Gonzalez, Collins weathering job situations
Braves, Mets managers on last year of contracts, but both appreciate time they've had
NEW YORK -- Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves and Terry Collins of the Mets are managers under pressure to perform.
Despite both their teams having played way above expectations in the National League East thus far this season, they are both working on the last year of their contracts. Their future beyond the last game of 2015 is, at best, murky.
Both men say they have yet to talk contract extension with their respective general managers -- John Hart of the Braves and Sandy Alderson of the Mets. Both say there are still under evaluation and wouldn't have it any other way. Both have the kind of experience and disposition to weather the pressure inherent in their unique situations.
"It's not even on my mind. I'm the oldest manager [at 66], so it shouldn't even be on my mind," Collins told MLB.com on Friday night prior to his Mets playing the Braves at Citi Field. "Waking up tomorrow should be the only thing on my mind."
"I handle it the same way as always," Gonzalez said in a one-on-one interview. "I come in, do my job, and I don't even worry about that kind of stuff. I've been lucky enough. I didn't think I'd even have one chance to manage in the big leagues, but I've had two, and now I've gotten in nine years. I do my job to the best of my capabilities, and let's see what happens."
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Braves as they prepare to move into a new suburban Atlanta ballpark in time for the 2017 season. Hart traded away such stalwarts as Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Melvin Upton Jr. and Jason Heyward, yet the Braves went into action on Friday night in third place, and at 29-31 are only 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets.
The Mets, despite a plethora of injuries, have played nip and tuck with the Nationals, having fallen no further than three games out of first all season. And even that was on April 11. They've been as many as four games up.
Given those surprising team performances thus far, by all rights both men should have their respective jobs for at least next season and perhaps well beyond.
Gonzalez said he isn't stressing about that. He had two goals when he took over the Braves in 2011 from the just-retired and now Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox. It was his second gig as a manager, having just been released after four years with the Marlins.
"When I was going in, my goals were to make sure my kids got through school and that I owned my own house," he said. "And I've done both. Everything from here on in is just gravy."
When Collins took over the Mets, also in 2011, it had been 12 years since he last managed in the big leagues, his tenure with the Angels having ended before the 1999 season had concluded. Collins said the goal this time around was to enjoy himself. Collins also managed in Japan during his time between Major League jobs, which was more than a decade.
"I look at it completely different," said Collins, who also managed the Astros for three years just before embarking on those nearly three seasons in Anaheim. "In fact, when I got this job, I told my wife that I was going to enjoy this, that I was going to have some fun with it.
"The first jobs were about trying to show everybody you deserve it, that you're good enough. All those things we strive to try to do. Not with this with one. I don't have to apologize to anyone."
Gonzalez said his last chat about the future was during Spring Training with Hart, who took over for Fran Wren as president of baseball operations after last season. Hart was a consultant in the organization before that, and Gonzalez said he and Hart work well together.
The Braves have had some success under Gonzalez and have been to the postseason twice, losing a Wild Card Playoff Game in 2012 to the Cardinals, and in '13 a National League Division Series in four games to the Dodgers. Last year's 79-83 finish was his only sub-.500 season.
"In all my years, and I told this to John, I've never had it so good between a manager and general manager, never had a better relationship," Gonzalez said. "A couple of times he's come in and said, 'Hey, it's your call. What do you want to do? It's your team.' And that's good. We get judged for winning or losing, for getting into the playoffs. I'm fine with that."
Collins said his job situation hasn't come up with Alderson since last season. The Mets have yet to enjoy a .500 season during the Alderson-Collins tandem, coming closest at 79-83 in 2014. The two men have worked well together.
"When last year he told me he wanted me to come back, he said, 'You know, there's going to be a lot of discussions about it because you'll be on your last year,'" Collins recalled. "And I said, 'We'll worry about it when the season is over. A lot of things seem to take care of themselves.'
"I'm fine. I have no bills, and I'm happy as a lark. Do I want to do it? Absolutely. I love it. I have a blast doing it. These guys, these players keep you young."