PHILADELPHIA — Terry Collins, the longest-tenured manager in Mets history, announced after Sunday’s season finale that he will not return to that role next season. However, the 68-year-old will stay within the organization in a role that has yet to be defined, though it could involve work in player development.
The hasty agreement ends not only his seven-year stay as Mets manager but also brings resolution to what was increasingly becoming a messy breakup.
“It’s been a blast,” Collins said following the Mets’ 11-0 loss to the Phillies. “But it’s time.”
Collins indicated no plans for retirement from baseball and recently had expressed a desire to remain with the Mets, who sources said were ready to move on. According to general manager Sandy Alderson, Collins came to believe that ceding the manager’s office was the right move during this season-ending series in Philadelphia.
“I agreed with him, I thought this was a time for change,” said Alderson, who for the first time acknowledged that he will sign a new deal to remain with the Mets. “Change is difficult but it comes with baseball. Terry’s a baseball man. He will be until the day he dies. The fact that he’s leaving this job won’t change that. He’ll continue to be an asset to the organization.”
Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement through a team spokesman: “I spoke to Terry today and told him I appreciated his seven years of service and that I was happy he would still be a part of our organization going forward,”
On Friday, Newsday detailed dysfunction within the organization, which included strained relationships between Collins, some of his players, and the front office.
Some of the acrimony stemmed from various attempts to dismiss Collins, efforts that were regularly thwarted by team owner Fred Wilpon, sources said. Even when Alderson and Jeff Wilpon advocated for a move, the elder Wilpon intervened.
But Sunday, an emotional Collins thanked all three for giving him an opportunity. He insisted that the Wilpons remained in his corner through the years, despite reports of discord during his tenure. Alderson called Collins’ tenure a “great run” that coincided with the franchise’s “rebirth.”
“This is a sour taste, there’s no question about it,” Collins said of the season. “We certainly had bigger plans than what occurred. But there’s some things you’ve got to be able to do and right now, I think this is best for the organization and I’m a team guy, I’ll always be a team guy. I’m a team player.”
Collins finished 551-583 as the Mets’ skipper after his hiring late in 2010. It was a third chance for Collins, who lost previous managerial jobs with the Astros (1994-96) and Angels (1997-99) partly because of player unrest.
With the Mets, Collins helped bring stability during the early stages of a tear-down. His first winning season in New York didn’t come until his fifth year, in 2015, when the Mets reached the World Series. The Mets followed by getting to the NL wild-card game in 2016.
This year, the Mets entered this season with grand expectations but faltered beneath the weight of injuries, finishing 70-92. It was their first 90-loss season since going 70-92 in 2009.
Sources told Newsday that players groused about communication issues as the season went sideways. In his farewell address, in the crowded visiting manager’s office, Collins admitted that the losing took a toll.
“There was a time this summer when I said gee, I’m not sure I can keep doing this,” Collins said, his voice cracking with emotion. “I care, I care about the team. And it was getting tough. They kept falling down and so did I.”
Alderson said he and Collins discussed the future less than two weeks ago during a road trip in Miami. They agreed to continue the dialogue. But no agreement was reached until during the final weekend of the season, which did not allow Collins to receive a send-off at Citi Field.
Before the regular-season finale, Collins informed the team of the resolution.
“There’s a lot of emotion that is attached to that and it’s sad to see,” said Noah Syndergaard, who like many in the clubhouse, counted Collins as his first big-league manager. “I’m kind of hurting for him.”
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud praised Collins for sticking by him through hard times.
“He’s done nothing but great things for me,” he said.
Now, the Mets will begin a search for Collins’ replacement. Team officials already had begun doing legwork on a wide-ranging list of candidates, which includes current hitting coach Kevin Long, former coaches Bob Geren and Chip Hale, and former Mets player Robin Ventura, among others.
“I’m a baseball guy,” Collins said when asked about the hardest part of stepping away. “There’s only 30 of these [jobs]. They’re hard to get and they’re hard to keep. So to be here for seven years is pretty cool.”