Everyone has known that Willie Randolph’s job as manager of the New York Mets has been in jeopardy for some time now, ever since their colossal and historic descent last year from a first-place seed in the N.L. East to a ticket out of the playoffs. This year has been no different: the Mets have vacillated around the .500 mark all year to this point, and with the talent pouring out of the team, everyone’s been looking for a reason for the sub-par performance thus far.
Is it Willie’s fault the team has played so poorly? Of course not; not directly, anyway. I’ve always thought of Randolph as a good bench coach: knows his players well, has the reputation of a winner, and can maintain a relationship as “one of the guys” with his players. This doesn’t make him a great choice for managing a team, but the Wilpons and the rest of the Mets’ brass knew this full well when they hired him a few years ago. His ability to manage has certainly not decreased since then.
So Willie’s been on the hot seat for a while, again not for his own doings, but for the sake of change and the need to shake something up on the team. And he has known this as well, enough to have reportedly asked that if he was going to be fired anytime soon, that it be done before Fathers’ Day, so that he’d be at home with his family and not have to fly back alone from some other city.
Well, the Wilpons granted him that wish: Willie was not fired on Fathers’ Day. In fact, after the first day of a road trip to Los Angeles, Willie and the Mets had amassed a respectable three wins in their last four games, including a tough win on the road, and had climbed back to within one game of .500. The reward: a post-midnight call to Randolph’s room from GM Omar Minaya, who the Wilpons had flown to Los Angeles on a plane separate from the team, and who was charged with the order to dismiss Randolph and two of his coaches.
Was this the right move to make, and at the right time? Should Minaya or the Wilpons feel good about firing a manager during a hot streak, and after flying him out across the country, literally, to play (and win) the first game of a road trip? Is this the way to fire up your players?
I’m not a Mets’ fan, but as a fan of baseball (and as a human being), it would be hard for me not to feel bad about this, and to think the owners have made a mistake here, on multiple levels.
Update: Ive just read a great article by Buster Olney on EPSN.com that goes into detail about the behind-the-scenes process behind this fiasco, and collects a few stinging, yet accurate and deserved, remarks from other Mets’ beat writers. It’s nice to know that most people haven’t lost their minds, and that this sort of mismanagement won’t go unnoticed nor tolerated.