and other tools to the manager while others are at least rumored to try to fill out line-up cards for teams.
If we are being honest, there really are times we do not know what is and what is not a manager’s fault. However, we do know that everything lies at the manager’s feet, and it is ultimately the manager that will have to be responsible for the choices made. Looking at Terry Collins’ choices is complicated. Lets review:
If you are being fair, Collins did what he was paid to do by bringing the Mets to the postseason in consecutive seasons. That is no small feat, especially for a franchise that has only done it once before in their entire history. There was also a large degree in difficulty in doing so, especially when you lose Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz to season-ending surgeries at different points in the season.
He also had to deal with a number of other injuries. There was the fairly expected ones like David Wright, the reasonably foreseen like Lucas Duda, and the out of nowhere like Wilmer Flores. Yoenis Cespedes dealt with a quad issue most of the summer too. Once again, it was not a ringing endorsement of the medical and training staff this season. Still, Collins dealt with it, and took a team that was two games under .500 in August, and the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot. Again, teams normally collapse in these circumstances. Collins’ team showed resolve, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.
A major reason why was the emergence of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. These two young players contributed much earlier than expected and were better than anyone ever expected. One reason why is Collins matched them up with Rene Rivera who has excelled mentoring young pitching. Collins deserves credit for that as he does matching up Rivera with Noah Syndergaard to help alleviate the issues associated with Syndergaard holding on base runners. Collins use of Rivera might’ve been the best decision he made all season, and it could very well have been the reason why the Mets returned to the postseason.
The one issue I cannot get over all season was how reckless Collins was with his bullpen arms. It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t demanding. The only real term to use was reckless.
In April, he put Jim Henderson into a day game after a night game despite Henderson coming off shoulder surgeries and Henderson having thrown a career high in pitches the previous night. The reason? Collins determined an April game was a must-win game. In a sport that plays 162 games, no April game can be considered a must-win. During that inning, Henderson had no velocity, couldn’t get a guy out, and he would have to be lifted from the game. After that outing, Henderson wasn’t the same guy that made the team out of Spring Training, and he would have to be put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He went from lock down seventh inning guy to removed from the 40 man roster as soon as the season ended.
Then there was Hansel Robles. Collins treated him like every arm he ruined in his past. Despite having a number of guys who could go more than one inning, including long man Logan Verrett, it was Robles who was called to the whip time and time again. During a one week stretch in June, Robles threw 127 pitches over three mutiple inning appearances. Then when he finally got some rest, Robles came right back out and threw 33 pitches over two innings. Robles sustained the abuse well for most of the season, but then he tailed off at the end of the year.
Somehow, someway Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia never got injured. It really is a miracle because they were used more than any other combination of relievers in baseball in 2016. The wear and tear finally showed in the Wild Card Game when neither pitcher had much of anything left. Both struggled in their respective innings of work. Reed was able to get out of it, but Familia wasn’t.
While the bullpen usage was an issue, there were other problems with Collins. He completely mishandled Michael Conforto this season. Conforto had gone from one of the best hitters in baseball in April, to a guy Collins outright refused to play down the stretch of the season despite Conforto hitting nearly .500 in AAA during his demotion.
Keep in mind, Conforto was not the only player who regressed this season. Travis d’Arnaud had looked prime to break out in 2016. Unfortunately, his season was marked by injuries and regression. With Conforto and d’Arnaud, there are two important young players who regressed under Collins.
Finally, there was the matter of how injuries were handled. Harvey’s injury issues were blamed on mechanics. Collins kept putting Cespedes out there everyday to play despite his clearly being hobbled. Same goes for Asdrubal Cabrera. The worst might have been talking Matz out of getting season ending surgery in order to pitch through what was described as a massive bone spur. Eventually, Matz would have to scrap his slider, would experience some shoulder discomfort, and he would finally get shut down for the season.
In a sport where you are judged by wins and losses, Collins was successful despite the issues he faced. However, many of those issues were self-inflicted. Given the fact that he brought the team to the postseason for a consecutive year, he should have received a high grade. However, Collins consistently risked the health of his players, and some were worse off as a result. You need to look no further than Henderson who is right now looking to catch onto a team yet again. Even worse yet, the young players the Mets need to take them to the next level next year are question marks due largely to Collins’ mishandling of them. Altogether, Collins season earned him a C-.
On August 22, 1973, the Mets won their second game in a row to raise the Mets record to 57-67 leaving them 6.0 games out in the National League East behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.
From that point forward, the Mets would be the hottest team in baseball going 25-12 carrying them to an unlikely division championship. The Mets rode the hot streak to beat the Big Red Machine 3-2 in a best of five NLCS, and they came within a win of disrupting the Oakland A’s dynasty.
The popular story was the Mets were spurred by Tug McGraw screaming “Ya Gotta Believe!” after a M.Donald Grant “pep talk” in July. However, the truth is that team just got healthy at the right time, and when the team was at 100%, they were among the best teams in baseball.
During that year, the team was hampered by injuries. Jerry Grote, John Milner, Bud Harrelson, and Cleon Jones all missed significant time. Rusty Staub player through injuries all year. On top of that phenom Jon Matlack was having a down year a year removed from winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He was joined by Jerry Koosman in having a surprising down year. Willie Mays looked to be every bit of his 42 years of age. Young fill-ins like Don Hahn just were not producing. The Mets were forced to do anything they could do to improve the team like releasing dead weight like Jim Fregosi. About all that went right that season for the Mets was Tom Seaver; that and the fact that no one ran away with the division allowing the Mets to enter the postseason with an 82-79 record.
Isn’t that what this Mets season has been. With Matt Harvey, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Adrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes, we have seen this Mets team be hampered time and again by injuries. We have seen countless Mets play through injuries like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz with their bone spurs. We’ve seen replacements like Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, and Matt Reynolds not play up to snuff. Players like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto had surprising down years. About the only thing that has gone right for the Mets this year is the fact that Jacob deGrom has continued to pitch like an ace, and the fact that no one has ran away with the second Wild Card spot.
Maybe, just maybe, this is 1973 all over again. That 1973 team was much further back in both the standings and more teams to leapfrog in the standings. All they needed to do was to get healthy and to get hot. Right now, with Cespedes back and hitting home runs for the Mets again, this team is healthy, and they are on the verge of getting hot. If that happens, the Mets can very well take that second Wild Card spot and get into the postseason.
As we saw in 1973 as well as last year, with great Mets pitching, the Mets can beat anyone in the postseason. They can shock the world. Anything is possible so long as they get hot and get into the postseason.