Last night Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon was named the National League Manager of the Year for the 2015 season. Maddon and St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny were both deserving candidates, but Terry Collins of the New York Mets truly accomplished the most in 2015. Without taking anything away from the 2015 winner, it’s important to highlight Collins’ underappreciated accomplishments this year.
Every ballclub faces different highs and lows throughout a long season. It is a difficult task to judge the impact a manager has on the team’s success, but it is important to look at the whole body of work. Maddon put a lot of time into the Tampa Bay Rays organization for many seasons, just as Collins has ridden the recently tough results and criticism of the Mets’ past five seasons. Matheny and the Cardinals seem to turn everything they touch to gold. Having said that, seeing Collins finish third in the voting is disappointing and wrong.
Since 2011, the Collins-led Mets have ranged from 74 to 79 total wins per season. Although this is far from impressive, the Mets hardly put out an star-studded lineup day-to-day. Collins began his Mets career as a minor league field coordinator before being named manager in 2011. He has had no choice but to fill out the lineup card with average veteran players, mixed with unproven youth year after year.
Through those years, Collins has seen players such as Lucas Duda grow into a legitimate power threat and Wilmer Flores develop into an everyday middle infielder at the big-league level. Along with the growth of young players, Collins has been able to squeeze the most out of veterans the likes of John Buck, R.A. Dickey, Marlon Byrd and LaTroy Hawkins. That is no easy task with an ownership group cutting salary in the demanding New York market. Constant leaders like David Wright and Daniel Murphy have shared the ups and downs of the Mets, which made the 2015 season that much more satisfying. Winning 90 games and an NL East division title was highly unexpected from the squad arriving in Port St. Lucie in February.
Entering 2015, the Mets were expected to lean on young and mostly unproven pitchers. Although Matt Harvey had emerged as the “Dark Knight,” he was coming off Tommy John surgery. The bullpen was young and untested, lacking a surefire closer. The lineup had many of the usual suspects, with the addition of newcomer Michael Cuddyer. The offense would lean heavily on the captain, Wright, and Murphy.
However, after the first week, Wright was lost until September. The team experienced two starting pitchers beginning their careers, while Juan Lagares and Michael Cuddyer were experiencing down years. The injuries continued with Jon Niese and Travis d’Arnaud spending stints on the disabled list. Last year’s closer, Jenrry Mejia, was suspended for the season due to the use of performance enhancing supplements. Despite not meeting offseason expectations, the Mets managed to keep their heads above water through the first half. The second half called for reinforcements in the likes of Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard, and most importantly, Yoenis Cespedes.
The Mets were able to pass the World Series favorite Washington Nationals for the NL East lead. With a strong performance from the young pitching staff and Curtis Granderson, the Mets maintained the division lead. The division title marked the first title since 2006 when Wright was a young, starry-eyed third baseman. The playoff berth was earned with the growth of many prospects and veterans pulling their weight. Beyond the regular season, the Mets were able to beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the NLDS and then storm through Maddon’s Cubs in the NLCS with a dominant four-game sweep. Far from an easy task, this group grew under Collins’ leadership and guidance all the way to the World Series. Despite inning limits to his starters, especially Harvey, Collins controlled the New York media and kept the team focused on the task at hand.
Maddon and the Cubs took huge strides this year with a young, heavily talented group of players. The Cubs entered the season adding some help to the rotation in Jon Lester and the lineup in Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero. These substantial transactions only added to rising star Anthony Rizzo and All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro. The Cubs are on the rise along with their payroll. Maddon was no cheap addition to the Cubs organization either. With the hiring of Maddon came high expectations. Despite losing Maddon, the Tampa Bay Rays were able to improve from 77 to 80 wins. The two-time AL Manager of the Year was obviously missed in Tampa Bay, but the inexperienced Rays improved despite the change.
Matheny has been a spectacular manager since manning the bench in 2012. The Cardinals were, and still are an established, veteran club. Matheny deserves a large amount of credit for this team’s success in years past. The Cardinals have been able to overcome tragedy and injury, while posting 100 wins in the toughest division in baseball. However, this season was hardly a surprise and ended in a monumental disappointment, losing to the rival Cubs in the NLDS. Matheny is a great manager, but this was not the year for him to be recognized for it. In years to come, Matheny will have plenty of hardware to take home.
Terry Collins deserved the honor of this award in 2015, but will have to settle with a division title and National League pennant.