Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night (or Morning)
How dare the Mets fire a manager after two consecutive wins following a year of mediocre baseball. How dare the Mets fire an employee under contract that stipulated cross country travel. How dare the Mets fire a manager after a game that happened to be played in the Pacific Time Zone. How dare the Mets prepare an official report the moment they make a decision before allowing it to be leaked to the press.
The only criticism that should be leveled to the Mets' general manager Omar Minaya should be his resistance to putting embattled manager Willie Randolph out of his misery on the way back from a disastrous and embarrassing weekend in San Diego. Of course, one cannot blame Minaya for holding out as long as he did: Randolph is his last line of defense for deflecting blame and attention for this $138M disappointment. Having Randolph last the season would've given Minaya another season of job security. Barring a complete collapse -90+ losses is a good estimation- Minaya will remain general manager, but now the scrutiny placed on him will be greatly magnified. But a disappointing 3-3 homestand against the Diamondbacks and Rangers following that debacle against the Padres must have surely amped up the pressure from Mets' COO Jeff Wilpon to relieve Randolph of his duties: the heir to the SterlingMets Empire was never particularly fond of Randolph, and only put him on probation for last September's historic meltdown after intense lobbying from Minaya.
Given The Best Pitcher in Baseball, an offense that seemed during most of September and a retooled bullpen -addition by subtraction after jettisoning one of Randolph's favorite gas cans Guillermo Mota- the Mets were expected to win over 90 games as well as the division title. Instead, hittable pitching -no need to justify Peterson's firing, sloppy defense, and a late game offense that seemed to have hot dates after the game made for unwatchable and lifeless baseball that prevented the Mets from building any extensive winning streaks. Is it Randolph's fault Carlos Delgado is a textbook case of an aging first baseman? That Carlos Beltran has one of the streakiest power bats in the game? That the Mets' medical staff has no idea what a concussion is? Of course not. However, it is Randolph's abuse of Aaron Heilman's arm over the last few seasons that has resulted in the righty's seemingly reduced stuff, much like Randolph's mentor Joe Torre heavily relied on Paul Quantrill and Scott Proctor to get him out of jams. It is his disdain for maneuvers like the suicide squeeze and even the hit-and-run -odd considering his penchant for stolen bases- prevented the offense from scoring runs or jumpstarting innings during its malaise. Worst of all, it is the perception that the team has quit on him -lukewarm comments from Beltran and David Wright didn't help his cause- that may have ultimately doomed Randolph. After numerous 'turning points' this year, the team was still unable to string together more than a week of good baseball, and many media outlets agreed a change for the sake of change had to be made to wake the team up.
The bottom line is allowing a manager to twist in the wind (Joe Torre?) following a disappointing season or portion of one is a practice that is not uncommon in this part of the country, where impatient fans make for unforgiving managment: I'm sure Mariner's general manager Bill Bavasi was given cryptic votes of confidence from team management and actually should have been fired long before his team was humiliated by fellow punchline Jim Bowden's Nationals team just like Randolph was. However, Bavasi was in the front office, and could be fired at the team's, er press's convenience, while Randolph had an on the field job: logistics prevent instantaneous upheavals of coaching staffs, made even more complicated by Sunday's doubleheader and evening flight to Los Angeles. Managers are normally fired on off days or after games, and last night's game happened to end at around 1 AM EST. Instead of letting a Wilpon source leak Randolph's departure -one issue with ownership, the team immediately prepared a statement to prepare the press for the transition. So Willie Randolph had to fly cross country to get fired and collect the $4M remaining on his contract. He'll sleep comfortably at night. It's not as if this is 1913 and Randolph was left stranded after a long train ride in St. Louis penniless. Are the Wilpons perfect? No. Should Randolph have been fired sooner? Yes. Is this really a national disgrace?
Posted by Fred Coupon