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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

If this was plan, why did Mets allow Terry Collins to twist in the wind?

Manager Terry Collins of the Mets looks on

Manager Terry Collins of the Mets looks on prior to a game against the Yankees at Citi Field on Aug. 17, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The end for Terry Collins came Sunday in the visitors clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, his voice cracking, the tears leaking through. Semantics aside, the Mets didn’t want TC to be their manager anymore, and it doesn’t matter how the front office chose to frame the exit strategy.

Collins took one for the team, the good soldier right down to the final minute of his seven-year tenure, the longest in franchise history. But in typical Mets’ fashion, nobody could get the language quite right, even after what had to be some coaching by principal owner Fred Wilpon and his COO son, Jeff, during a conversation with Collins earlier in the day.

“I wouldn’t say I’m resigning,” Collins said. “I’m stepping down for sure.”

With all due respect to Collins, who in our view performed admirably as Mets’ manager, there was nothing left to resign or step down from. His contract was up, and whether it expired now or Oct. 31, Collins was finished, for all practical purposes, as soon as Gavin Cecchini grounded out to end Sunday’s 11-0 loss to the Phillies.

If this truly was the plan all along, then why did the Mets wait for the season’s final out and allow Collins to twist in the wind for weeks? GM Sandy Alderson revealed Sunday that he spoke with Collins about calling it quits as far back as the Mets’ trip to Miami, nearly two weeks ago, and yet this miserable dance continued, right through any chance to honor Collins at Citi Field during the final homestand.

Alderson was effusive Sunday in his praise for Collins, going as far as to say that “his tenure coincided with the rebirth of the Mets’ organization.” We don’t disagree, but the team’s behavior recently, in regards to Collins, didn’t reflect any special appreciation. There were a number of people within the Mets’ ranks that cast an unflattering portrayal of Collins, as detailed in reporting by Newsday’s Marc Carig, and Alderson declined to make any public effort to refute those claims.

All of that created a bizarre postscript to a terribly disappointing season, and Collins was the made-to-order fall guy, the perfect patsy to cover up for problems that run deeper than the manager’s office. Obviously, Collins didn’t build the 2017 roster, nor was he responsible for the questionable medical care of players that tumbled like dominoes.

But someone had to go — or at least be bumped upstairs, which is how the Mets described Collins’ undetermined front-office role, evidently a consolation prize for his seven years of loyal service. Collins nearly broke down Sunday recalling a period of self-doubt earlier in the season — “I don’t know if I can keep doing this,” he wondered — but Alderson later cut through the emotion with his own cold analysis of the situation.

“I just think he expressed a concern about moving forward,” Alderson said. “And from our standpoint, we’re at the end of a seven-year run, and we need to make a change in direction.”

In GM-speak, that meant new manager. Alderson wasn’t shy about driving that point home, and by now, it certainly didn’t come as a shock to anyone. But tossing out Terry is not going to be some magical cure-all for a franchise with a potentially elite rotation that can never stay healthy and a talent deficit at a number of spots on the field. We’ll also throw in a serious leadership void, considering that David Wright, the team’s captain, is dealing with career-threatening back and shoulder issues that have kept him away from Flushing.

Two years removed from the World Series, the Mets have returned to a state of disarray after a 92-loss season. It feels like their default position. Maybe not as messed-up as when Alderson took over during the 2010 winter, but the franchise badly needs another image makeover, as well as a new manager. Alderson’s contract is up, too. But unlike Collins, the GM let slip that Sunday that he “expects to be back” in the same role.

“I personally take a lot of responsibility for unmet expectations,” Alderson said. “I’m happy to have the opportunity to try to correct that.”

Dismissing Collins was Step One of that correction, in Alderson’s plan. Don’t let the Mets tell you otherwise.

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