Mets in the market for a new manager after 2017 debacle
By MIKE FITZPATRICK
Five months later, the New York Mets are in the market for a manager.
A season that started with such promise finally crawled to its merciful end Sunday when the depleted and diminished Mets - fittingly - were routed 11-0 by last-place Philadelphia. Moments after the game ended, an emotional Terry Collins confirmed he was stepping down as skipper and accepting a job in the front office.
"We need to make a change in direction," general manager Sandy Alderson said.
Just two years ago, Collins managed the Mets to an NL East title and their first World Series berth since 2000. They followed that up by overcoming a string of critical injuries to earn a 2016 wild card.
With almost the entire roster returning, expectations were high. Surely, the Mets would have better luck when it came to health.
Somehow, things only got worse.
Another wave of long-term injuries to top players, beginning early with Syndergaard, Cespedes and closer Jeurys Familia, made it difficult to erase a 16-23 start. Once again, nearly every regular spent time on the disabled list. The thin bullpen got worn down quickly and one of baseball's best pitching staffs over the past few years completely unraveled, compiling a 5.01 ERA that ranked 28th out of 30 major league teams.
Jacob deGrom (15-10, 3.53 ERA, 239 strikeouts) was a rock, but the rest of New York's vaunted rotation fell apart. Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler all struggled badly and got hurt again. Fill-ins Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo were inconsistent.
"I think we have more in us," Alderson said. "Our starting pitching has to come back."
With the club out of contention, Alderson traded away several veterans who can become free agents this offseason. By mid-to-late August, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed and Neil Walker had been shipped off in exchange for minor leaguers as the Mets trimmed payroll and tried to acquire some young, power arms to boost their future bullpen.
Practically fielding a Triple-A lineup at times down the stretch, the Mets (70-92) stumbled to their worst season this decade and a fourth-place finish that left them 27 games behind division champion Washington.
Only five clubs had a record that was worse, and those back-to-back playoff appearances feel like a long time ago.
"It was getting tough," Collins said. "They kept falling down and so did I."
In the final days of the season, things turned especially ugly with anonymously sourced reports that detailed sniping by players and friction between Collins and the front office.
On and off the field, it was a total mess.
"I think that Terry Collins has the hardest job second to being the President of the United States," Syndergaard said.
The 68-year-old Collins, who was the eldest manager in the majors, spent seven seasons at the helm - the longest tenure in team history. His contract was set to expire after the season.
Now, he'll try to help New York build a winner again, in some other capacity that hasn't been formalized yet.
"We had a great run," Collins said. "I certainly think this is what's best for the organization."
Here are some major issues on deck for the Mets:
Alderson's contract also is up, but the GM said he expects to return. It sounds as though he'd like a manager more influenced by modern analytics than Collins. Robin Ventura, Alex Cora, Bob Geren, Chip Hale and Mets hitting coach Kevin Long have been mentioned as potential candidates. All have previous ties to the team. "Experience is a positive. It may be outweighed by other positives if that experience doesn't exist," Alderson said.
In addition to hiring a new manager, the Mets could overhaul their coaching staff. Popular pitching coach Dan Warthen, who predates even Collins' arrival, is expected to be let go. "I think he's being blamed for all the injuries this year and I think they are looking in the wrong direction," said Syndergaard, who threw only 30 1/3 innings because of a torn lat muscle. "I want him to be my pitching coach for the remainder of my career."
HOLES TO FILL
With injured captain David Wright still attempting a comeback, the Mets need a plan at third base. Maybe they keep switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera, who has an $8.5 million club option with a $2 million buyout. Second base and center field also are question marks. The bullpen needs an upgrade, and Alderson could pursue a durable starting pitcher as well. New York can only hope that Cespedes (hamstring) and fellow slugger Michael Conforto (shoulder surgery) come back healthy in the outfield. A pair of touted young prospects, shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith, had trouble at the plate after being promoted from Triple-A in August. The good news is at least $65 million comes off the 2016 payroll. "We probably need another bat or two. But I'm excited to see what's going to be out there for us," Alderson said.
AP freelance writer Kevin Cooney in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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Updated October 2, 2017