Don’t Free Willie
Yes, I know the New York Mets blew a seven game lead with 17 to play last year. Yes, I know the Mets’ play as of late has been atrocious (4-6 in their last 10, but that includes an easy series against the Colorado Rockies). But the Mets should not fire their manager, Willie Randolph.
Why not? The real cause of the Mets’ demise should be placed partially on the players, not Randolph. Pedro Martinez has only made one start this season. The Mets’ players, namely Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, have not been accountable for their bad play, as Billy Wagner pointed out in perhaps the wrong fashion. The players have created the divide between American players and Latin players in the clubhouse. The manager shouldn’t have to babysit grown men; the players themselves should be responsible enough to bear the burden.
More blame should rest on the fault of general manager Omar Minaya. He did not shore up a starting rotation that featured an injury-prone Martinez, followed by inconsistent performers like Oliver Perez and John Maine. Nobody knew how old Orlando Hernandez really is or how well their other fifth starter, Mike Pelfrey, could perform. The blame lies also on the shoulders of Minaya.
Randolph’s job description includes writing names on lineup cards and calling for certain plays or players at certain times. Has he failed in that regard? I’m not entirely sure that he has. And you shouldn’t axe somebody without being certain.
If Mets fans want to see heads roll, start with Delgado and maybe Minaya. They were more involved with the state of the Mets than Randolph has been. Let’s hope Randolph still has his job next season.
Should the Mets fire Willie?
It’s hard to look at the underachieving Mets and say that no one is to blame. And if someone is to blame the truth is that the burden has to rest on the back of manager Willie Randolph. I like Willie but I don’t think he’s a great manager and unlike Joe Torre or many of the others who have put in their time, Willie doesn’t automatically command respect.
That’s a troubling thing when you watch Willie in the dugout. He’s doing his best to emulate Torre’s stoic demeanor but he doesn’t have the bones to pull it off. It projects instead as apathy and to fans of the game that’s maddening. But what does it do to the players?
Much like it would in any corporate environment, an apathetic leader leads to apathetic troops, who fail to function as a team, who are dispirited, half hearted and uncaring about the final product.
That pretty much sums up the Mets during Randolph’s tenure. Seeming not to care (with several exceptions) about winning or losing. There is no sense of hustle, no sense of camaraderie - instead all we hear about are problems in the clubhouse and divisions between groups of players.
That is the manager’s fault. Teams must be united to win games - and a good manager knows and harnesses them to pull together for a common goal. He finds ways to build bridges, to inspire and to make a group of individuals work together and unites them as team. That’s what makes great stories and sports legends; you need look no further than last year’s Rockies or Red Sox to see glaring examples of what a real team is.
To this point Willie will be remembered for friction in the clubhouse, the indifferent play of his fielders, and the greatest September collapse in baseball’s history. While that could change it probably won’t. Managers have a hard time changing their style, their image and their outward face.
Changing mangers has certainly lit fires under teams in the past - especially in season, and some like Jack McKeon’s Marlins back in 2003 have even turned it around enough to win baseball’s ultimate prize that same season.
Only the mediocrity of this NL East has allowed the Mets to stay in the mix this long and unless something changes soon the Mets look to be in for another humdrum season of just over .500 ball.