So that’s it, huh?
After 567 regular-season games at Citi Field, eight more in the playoffs, and seven years of loyal service under the Flushing Big Top, Terry Collins managed what was almost certainly his final one wearing a Mets uniform Wednesday night.
With zero public acknowledgement. Nothing in the way of visible appreciation or even a nice montage on the centerfield video screen.
Sandy Alderson did appear for a pregame ceremony behind the plate, along with Noah Syndergaard, but that was to honor the Mets’ employees of the year. The parking lot attendants, the ballpark ushers, the ticket takers.
Each of them got a handshake and a pat on the back from Alderson. For Collins, however, there has been only silence, this awkward dangling sensation as everyone waits for the clock to run out on his Mets career, which is expected to end Monday with a news conference at Citi.
Why did this happen? How did the Mets allow the longest-tenured manager in franchise history to exit this building — his baseball home since 2011 — without some public display of affection? Would that have been so impossible?
A few fans tried to get a “Ter-ry Col-lins” chant going in the ninth inning but it quickly fizzled, like a match trying to ignite a wet tree branch. As for Collins himself, he claimed to be unfazed by his Citi finale, despite his looming departure.
“I’m not a guy that gets caught up in my stuff,” Collins said afterward.
This season has been been excruciatingly painful for a while now — emotionally for the fans, physically for many of the players — and a victory lap for Collins during the last homestand could have provided some feel-good closure if they had made an earlier announcement.
The Mets are 69-90. Collins is in the final year of his contract. He’s 68. The roster is turning over and the franchise clearly requires a reboot. It’s not like Alderson has to huddle with the Wilpons Sunday night after the season finale in Philadelphia and discuss Collins’ fate. They’ve probably known what needs to be done for quite some time — and Collins is smart enough to realize where this was likely headed as both the injuries and losses snowballed.
When it was brought up that Wednesday’s game could be his last at Citi Field, Collins laughed uncomfortably, and mentioned something about his attention being on the young players. “That’s where my focus is,” Collins said.
Two months ago, maybe. Now? No chance. Collins, like everyone else, imagined a very different ending to this baseball year, perhaps one with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. He already had delivered the Mets to a World Series, their first in 15 years, so the belief was that Collins could do it again with the ’17 roster. The expectations were Everest-high.
And that’s what made the spectacular flop so much harder to stomach, even if the blame should be mostly pinned on the string of medical catastrophes. After all that, there wasn’t going to be an easy resolution for Collins — compounded by the fact the Mets are pros at turning a delicate situation into a dumpster fire.
Look at their recent history of managerial breakups.
In 2004, they fired Art Howe (137-186) midway through a four-year contract, but leaked the info two weeks before the end of that second season, and Howe took them up on the offer to stay on as a dead-man-walking until the finish.
For Willie Randolph, who got the Mets to within one inning of a World Series, they allowed him to fly cross-country to L.A., beat the Angels, then fire him after the victory in the middle of the night -- notifying the media with an email sent at 3:14 a.m. in New York. His replacement, Jerry Manuel, was kept in the dark until he was fired the morning after the 2010 season finale.
Which brings us to Collins, the most successful of this bunch, an everyman manager who got as emotional about the Mets as any longtime fan, and often acted as a human shield for the franchise when the bullets started flying.
Collins never ducked. And he deserved to leave Citi Field Wednesday night with his head held high.