Collins to be Mets' longest-tenured manager

Collins to be Mets' longest-tenured manager

PHOENIX -- As the Mets waited on a bus to the airport following their seventh straight loss on Wednesday, Terry Collins wandered the Chase Field visiting clubhouse, offering his all-too-frequent rounds of damage control. Collins sidled up to Jay Bruce, cracking a joke. He waited for Matt Harvey to finish his media responsibilities, then gave the struggling starter a pat on the back. His office door remained open, as it usually is.

These are trying times for Collins, his Mets in an early-season funk for the third consecutive year. In each of the previous two, Collins managed to guide the Mets past it to the postseason.

For those efforts and others, Collins on Friday will match Davey Johnson as the longest-tenured manager in Mets history, with 1,012 games on his ledger. A night later, he will surpass the 1986 World Series champion manager.

"I didn't know how long it was going to last," Collins said earlier this week of his tenure. "The only thing I knew was I was going to try to enjoy it more. And I have. When you're beat up like we are right now, it's a battle to put the right mixes together. But that's part of managing. That's the fun part."

It is also, Collins says, "the hard part -- the part that every manager doesn't want to go through but is going to. You've just got to deal with it. And the one thing you can't do is let [the players] see how frustrated you are. Because they watch -- make no mistake about it. That's what makes it a challenging job. It's not an easy spot. I'm very, very lucky to still be here."

By any measure, few anticipated Collins would become the longest-tenured manager in franchise history when he signed on in November 2010. Flaming out in two prior stops in Houston and Anaheim, Collins assumed he would never manage in the big leagues again. He worked a bit in Japan, eventually returning as the Dodgers' Minor League field coordinator. When then-general manager Omar Minaya offered him the same position with the Mets, Collins accepted. He liked the idea of spending his fourth decade in baseball working with prospects.

Then the Mets dismissed Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel, opening a door for Collins. He interviewed. New GM Sandy Alderson took to Collins because of -- not in spite of -- their differing philosophies on sabermetrics. Alderson wanted a dissenting voice in the room, yet one with an open mind.

"I think we saw right from the beginning that he was going to kind of be a little different type of manager," said assistant GM John Ricco, part of the team that hired Collins. "He's clearly a take-charge guy. He's not a guy who sits back and waits for everybody else to do it. If there's a problem, he's going to be right there solving it. And I know Sandy appreciates that a lot."

Through the years, Collins has irked some fans, particularly in the area of bullpen management. He is far from a perfect manager. He has clashed with Alderson. He has spent much of his tenure inching up to the hot seat.

Each time, Collins has escaped, living to manage another day. This season, he has a chance to become the first man in Mets history to guide the team to three consecutive postseason berths.

Imagine that. Collins certainly could not have.

"I'm excited every morning to get up because I know there are challenges ahead, and that kind of keeps you going," Collins said. "Gosh, I've had a Cy Young Award winner. I've had a batting champion. I've seen a no-hitter. A lot of records have fallen along the wayside for this team. It's been great."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.