Tuesday, June 17, 2008


STATISTICALLY speaking, Willie Randolph (302-253 for a winning percentage of .543) will go down as the second most successful manager of the New York Mets.

He will also be known for becoming the first African-American manager of a New York baseball club.

But, sadly for the likeable Randolph, he will probably be best remembered for presiding over the biggest collapse in the Mets’ 46-year history.

Some felt he should have been fired at the end of last season after his team blew a seven-game lead with 17 games to play in the NL East division, missing out on the play-offs completely.

You can debate whether he still had the support of the players. That he had lost the faith of the majority of Mets fans was indisputable.

The only real surprise about his departure was the timing – 3.12 in the morning (Eastern time) in LA after the Mets had just beaten the division-leading Angels 9-6 to record their third win in four games.

If, as seems clear, owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon had given general manager Omar Minaya the okay to swing the axe, why wait until this morning to do it?

Surely, the announcement should have come a week ago when the Mets returned from a four-game sweep in San Diego.

Mets accused of taking coward's way out

Perhaps they feel that by doing it 3,000 miles from home in the small hours of the morning, they can limit the damage in the media. Instead, they have brought more scorn on themselves and been accused of taking the coward’s way out.

Certainly, Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto deserved better than to fly the length of the United States to be told they are now unemployed.

Randolph won’t starve. He was due to make $2 million this season and $2.25 million next year. Even if he doesn’t get a second chance at management, he’ll have no trouble finding a coaching role.

But considering the dignity he has shown in the face of adversity, he was entitled to expect a bit more respect in return.

So where did it all go wrong for Randolph? Well, for a start, with the Mets having the highest payroll in the National League, expectations were high.

Of the key signings made during his reign, only one – Carlos Beltrán – has really worked out. Pedro Martínez has spent too much time on the DL while Carlos Delgado’s batting average has declined in each of his three seasons with the club.

Add to that the personal problems with José Reyes last season, the adverse publicity surrounding his comments on race and the blown saves by closer Billy Wagner, and you can see the writing has been on the wall for some time.

Bench coach Jerry Manuel has been named interim manager of the team. Now the speculation will start regarding the long-term replacement for Randolph.

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