SAN FRANCISCO — In the seclusion of the manager’s office at Citi Field, only one man can hear the crash of desk drawers, or the rattle of any other object with the misfortune of being within arm’s reach. During a second-half swoon that has dragged his job security into the public discourse, Terry Collins has granted himself moments of rage.
“Even though the game is over, I go into my office and [expletive] throw [expletive],” Collins said during a quiet moment in the clubhouse during the weekend. “They don’t see it. I slam the [expletive] drawers. They don’t hear that, either.”
The Zen of Terry Collins, or the myth of such a thing, has taken on a life of its own in recent years. The story has become nearly as well-worn as the baseball lifer himself.
He’s been there before
He once was lost, a fiery, short-tempered relic of a bygone era of managerial tyrants, until he was humbled by two high-profile meltdowns. Given a third chance after a long exile, he found relative peace in his time with the Mets.
This general outline is the truth, though greatly oversimplified. For it is also true that Collins, 67, remains at his core the overlooked minor-league second baseman who detests losing. So drawers and personal effects pay the price.
But those fleeting vent sessions, always out of view of his players, are the closest he’s come to a meltdown that once would have been inevitable.
“I resigned the last time it happened,” Collins said, recalling a team under his watch that crumbled under expectations.
Those 1999 Angels became a cautionary tale, crushed by injuries and a toxic clubhouse culture that Collins allowed to fester. With the team in the dumps, he gave up his post during a tearful news conference.
“We had the issues in the clubhouse in Anaheim because I pushed and pushed and pushed,” Collins said. “So we had some guys who weren’t playing real good. Of course, we had some guys out. And when it came to crunch time, I pushed. This time, it’s a little different.”
These Mets aren’t those Angels, though times are not happy. The Mets (62-62) are 4 1⁄2 games behind the Cardinals, who hold the National League’s second wild card, and have only 38 games remaining.
Through his tenure with the Mets, Collins has made a habit of saying that his players are “not naive” to perception. Neither is the manager, who has reached the point of openly acknowledging the uncertainty hovering over his future.
“If I’m back — and hopefully I am — I’ll go after it the same way,” Collins said of fulfilling the final year of his contract. “And if I’m not, I will say thanks a million for the fun, great relationships, and I’m going to walk away with a smile on my face . . . I’ve got no [complaints] about anything. I’ve been blessed.”
Terry wants to stay
The Mets have passed the point of a managerial shake-up for the sake of sparking a second-half run. Last week, general manager Sandy Alderson said there were no plans to make an in-season change.
But if the Mets miss the playoffs — which statistically is the most likely outcome — Collins’ contract status would make it easy to cut ties with the manager after six years.
Either way, Collins insists he’s at peace, though there is no ambiguity about his preference. He wants to stay.
“The support I’ve had here, even before last year, tells me all I need to know about the people that are running this organization,” Collins said. “We had some tough years. They could have easily said, ‘Look, we’re going to get a different voice here.’ They didn’t.”
After more than four decades in baseball, Collins reached the World Series for the first time last season, leading the Mets to their first pennant since 2000. It was a reward for enduring five losing seasons.
“It paid off last year,” Collins said. “Look, I’m the same guy as last year, trying to make the same decisions. Some work, some don’t. You get criticized for the ones that don’t work. The ones that do, you’re happy about them. At the end of this year, I’m gonna tell you, I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t win because we had such high expectations. We have a good team. I can’t do anything about injuries. I can’t do anything about that. All’s I can do is focus on what’s next.”
For the Mets, that’s a three-game series beginning Tuesday night against the Cardinals.
Collins may not be warm and fuzzy, but he’s learned that if the Mets turn things around, it won’t be because he pushed harder.
His office at Citi Field, tucked far from the lockers, grants him enough privacy to vent. But the visiting manager’s office is well within earshot of the clubhouse in St. Louis, granting him no leeway. So if the Mets lose, he won’t be throwing his belongings or slamming desk drawers.
At least not there.
“I do different things now,” Collins said. “You know, it might be the fact that I’m older and it takes too much to get that angry. It just eats up too much energy.”