When new general manager Sandy Alderson is finished, the makeover in the Mets' clubhouse will be more dramatic than the differences between Citi Field and Shea Stadium.
It's about time, from any angle, and to that end, Terry Collins as skipper makes as much sense as anybody. Even if it does feel like he was plucked off the out-of-season rack in the back of a Macy's, so long has he been away from the display window.
|Collins managed China in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. (Getty Images)|
And man oh man, if there's a team in the majors that needs structure, teaching and coordinating right now, it's the "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game" gang.
This is an organization that desperately needs to be steam-cleaned, detoxed and spit-shined.
By putting an adult in charge upstairs -- Alderson -- the Wilpons finally are giving themselves a real chance not to come off as the goofs they are.
By putting Collins in charge downstairs, Alderson swiftly reinforced the chain of command and the notion that, among other things, he intends to start remaking the Mets from the inside out.
The coming season is purely transitional, and Collins knows the organization -- top to bottom -- as well as anybody. That's the first part of what makes this a wise move.
Alderson and his right-hand men, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, no doubt will finish their homework early and get up to speed quickly -- this is a threesome built to make the hard decisions. The Mets GM was baseball's top cop in cleaning up the buscone mess in the Dominican Republic earlier this year, while DePodesta spent the past few seasons in San Diego's front office and Ricciardi ran the Blue Jays. Collins, an excellent baseball man, will be a valuable resource for Alderson and Co.
Anybody who knows Alderson knows he believes success starts with the draft and in building a strong system. It's the first thing he looked to fix in San Diego when he took over the Padres presidency in 2005. It's no coincidence that one of his early moves was to fire Rudy Terrasas over the weekend from his role as the Mets' director of amateur scouting.
Since he last managed in the bigs in 1999 with the Angels, Collins spent three seasons as a field coordinator for the Dodgers (2002-2004) and two more as the Dodgers' director of player development (2005-2006).
Fact is, DePodesta was so high on him back when DePodesta was the Dodgers' general manager that he was set to hire Collins as the club's manager to succeed Jim Tracy. That idea went poof when the Dodgers wound up firing DePodesta.
Anyway, that part of Collins' recent history fits nicely with what Alderson wants in New York.
As for his dugout acumen, Collins, 61, is a little bit Bobby Valentine Lite. "Fiery" is a word that has attached itself to Collins' name the way "incompetence" has clung to the Mets organization.
In some ways, Collins is Valentine without the funny nose and glasses, which isn't a bad thing.
In other ways, he's Valentine without the managerial cred, which will be his biggest hurdle.
When we last saw Collins in a big-league manager's chair, the late-'90s Angels were blowing up around him in spectacular fashion. The Mo Vaughn free agent signing was a colossal mistake, the clubhouse was rife with dissension, everybody hated everybody and Collins' spirited ways were a daily dose of salt to what was an open and festering clubhouse wound. Something had to give, and it was Collins. He lost the clubhouse, then his job.
A smart and personable man, Collins has had a decade to presumably reflect on where he went wrong as manager, and on what he can change when the boys need a buffing instead of sandpaper.
Of course, overall, the ill-fitting parts that make up these Mets are in need of a horsewhip more than a hug. And for that, Collins is just the right man.
Not much has worked for the recent-vintage Mets, who are to baseball what a cement block is tied to the leg of vibrant man tossed into a very deep lake. And Collins -- or any manager -- alone is not going to perform microsurgery here simply by getting his mitts on a lineup card. Alderson has much work to do before that.
Tossing Oliver Perez (one year, $12 million left on his contract) overboard should be job one. That alone will give Collins a head start on the past two Mets' managers, Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel.
But while Perez owns the most insultingly bad contract, it's just the peak of Problem Mountain. Second baseman Luis Castillo's scholarship is almost up, finally.
Ace Johan Santana, who underwent shoulder surgery, will miss the early part of the season. Outfielder Jason Bay's July concussion not only ruined his 2010, but casts an ominous shadow over the rest of his $66 million deal (through 2013).
Will Carlos Beltran (one year, $18.5 million remaining) be ready to play? Or will there be another Mid-Winter Surprise like last January, when he sprung for a knee surgery the club said it hadn't approved?
Of course, Jose Reyes' health is an annual question. If he's good to go, Collins needs to make a decision and stick with it: Is Reyes a top-of-the-order hitter or a middle-of-the-order hitter? Manuel never could figure that one out.
For now, a new manager for the Mets is like putting a Band-Aid on a slice wound that really needs 20 or 30 stitches.
In time, the new guy will be needed far more than he is now.
As that time approaches, Collins will answer the question of whether he's the man to lead the Mets back to relevancy, or whether he's simply the stern babysitter hired to keep a lid on things until the adults figure out what's next.
Still not the perfect scenario, no. But at least the closer hasn't slugged anybody in a couple of months.