NEW YORK (AP) - Terry Collins stood at the podium, explaining in rapid-fire patter how the New York Mets can win it all next year. It was as if he were a carnival barker trying to convince a skeptical crowd that what it was about to see was indeed real. His energy and enthusiasm were clear.
“I forgot to mention optimist is another quality,” new general manager Sandy Alderson said.
Alderson introduced Collins at Citi Field on Tuesday as the 20th manager in Mets’ history. He said New York’s minor league field coordinator last year was the right man to help rejuvenate a club that languished at the bottom of the NL East the past two seasons and has not been to the playoffs since 2006. Collins signed a two-year contract with a club option for 2013.
“I love this job,” said Collins, after putting on a No. 10 jersey in honor of friend and Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “I will do whatever it takes to bring success for the New York Mets and win more ballgames, and we want to be the last team standing next October.”
He happily believes it could happen.
“The personalities are there. The energy is there,” he said, “What we have to do now is execute.”
It’s been 11 years since Collins’ last managed in the big leagues, yet the Mets still preferred his experience and a host of other factors in choosing him over fellow Mets employees Bob Melvin, Chip Hale and Wally Backman. The 61-year-old Collins succeeds Jerry Manuel, who was fired along with general manager Omar Minaya in October.
Hale will return to his role as the Mets’ third base coach, and Backman will manage in the minor league system again. Alderson also said pitching coach Dan Warthen will return. Hitting coach Howard Johnson and bullpen coach Randy Niemann will be reassigned. Collins said he and Alderson began discussing possibilities for bench coach _ it will not be someone as tightly wound as he is.
“A lot has been said about his intensity,” Alderson said. “Certainly that was a factor, an attractive quality for us. His major league managing experience also came into play. But also I have to emphasize that his time spent in player development was also a significant factor. This job is all about leadership, but it’s also about teaching.”
Collins managed the Houston Astros from 1994-96 and the Anaheim Angels from 1997-99. He has a 444-434 record overall, leading teams to second-place finishes in each of his five full seasons. He also was skipper of Orix in Japan from 2007-08 and led China to its first win in the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
Experienced, yes. But he also has a reputation for alienating players with his hard-charging style. In Anaheim, he resigned with 29 games to go in the 1999 season after a near player revolt. He also quit as manager of Orix.
“I’m not the evil devil that a lot of people made me out to be,” Collins said, “I learned to mellow a little bit.”
Collins took responsibility for allowing problems to fester in the Angels’ clubhouse.
“I will guarantee you that will not happen here,” he said.
A baseball lifer who spent 10 years in the minors as a player but never made it to the big leagues, Collins has deep respect for the sport and attributes his intensity partly to his expectations for how the game should be played.
He also refused to make excuses for managerial style.
“I have been around Tom Lasorda, Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland. And excuse me if they’re not intense,” Collins said. “But I believe to manage this game, you’ve got to have some intensity and some desire.”
Collins inherits a team that faces many of the same problems that led to a 79-83 record last season, including the loss of ace Johan Sanatana for the early part of the season. Yet he sees a team loaded with talent.
He spoke to All-Star David Wright on Monday and said he was “excited _ probably not as excited as I am _ but he’s very excited.”
One thing the feisty Collins will have that Manuel lacked is the support of a more focused front office headed by Alderson and his personally chosen top aides, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, both former GMs.
If the Mets are going to win, Collins will have to help them overcome a number of issues:
_Jason Bay provided little power in his first season as the left fielder before a season-ending concussion in late July.
_Center fielder Carlos Beltran has been slowed the past two seasons by a knee injury. Collins might have to ask the five-time All-Star to switch to a corner outfield spot depending on his health.
_Closer Francisco Rodriguez is coming off thumb surgery for an injury sustained in an August fight with his girlfriend’s father outside the family lounge.
_Oliver Perez ($12 million) and Luis Castillo ($6 million) both have one year left on unwieldy deals. Beltran is owed $18.5 million in the final season of a seven-year deal.
The issues also extend beyond the roster, too. Popular equipment manager Charlie Samuels was fired after it was learned he was a subject in an investigation into illegal gambling.
Notes: The Mets will offer LHP Pedro Feliciano arbitration. … Alderson said he will talk to Minaya about possibly staying with the organization.
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