Regardless of whether or not one thinks Mets higher-ups made the right decision or erred in the firing of Willie Randolph early this morning, the general concensus in newspapers, blogs, and on talk radio seems to be that the way this move was made was “classless”, an act of “cowardice”, and just generally bungled.
For several weeks now, I had been growing more and more disgusted with the shameful way Randolph was allowed to “twist in the wind”. Not only was speculation about his job status allowed to brew, it almost seemed that it was ENCOURAGED to brew. One writer wondered if allowing anyone and everyone to have a chance to weigh in on the matter was the front office’s weasely way of taking a barometer reading of media and fan opinion before actually making a decision.
The lack of a vote of confidence for or a clear dismissal of Randolph resulted in the media stirring things up and causing embarassment and distraction to the the players and managers. The lack of assurance could not have inspired confident managing or playing. My feelings that Willie Randolph deserved better than the continuing noncommital responses from his employers to questions raised about his status as manager were echoed in recent days, most notably in the New York Times.
But as inept as the handling of the situation by the front office has seemed over the past few weeks, the way the final blow was dealt reached an unparalleled level of gaucheness, reeking of cowardice and even seeming clandestine in nature.
Randolph was not fired while he was in New York. The guillotine came down after he had made the long cross-country flight with his team following a grueling doubleheader on Sunday. Instead of escaping the unwanted off-the-field brouhaha, Randolph and the team arrived in Californa to find the media circus awaiting them on the West Coast. In spite of the unwanted scrutiny and commotion, Randolph and the Mets managed to come away with a hard-earned win. I assume there was the usual obligatory post-game press conference, and only after that did Randolph finally return to his hotel, no doubt weary and still fighting jet-lag.
I’m sure Randolph was not expecting pillow talk or a reassuring before-bedtime prayer when Omar met him at the hotel, but I wonder if even he was surprised at the maladroit way he and the public were notified of his termination. The press release, filed in the dead of night–specifically at 3:13AM Eastern Standard Time, was well after even the die-hard New York fans like myself who managed to stay awake through Billy Wagner’s turn on the mound would be safely tucked in bed with SNY turned off.
Finding out the news this was morning was a rude awakening, with emphasis on the word “rude”.
It was not unlike opening the newspaper or turning on the radio or TV to learn of an inmate’s execution.
The perceived surrepticious nature of the whole scenario reminded me of the way in which death penalty convictions are carried out in this country. With the exception of a few states, most executions are carried out at 12:01AM. Although supposedly one of the reasons for this is that this gives the state the maximum amount of time to deal with any last minute legal appeals or temporary stays of execution within the 24-hour period of time during which the death warrant is “good” .
The lateness of the hour is traditional too because other prisoners can be more easily “locked down”. Also, when the execution is carried out at such a late hour, the likelihood of any repurcussions or protests or unwanted attention in general–from within or outside of the corrections facility–is lessened.
Whether intentional or not, the handling of the dismissal seemed covert, clandestine…a pusillanimous gesture.
One can argue that Willie Randolph got more of a benefit of the doubt and time to turn his team around than he deserved (not my opinion.) One can argue that he deserved to keep his job through the All-Star break, through the end of the 2008 season, or through the expiration of his contract.
I doubt one can find fans out there who would say last night’s dark-of-night firing was something Willie Randolph deserved.
No, I don’t think it’s over for the Mets for the season, although I realize I may be one of very few fans who feel that way at this point.
And, no, the title of this post is not meant to suggest that I feel Willie Randolph should be fired, although again, I realize that is probably a minority opinion.
Rather, the title of this post refers to the fact that the Metropolitan Opera season concluded over a week ago, the MET Orchestra’s final symphonic concerts at Carnegie Hall have taken place, and I find myself in the enviable position of being on vacation for three months.
It was about this time last year that I was inspired to start a blog and, having just started my summer vacation, it was something I felt I could devote some time to.
As in summers past, once again I have more time to devote to personal interests, but I cannot say that I have been terribly inspired to write very much about the Mets these days.
Heck, I don’t even feel like rubbing it in to Yankees fans I know that their team is currently last place in their division!
As one of (at least it seems) few optimists, I have been of the opinion that (1) it is still relatively early in the season and (2) no other team in our division has had such an amazing start as to have left the rest of the division in the dust. I remind myself that (3) the Mets have been plagued with a lot of unfortunate injuries, but that a real boost has come from some unexpected places in the interim: Claudio Vargas, Fernando Tatis, and–most recently–Nick Evans come to mind.
These are the things I have been trying to keep in mind when fans at work and WFAN callers have been calling for Willie’s departure for the better part of May.
I have actually always liked the fact that Willie Randolph tends to maintain a placid exterior whether the team loses or wins. Although others have viewed this as a lack of passion for the game or think that his showing anger and distress might serve to motivate players, it has always been my opinion that by NOT showing any overt distress over losses or botched plays, he was communicating a trust in his players. To me, it said that he realized that they themselves were just as distressed, upset, and angry at themselves–maybe more so–than he could be at them.
I have also always felt that by not going ballistic when a player was doing poorly or made a bad play, he was sending the positive message that he knew that the player was capable of playing better and would do so the next time he found himself in a similar situation–having learned from his mistake–or was trusting that a slumping player would–with time and the coaching staff’s assistance–find his way out of his slump.
I have also never understood why fans think a manager should make a big hoo-ha about umpire’s calls that are clearly not going to be reversed, e.g., arguing balls and strikes. What exactly is that supposed to prove?
Orchestra musicians really love it, by the way, when a conductor stops in the middle of rehearsing a passage of music to berate a musician for a wrong note or reed that didn’t speak properly.
“Like I didn’t KNOW that? What do you think I am…stupid?!!!!”
And I figure–on live television and in front of a stadium of thousands–ball players must similarly detest a manager visibly embarassing them for something they’ve done.
But as I continue to hear and read sentiments such as “the Mets are far too great a team to be playing below .500” and “they’ve been lackluster ever since the middle of last season”, I find myself beginning to wonder if a change in leadership might help the Mets.
Although I truly think that there is a place for Willie Randolph’s and his managerial mentor Joe Torre’s managing style, maybe it is just not a good fit with this team and it’s particular set of problems.
Believe me, I hate the “they can’t fire the PLAYERS and they have to do SOMETHING, so fire the manager already” mentality. And for the longest time, my response to this suggestion is that that would essentially be a knee-jerk reaction.
That logic seems as flawed to me as our current Commander in Chief arguing loudly for “payback” for the atrocities of September 11th by instigating a war with a country totally unresponsible for the attack.
I’ve held onto the opinion that the Mets’ lethargy should not be put upon Willie, but with the Mets continuing to play one-step-forward-two-steps-back baseball, even I am now beginning to wonder if there is something to the argument that the Mets need a manager that will get them fired up.
Honestly, I don’t see why personal pride alone has not been incentive enough for the players themselves to summon the collective indignation, embarassment, self-loathing, grit, or anger to turn things around on their own with their current manager.
But, if the Wilpons ultimately decide that only a change in managerial leadership will get the Mets out of their current malaise and playing with some consistency, then I say forget Bobby Valentine’s smug grin and fake moustache. And don’t even dignify Gary Carter proferring his services with any kind of response.
No, I have their man for them:
If management thinks some ball-busting, no-nonsense managing is in order here, I say bring him out of retirement and BRING HIM ON!
With the current climate of highly-paid players with the equivalent of tenure being coached by far lesser paid managers with no job security at all–or “the inmates running the asylum” to use Gary Cohen’s amusing metaphor, maybe a more in-your-face manager would work better for the Mets than one who always shows his players respect.
I mean, maybe a guy whose answer to racism and death threats was a handgun carried on his person would instill some fear in and remove some of the swagger from those players who need to be brought down a peg or two! Robinson was even arrested for brandishing the gun on a short order cook who refused to serve him!
More recently, Commissioner Bud Selig called on Robinson to become baseball’s police officer, its vice president of on-field operations, in 1999. He was asked to reduce on-field violence.
For an example of what one surmises must be some sort of managerial scare tactics on his part, one must go back only as far as a few seasons ago to a time in Robinson’s stint as manager of the Washington Nationals.
During his time there, the recalcitrant Alfonso Soriano’s open defiance at the Left Field assignment given to him by Robinson immediatley softened into almost subservient acceptance following what had obviously been a most persuasive discussion behind closed doors.
Although in recent interviews, Robinson has indicated that he does not wish to return to managing, he does seem wistful about being involved with the game in some way. It is obvious from a 2007 USA Today article entitled “Baseball Needs Frank Robinson” that I am not the only one who thinks Robinson’s departure from baseball has been premature.
While I do not think it was wise of Willie Randolph to have publicly made his recent accusations of racism playing a part in how he has been portrayed–at least on television–in his role as manager, I am not the only person watching the events of this past week play out that has thought that perhaps we as a society like to think that race is a non-issue–especially in professional sports–but in fact, we are really kidding ourselves if we think we are past this issue as a society.
Engaging Frank Robinson as a manager for the Mets would also serve to dispel any accusations of racism playing a part in the fans’ or management’s dissatisfaction in Randolph’s job as manager of the Mets.
I hope things settle down for Willie Randolph and for the Mets, but if drastic measures are deemed necessary, I think Frank Robinson should be given a phone call.
“He solidified the club. We became a great team when he came to know us and how much he could do for all of us.”