Word leaked out yesterday that the Mets will hire Terry Collins to be their next manager, and now a good subsection of the fanbase is furious.
If I had to guess, I’d say all the angry fans fall somewhere on a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles.
In the first circle are the straight-up haters. These are the particularly bizarre fans that will lash out at just about any decision the team makes, no matter how large or small. They are the frustrating — and frustrated — fatalists, certain that the Mets are irreparably broken and no new front-office or roster overhaul will ever make any difference. I suspect some of them may be masochists and take odd pleasure in watching their team struggle.
The second circle is for the irascible Backman lobby. These fans, wooed by the media, by nostalgia or by Wally Backman himself, are certain that Backman — and no one but Backman — should be the Mets’ manager for now and forever, warts and inexperience be damned.
The third and perhaps largest circle belongs to a more reasonable set: The fans who doubt Collins’ ability to helm a Major League team based on his past failures with the Astros and Angels, most notably the miserable turn in 1999 when Mo Vaughn and his teammates in Anaheim petitioned upper management to have Collins relieved of duty.
Sometimes I get fired up over what I think are bad decisions, or the perpetuation of what I believe are fallacies or just dumb ideas. In this particular case, though — even after reading the reactions of the Mets fans who seem so incredibly mad — I find it difficult to muster up any emotion at all. Perhaps some entertained bewilderment about how people could get so angry over what will likely be an innocuous but informed decision made by reasonable men to fill an overrated position.
It’s not that I don’t harbor any doubts about Collins, either. It’s just that the almost unbelievable gusto with which some fans are decrying the decision, for whatever reason, leaves me feeling numb.
But if I could gather those angry fans and somehow prevent them from rioting long enough to talk to them, I’d probably ask this: Do you believe that people can change?
And that’s not a rhetorical question. I’m actually curious. Tons of people seem willing to argue otherwise based on old maxims — “A leopard can’t change his stripes” — as if just because something has been stated a billion times it must be true.
The fatalists, by definition, likely believe people cannot change, so they think Jeff Wilpon will never improve in his role as Mets’ COO, Sandy Alderson will still look for juiced-up players capable of smashing 50+ homers and Terry Collins will inevitably alienate the clubhouse with his alpha-male attitude. I don’t think I’ll be able to convince those people otherwise, so if by some chance you’ve found you’re way here and you’re one of them, please click away. I appreciate the traffic, but there’s nothing for you here. Try to enjoy your weird life.
The Backmanites and the reasonable doubters, though, must at least be open to the idea. After all, one of the main tenets of the Backman Lobby stated that Backman not only has changed from the man whose legal and financial troubles lost him a managerial position in Arizona, but would be willing to change again to fall in line with Alderson’s presumed organizational philosophy.
And if your doubts are only the reasonable ones, and you consider yourself to be a reasonable person, I follow up: Do you try to change? Do you work out to get in better shape, or read to learn more about the world, or consider your mistakes to avoid repeating them?
I sure do. Maybe I’m just self-conscious, and maybe my efforts to better myself are in vain and pathetic. But to me it seems downright arrogant, stubborn and small-minded to think, “well, this is how I am and the way I came out of the womb. If people don’t like it, so be it.”
Maybe Terry Collins thinks that way. I don’t know. I had one ten-minute conversation with the man and he really didn’t seem like it, but one ten-minute conversation is probably not the best way to judge a man’s character. Maybe he’ll take command of the Mets and repeat all the mistakes of his past. Maybe he learned nothing from his stints in Houston and Anaheim and his DUI arrest in 2002.
I’m not arguing, of course, that someone’s history should be entirely ignored when considering him for a job. That’d be crazy, like penciling in Jeff Francoeur for right field in 2011 and thinking, “hey, maybe he’s different now; maybe he learned to lay off bad pitches.” You, me, Terry Collins, Jeff Francoeur, we face uphill battles when we try to change our most deeply ingrained ways.
But I think, with an open mind and dedication, we can. And I would hope that if Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi and John Ricco sat down with Collins for multiple hour-long interviews, they asked him if he learned from his prior stints and left satisfied that he did.
‘Thou mayest!’ Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win. … It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice!