The Mets are rightfully being used as a punching bag after the way they've botched this whole episode in firing manager Willie Randolph. There are dozens of ways to slam them for the way this was handled. What was the purpose of letting the manager and his fired coaches----Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto----fly all the way to Los Angeles, win the only game in which they were to participate and then fire them? Was it some silliness about not firing them on Father's Day? Was it an attempt to continue to vacillate on making a decision that they've been going back and forth on for well over a year (at least)? Was there dissension between GM Omar Minaya and the ownership? Until Minaya holds his press conference and submits himself to harsh cross examination (where's Tim Russert when we need him?) no one's going to know the machinations as to why this decision was made now.
With all of that being said, isn't this what many Mets fans have been clamoring for for the past eight months? Isn't this what they wanted? The Mets fans have hated both Randolph and Peterson and wanted them gone even before last year's collapse. There's a large segment of the Mets fan population that will never forgive Randolph for losing in the NLCS of 2006, fair or not. Now, because of the way this was done, I would expect many of those same fans to react with righteous indignation that the manager they didn't even like is now gone simply because of the way it was handled; but what's the difference? It's like Tony Soprano calling a guy to a sit down with the intention of luring him into a trap to whack him and seeing the guy killed in a car accident. No, there's not the satisfaction of getting rid of him in the way that was envisioned, but the result is the same.
The media around the Mets have been waiting, speculating, wondering, postulating, reading into comments, body language, reactions and whatever else to try and get a sense as to the mood of not only the manager, but the general manager and the owners. First Randolph was lucky to be retained after twisting in the wind following the collapse; then there was the raised hopes amid the acquisition of Johan Santana; then there were the edicts that the team had to get off to a good start; then there were the "Willie Watches"; then there were the questions of racism raised by Randolph; then there were the lukewarm endorsements; it went on and on with no end in sight and little discernible improvement in either the team's consistency or place in the standings. Now it's going to be a dissection of the fact that the Mets did it in such a clumsy way by firing them after they won a game and releasing a statement at 3:15 AM well after the newspapers could get a story into the next morning's editions in time. The Mets look clownish, but again, what's the difference?
The manager whom everyone had on "managerial death row" for pretty much this entire season has been dispatched. The pitching coach that no one seemed to really like is gone as well. Objectively, despite injuries and inconsistency, this team should not be floundering with a record of 34-35 after 69 games. Is it Randolph's fault that the team is so mediocre? That the veterans are stumbling and oft-injured? That the bullpen is coughing up games? Only if he's given the credit for the way the team played on their way to a division title and within one game of the World Series in 2006; only if he receives credit for the majority of last season, which they spent in first place. It works both ways. He's gone. And to whine about the way it was handled and to call the Mets heartless, clueless and whatever other "less" you can think of doesn't change the fact that it was probably going to continue the way it's been over the past year in Queens unless drastic moves were made. The fans wanted him out and he's out. Everything else is irrelevant.
As for Randolph, no one's going to be holding a candlelight vigil for him. He received about as much as he could possibly have hoped for in his first managerial job of any kind. Managing a team in New York that spent a lot of money and gave him an opportunity to win, he doesn't have a right to be embittered about the experience. He now has the managerial experience that was said to be a reason he was passed over for so many other opportunities and a built in excuse as to why the team failed due to the perceived dysfunctional nature of the entire Mets operation. It didn't turn out exactly the way he'd hoped, but what in life does? How many managers get their first opportunity, get fired quickly and never receive another real chance? Tony Perez was fired two months into his first season as manager with the Reds and only managed the Marlins briefly a few years ago on an interim basis; Les Moss, a baseball lifer, got his first real shot with the Tigers in 1979, had them playing better than expected, but was fired when Sparky Anderson decided he wanted to manage again and the Tigers snapped him up. Randolph got his chance and it's run it's course. He'll likely get another shot because he now has managerial experience, some success and handled such a wild situation. There's no reason to feel sorry for him now.
New manager Jerry Manuel is receiving an unfair beating from guys who should know better. The idea is that Manuel is even less animated than Randolph was and that he's not going to light a fire under the slumbering veterans. Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN made some silly comment about Manuel being "asleep" or "comatose" or something in that vein. It's just nonsense. It was Manuel who exploded and got ejected during the Yankees series when Carlos Delgado had a home run taken away; it was Manuel and not Randolph who chirped at umpires from the bench about ball and strike calls; he had a fiery personality while he managed the White Sox that got him run by the umpires a number of times and he was actually quite successful during his tenure. He handled the players well, doled out the innings of his pitchers evenly, didn't baby his starters to the extent that is prevalent today and had a solid overall record of 500-471. He's an experienced manager who has had some success and knows the clubhouse; he probably didn't want to return to managing this way, but it's done. He's the manager and if the Mets do turn things around, this whole episode will be little more than a blip on the season; a blip that had to be done even if the timing was completely off.
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