Terry Collins perfect guy to manage these Mets

Terry Collins of the New York Mets walks

Terry Collins of the New York Mets walks through the dugout after he was ejected from the game in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals. (April 11, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Mark Herrmann

Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988,

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The Mets sure don't get cheated on their swings. The emotional swings, that is. They can experience a month's worth of ups and downs in an inning and they can do that two days in a row, which in fact they just did.

When things get all jumbled, unjumbled and rejumbled, it is up to the manager to keep things simple and sensible. So Terry Collins has one simple rule: "Make sure we come into this ballpark each and every day with the exact same frame of mind."

In the words of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the rookie centerfielder who had a solid week and a really eventful afternoon Saturday, "Easier said than done."

But the Mets are good at doing that, as they no doubt will prove again today after the stunning victory that followed an excruciating loss. That is the way it is going to go for a young team that isn't tremendously talented but isn't so bad, either. That is why Collins is just the right guy for the job, and why the job is just right for Collins.

He has been in pro ball since he was a Class A rookie in 1971 and has seen plenty. He knows that when you have been out of major-league managing for 10 years or more, you don't get to pick and choose your next gig unless you're Bobby Valentine.

Collins knew he was going to have his hands full when he became manager of the Mets and he knew he was going to have to loosen up.

So far, he has done that.

Collins is not the same Type-A personality that earned him success and got him fired in both Houston and Anaheim. In the latter job, he once earned an admiring complaint from George Steinbrenner that the Angels were making the Yankees look bad.

Now in his second year with the Mets, Collins has learned how to be both a sparkplug and a shock absorber at the same time. He is patient enough to put up with mistakes -- eight starters Saturday came up through the Mets' system, and many of them aren't too far removed from the minors -- and demanding enough to make them grow.

"He's so into the game, he's so passionate. But at the same time, he's so positive," Nieuwenhuis said. "I think that's something that not too many guys have in baseball. He just brings it every day."

Collins pointedly refused to criticize Nieuwenhuis Saturday for ruining a perfectly good finish by misplaying an easy pop and turning a sure final out into a tying two-run double. In the same postgame news conference, though, he admitted that the Mets had a lot of baserunning mistakes. "Just not very good," he said. (Ike Davis got picked off first and David Wright was thrown out trying to steal third in the eighth, robbing the Mets of a chance for a blowout.)

The man knows how to pick his spots. He knows his audience, unlike Valentine, who didn't realize you can't criticize Kevin Youkilis the way you did Todd Hundley.

Things worked out for the Mets Saturday. Despite their miscues and regardless of losing a tough one Friday night, they beat the Giants, 5-4. Credit the mental toughness built by Collins and his staff. "It's a big vicious wheel," Josh Thole said, and he meant it as a compliment.

"He knows when to push, he knows when to pull, he knows when to sit back. It's fun playing for him," said Bobby Parnell, a flame-throwing reliever whose career is, shall we say, a work in progress. "He has been very patient with me. He has given me time to grow and learn."

Will Collins last until the Mets are real contenders again? Tough to say. For now, it sure looks as though they are better off than they would be if he weren't here. He is the right man for a tough job.