His ouster isn't official yet, but according to the New York Post's Mike Puma, Terry Collins won't be asked to return as manager of the Mets in 2018. He’ll join Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who is managing his final three games as the Detroit manager, and change may be afoot elsewhere within MLB. Indeed, after a season that lacked a single mid-year change, it's time for the managerial merry-go-round to spin once again.
Collins is the majors' oldest manager (68 as of May 27, which makes him 19 days older than the Nationals' Dusty Baker) and the longest-tenured manager in Mets history. Hired in November 2010 after Jerry Manuel was fired in the wake of a 79–83 season, Collins had served as the organization's minor league field coordinator that year. He hadn't managed in the majors since September 1999, when he resigned as manager of the Angels, who were 51–82 at the time.
Indeed, Collins' managerial track record prior to taking the Mets job was a spotty one. The Astros finished above .500 in each of his three seasons at the helm (1994–96), but the team squandered playoff spots in both '95 and '96 due to late-season slides, and the same thing happened in Anaheim in both ’97 and '98. In the latter season, the team was tied for first in the AL West with a week to go but went just 2–5. In those four seasons combined, Collins' teams went 44–58 (.431) after August 31, compared to 207–177 (.539) prior. Collins' high-intensity style—which Hall of Famer Joe Morgan described as "so uptight, his players thought each pitch was life-or-death"—did not wear well with his players. Amid an injury-wracked season that featured players ripping each other publicly, a group went to general manager Bill Bavasi to object to the possibility of Collins receiving a contract extension; he resigned two days later.
After spending time as a scout, instructor, coach, manager in Japan (Orix Buffaloes 2007-08), China (2009 World Baseball Classic) and even Duluth, Minn. (in the summer collegiate Northwoods League in '09), Collins was chosen for the Mets' managerial post by incoming general manager Sandy Alderson over the popular Wally Backman (an ex-Met then managing their A-level Brooklyn Cyclones affiliate), Bob Melvin and Chip Hale, all of whom also received second interviews. Mets assistant GM Paul DePodesta had been on track to hire Collins to manage the Dodgers when he himself was ousted from the GM post in October 2005.
Collins rode out four sub-.500 seasons as the Mets' payroll shrunk from $142.8 million on Opening Day 2010 to $85.0 million in '14 (via Cot's Contracts) after ownership's entanglement in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Stars Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes departed in 2011, and after winning the NL Cy Young in 2012, R.A. Dickey was dealt to Toronto.
Things changed in in 2015. Augmented by mid-market free agents Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson plus the midseason acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, a nucleus of young pitchers—the homegrown Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, plus Noah Syndergaard, who had been acquired in the Dickey deal—carried the team to 90 wins and the NL East title, the teams' first playoff appearance since 2006. Series upsets against the 92-win Dodgers and 97-win Cubs yielded the Mets’ first pennant since 2000. The World Series against the Royals was tight, but the Mets fell in five games. In Game 5, Collins let Harvey talk him into pitching the ninth inning, which led to the Royals' game-tying rally and a series-clinching victory in 12 innings. Collins assumed blame after the decision backfired, but as with his ongoing agony over Johan Santana's struggles following his 2012 no-hitter, he showed a very human, vulnerable side of himself that contrasted with his old image as a micro-manager.
Despite myriad injuries to the rotation, most notably Harvey's season-ending bout of thoracic outlet syndrome, Collins steered the Mets to 87 wins and the top wild card seed in 2016, but the team lost the one-game playoff to the Giants. This year's team has been beset by even more injuries, most notably the losses of Syndergaard, Cespedes, closer Jeurys Familia and the increasingly ineffective Harvey and Steven Matz. Only in June did the Mets even post a monthly .500 record, and beginning in late July, Alderson dealt pending free agents Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. At 69–90, the Mets have the league's fourth-worst record and are fourth in the NL East.
With the two-year extension Collins signed in November 2015 expiring, and with next year's roster likely to look markedly different from the one that left the gate this year, it appears that Alderson has decided it's time for a change. In the wake of the injuries and the staff's 5.01 ERA, pitching coach Dan Warthen, whose signature hard slider is credited with keying the breakthroughs of deGrom, Familia, Harvey, Matz, Syndergaard and others, will likely be shown the door as well according to Puma. The 64-year-old Warthen predates Collins, having assumed his role in June 2008 under manager Willie Randolph, after Rick Peterson was fired.
Regarding Collins’s potential replacements, Puma has listed current Mets hitting coach Kevin Long along with a handful of candidates with previous ties to the organization: Hale (currently the A's third base coach), Alex Cora (currently the Astros' bench coach), Bob Geren (currently the Dodgers' bench coach), Joe McEwing (currently the White Sox bench coach) and Robin Ventura (former White Sox manager). Cora, McEwing and Ventura played for the Mets while Geren and Hale served as coaches. FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman went 12 deep in his list, mentioning not only the aforementioned candidates but also former Mets infielder and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire (now the Diamondbacks' bench coach), former Met Todd Zeile, and longtime big league catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., who served as the Mets’ catching instructor in 2008-09 and briefly managed the Indians in late 2012.
Here is a look at some of the other managerial situations currently in flux.
On Friday, executive vice president/general manager Al Avila announced that the team won't renew the contract of Ausmus, who had previously said he didn't expect to return. A catcher for 18 years in the majors (1993–2010), Ausmus took over for the retired Jim Leyland and guided the Tigers to 90 wins and their fourth consecutive AL Central title in 2014, his first year on the job. Since then, however, the team has suffered two losing seasons out of three, as age and injuries have caught up to an expensive core. In 2016, the Tigers remained in the AL wild card hunt until the season's final weekend last year, when they won 86 games.
Last winter, Avila announced that the Tigers were entering a rebuilding phase and thus needed to shed payroll, but did little besides trading Cameron Maybin and avoiding the free agent market. It wasn't until this year's squad faded from a 29–29 start that Avila got busy, trading away J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila (son of the GM), Justin Upton and Justin Verlander, the last two on August 31. With a 4–22 September, the Tigers have hit rock bottom, and now own the league's worst record at 62–96; they could "surpass" the Giants (62–97) and claim the overall number one pick in next year's draft. For his four seasons, the 48-year-old Ausmus has a 312–330 record and a .486 winning percentage.
Who might replace Ausmus? According to MLB.com's Jason Beck, Avila said that any of the team's current coaches who wants to be considered for the job would be. That group includes hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who managed in Pittsburgh and Seattle, and first base and infield coach Omar Vizquel, who managed Venezuela in this year's World Baseball Classic. Beck also listed Cora, who has never managed, former Marlins manager Mike Redmond (currently the Rockies' bench coach), former Tigers player and minor league manager Phil Nevin (currently the Giants third base coach), former Marlins and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, and former White Sox and Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. The Detroit News' Lynn Henning added Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez and first base coach Brandon Hyde, former Astros manager Bo Porter (now a Braves special assistant), Braves first base coach Eddie Perez, Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale, and Cardinals special assistant Jose Oquendo to the list of candidates.
Brian Snitker, who took over for the fired Gonzalez in May 2016, is on a one-year contract, and his status for 2018 is unclear. A longtime minor league manager who took over after the Braves started last year 9–28, Snitker guided the rebuilding Braves to a 59–65 record the rest of the way. That may have inflated expectations coming into this year, and the team was 45–45 through July 16, but has since posted a league-worst 26–42 record for a 71–87 mark overall. General manager John Coppolella said last week that "”[President of baseball operations] John Hart and I are going to talk things through,” regarding the timetable for renewing or dismissing Snitker, and the two men reportedly had an "upbeat and positive" meeting.
Snitker's handling of a fairly old roster has drawn complaints, and NL Rookie of the Year candidate Dansby Swanson struggled to the point of being demoted to Triple A. Even so, star Freddie Freeman and several of his teammates have reportedly told the front office they want Sniktker retained.
If the Braves do move on, it's been reported that they could stay in-house to offer the job to any one of a number of candidates whom Coppolella and Hart discussed the job with when Gonzalez was fired. That group includes Perez, Porter, bench coach (and former Braves star) Terry Pendleton and third base coach Ron Washington, who won two pennants in an eight-year run as the Rangers' manager. 2007–13.
As for other teams, the Phillies' Pete Mackanin has a contract for 2018 with an option for 2019 but has publicly wondered about his return. The 66-year-old Mackanin, who took over for Ryne Sandberg when he resigned on June 27, 2015, has a 172–237 (.421) record in 2 1/2 seasons at the helm. After going 71–91 last year, the team's first full season of rebuilding, they've slid to 64–95 thus far, though a 14–12 record in September has altered the tenor of the season.
UPDATE: On Friday, the Phillies fired Mackanin.
Meanwhile, the Marlins officially have new owners in Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, who were unanimously approvedby their fellow owners on Wednesday. Under normal circumstances, one might expect a managerial change, but the Marlins, who are currently 74–84, are currently piloted by another former Yankees icon, Don Mattingly, who's just completing the second year of a four-year contract. Jeter, a limited partner in charge of the business and baseball operations, has already weathered criticism for his curt, indirect dismissal of longtime special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Jack McKeon and Tony Perez, and it's difficult to imagine him enlarging the public relations hole he's already dug. Then again, with the franchise hemorrhaging money and likely to further trim payroll—possibly by trading iconic slugger Giancarlo Stanton—Mattingly may not want to stick around, and prior to coming to Miami, he talked his way out of the Dodgers’ managerial job after three straight division titles. Stay tuned.