NEW YORK -- You will note and probably appreciate the talent of Lady Gaga if you can identify her under all that non-Halloween disguise. We understand she felt a need to cloak herself in outrageous garb to distinguish herself, because the unusual sells these days. As a society, we routinely embrace the new and different. Some of us go so far as to identify it as progress, even though different doesn't connote better.
Now, this is in no way to disparage Joe Maddon, his uncommon methods and all he has done to make the Cubs as compelling a baseball story as any we've seen in the last dozen seasons. His motivational skills are unquestioned. They have proven successful in St. Petersburg and, this year, on the shores of Lake Michigan. He afforded the Cubs a face lift before the renovations at Wrigley were complete. Maddon is inventive, clever, intriguing and quite likable. And he's not the National League Manager of the Year.
Hey, the man in the Mets' dugout may be the manager of the decade -- either league -- considering the challenges he and his soldiers overcame in six months of uneven performance.
A team's ability to deal with adversity isn't necessarily the most accurate means of measuring its manager's prowess. Success comes without adversity sometimes. The Mets of 1986 won 108 games and never were tripped. But reward for winning when expected isn't always given, though it too can be stressful and difficult in more subtle ways. Davey Johnson received little credit for a season in which his favored team equaled the best record in the National League in 109 years. Astros manager Hal Lanier was recognized.
But in this matter of Mets v. the rest of the NL, adversity ought to be considered, and in the matter of Collins, it ought to be a deciding factor in his favor.
Understand that the ballots cast by 30 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for the NL Manager of the Year Award are in, so these words do not constitute politicking at the polls. They are rather an explanation for this view of Collins, a man who isn't necessarily innovative. He is, though, candid -- in all situations when candor is permitted by the Mets' tight-lipped higher-ups -- sincere and quite likable, too.
Collins has been in charge of the Mets' resistance to the too many forms of interference that have stood in the perilously curved trail that began in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in March and has led to Chavez Ravine this weekend.
Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the thick air in Los Angeles are merely three more obstacles for Collins' kids. They may prove to be insurmountable for a decided underdog. But the NL Division Series follows the regular season, and the regular season is the platform for Collins' candidacy. The results of the NLDS games and how his team acquits have no bearing onto his candidature.
Consider the Mets were challenged before Opening Day arrived by the injury to -- and resulting in the season-long absence of -- Zack Wheeler, who was to be, at worst, the team's No. 3 starter. Jenrry Mejia missed virtually the entire season because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs, and he was to have been the Mets' closer. Vic Black, who was to have set up for Mejia, never pitched. And Jerry Blevins, acquired to serve as a left-handed specialist, appeared in seven games before a broken arm ended his season.
Worse, before May was on the horizon, David Wright -- the team's most important figure -- was assigned to the disabled list until late summer. And Travis d'Arnaud missed five weeks just as he was emerging as a capable and clutch batsman. All the while, the defensive flaws of the middle infield -- a key component for any team that relies on pitching and defense -- became more glaring by the inning. And until Aug. 1, the offense scored at the rate of a nine-man soccer team.
Moreover, the Mets had the depth of a puddle after two rainless weeks. Collins had to cut and paste - difficult to do with fingers crossed -- to keep his team competitive.
And yet by the time the Mets gained their 15th victory (in 23 games), they had a 4 1/2-game lead in the division. Their days in first place ended, and the baseball world waited for a plunge to third or fourth place. A seven-game losing streak put their winning percentage lower than .500, but for one day only, June 24.
The remainder of the season was about recovery, resolve, resilience, resourcefulness, the tears of Wilmer Flores, the innings-limit nonsense and the ferocious swings of Yoenis Cespedes. The resolve, resilience, resourcefulness and remarkable variety of successful lineups were provided primarily by the 5-9, 66-year-old, gray-haired Duracell in the Dugout.
As he had in each of his first four seasons with the Mets, Collins passionately kept his players focused and energized. The Mets reflect their manager's attitude as much as any teams reflects theirs. He was Frank Howard hungry, and his team played as if starved, particularly when it made the August run that proved decisive.
Collins couldn't prevent Daniel Murphy from trying to take the extra base at inopportune times or the occasional disappearances of Lucas Duda's bat. He didn't have a muzzle for Scott Boras, a bandage for Juan Uribe or a cab to get Matt Harvey to the park in time.
But Collins, disadvantaged as he was until August, did all he could do and all that could be done -- witness the six victories in six games against the Nationals when they counted -- to put his team in the playoffs. And he did it while being an uncommonly good soldier and while developing significant talent in Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, d'Arnaud, Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Michael Conforto, Kevin Plawecki, Steven Matz and Juan Lagares, players who seemingly will serve the Mets well after this season.
Collins already has received his greatest reward -- a place in the playoffs for the first time in his 11 seasons managing in the bigs. Additional recognition ought to be his, though. The man deserves a few thousand slaps on the back and atta-boys, a warm and prolonged reception when he is introduced at Citi Field on Monday night, the forever gratitude of his players and bosses and, come November when the superlatives flow, a hunk of hardware. Collins didn't do it differently, he did it extraordinarily well.
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.