David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
We're not sure who was supposed to be managing the Mets when they returned to the World Series, if ever. But Terry Collins, who will be rewarded Wednesday with a two-year extension? Nope. Didn't see that coming.
No, Collins was hired back in 2010 to see the rebuilding Mets through their transitional phase, sort of a custodian for the new general manager, Sandy Alderson. The franchise was going to be gutted of its aging, high-priced veterans, the payroll drastically reduced, and Collins, based on his familiarity with the lower rungs of the organization, would be well-suited to deal with the final stages of their development.
By the time those Mets reached maturity, and turned into actual major leaguers, Collins figured to be long gone, his Flushing career written off as collateral damage.StorySources: Collins, Mets agree to extensionVoteMets 2017: Keep 'em or dump 'em?StoryCollins is relaxed and rewarded with Mets in playoffs
But a funny thing happened along the way. Collins became one of the few things to like about those bad Mets teams, and piloted the franchise through the turbulent times with a grandfatherly patience. Those seasons were sprinkled with plenty of "Stinkins" and "Cripes" -- in addition to more colorful language -- but that was Collins' charm. Appearing on TV after every game, Collins wore the losses like you did at home, ticked off and cussing at anyone who would listen.
When the Mets played lousy, Collins was irritable. When they won, he beamed like a proud dad. But through it all, and we're including the dozens of off-field distractions, Collins didn't embarrass the franchise.
As the payroll declined, and the losses piled up, Collins had to answer for it every day, from spring training through September, which is as far as the Mets ever made it until this season. In the book, "Baseball Maverick," released in March, Alderson said last year that Collins had only a "51 percent chance" of returning in 2015.
Of all the decisions Alderson made, keeping Collins has to be among the best -- and it was hardly a slam dunk. The Mets looked so terrible in June, we were told a full-fledged Terry Watch was in effect.
But the 25-man roster continued to fight for him, despite being stocked with Campbells and Cecilianis and Monells, holding the line until Alderson came through with reinforcements. Collins also was saddled with juggling his young rotation's innings limits, a nightmare for a manager potentially on the hot seat.
Even with the makings of the stellar rotation that it eventually proved itself to be, the odds were against Collins wearing a Mets' uniform through Labor Day. Instead, he got his team past Halloween. And with a more favorable bounce or two, maybe the Mets would have been playing a Game 7 Wednesday night in Kansas City.
Unfortunately, the World Series wasn't Collins' shining moment. He'd probably be the first to admit he did a better job managing the first two rounds, excelling in the tactical part of the game -- something that had been hit or miss for him over the years, partly because of a transient roster.
And the way the World Series ended, well, Collins' most endearing quality also proved to be his undoing. If Collins was going to go down, then he'd do it by trusting his players too much, rather than shortchanging them. That's a manager people will rally around, and follow to a brighter future. They already have.
"I just told the players, I've done this for a long, long time, and this is the most fun I've ever had," Collins said after a heartbreaking Game 5. "I'm very, very proud of them. You guys know, in March or June, no one would ever have said we were going to be sitting where we are today."
No chance. The same goes for Wednesday at Citi Field, where the manager will sit alongside Alderson, trying to map out a plan that gets the Mets back to the World Series. And farther than we ever imagined for Collins, a Mr. Met now in every way -- except the big head.