When I got home from work Monday night at about a quarter past two in the morning, I wasn't expecting to wake up with any sort of earth shattering news. But I was reasonably sure that I was going to wake up to Willie Randolph being the manager of the Mets. That's why I wrote this during the game. It was satire. I was kidding.
I woke up instead at 6:30AM (entirely too early) with a kiss from my wife ... and three words whispered: "Willie Randolph's gone."
The first thing I thought of was the classic scene from Goodfellas. Because finding out about it the way that I did felt like a mob hit. There was a problem (actually, a few problems) and the deed was done. Ain't nothing can be done about it. Only instead of revenge for Billy Batts, it was punishment for lack of bats.
I spent today probably the same way most of you spent the day ... lamenting about the classless way that this was handled by the Mets. You know, making Randolph fly all the way to the left coast to fire him after one day, and then hear from Omar Minaya that it was because of the circus that had enveloped the team this past weekend (as if the previous month was a scene from Masterpiece Theatre) and that he wanted an extra day to "sleep on it" after he had made the decision Sunday (apparently not having a pocket schedule with him at the time), and also that he didn't want to fire somebody at the ballpark so he waited until Randolph got to the hotel to do it, hence the late hour. Oh, and did I mention the fact that he wanted Randolph to hear it from Minaya himself and not the media, even though the cat seemed to be already peeking out of the bag?
Vapid and thoughtless? Certainly seems that way no matter what Omar says.
But let me ask a question of you. And ask this of yourself honestly: What did you expect?
I don't mean that in the "well the Wilpons have done this kind of non-sensical stuff before" sense, but in the "baseball is a business" sense. Baseball was bought and paid for a long time ago. It's been hammered in our heads that baseball is a business for a lot of years. And guess what: This kind of stuff happens all the time in the business world. So why wouldn't you expect this to happen though the thin veil of the public trust that baseball is supposed to fall under but never really seems to?
Yeah, it sucks. It sucks to be Willie Randolph tonight. The manner in which Randolph lost his job, whether you believe he should have ultimately lost his job or not, sucks. But in retrospect, we shouldn't have been surprised. And you ask why you should have sympathy for Willie, who lost his job while having a significant nest egg to fall back on while the rest of us struggle with our everyday jobs?
Because if the Wilpons do this to Willie Randolph, a supposed member of their baseball family, imagine how they'll treat you. Well, you don't have to imagine, between tiered pricing and $8 beers and waiting every last minute during a rain delay to sell those beers before announcing the cancellation of the game. So you already know that it's a business.
Oh, players like Tom Glavine will tell you that he originally signed by the Mets because the Wilpons were all about family ... but then they let this happen. Because to the Wilpons ... who are the one common thread woven through the likes of Al Harazin, Jeff Torborg, Bobby Bonilla, firecrackers, bleach, marijuana in peanut butter jars, Mike Piazza to first base, Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia instead of Vladimir Guerrero, and all of the underachieving, dysfunctional clubhouses we've been graced with over the last 20 years ... letting Randolph twist in the wind before firing him in the middle of the night is just murder by numbers at this point.
Now if you have a taste for this experienceOmar was right about one thing: It's not about the shortcomings of Willie Randolph. It usually isn't about the shortcomings of one person when a whole team is going badly, or not as good as they are going on paper. Changing a manager is like pulling a goalie in the NHL. It's usually not because the goalie himself is going bad, but because the team in front of him is skating in molasses or glue and making the goalie look bad. The Mets have been skating in molasses and glue since Memorial Day of '07. Or if you really want to find the true seminal moment, since Cecil Wiggins slammed into Filthy Sanchez's cab the night before the deadline in 2006. Randolph has made questionable moves ... as I'm sure all managers have in that time frame. But the team sure as hell has made him and his moves look bad.
And you're flushed with your very first success
Then you must try a twosome or a threesome
And you'll find your conscience bothers you much less
-Murder by Numbers/The Police
I've admitted in the past that maybe it's been time for that new voice. And certainly, the Mets have had plenty of chances to relieve Randolph of his duties in a way that doesn't make the organization look like bumbling fools. But those at least as old as me know that the Mets don't do things the easy way. Even when the net is wide open they always seem to clang one off the post. The organizational types had plenty of chances this season to dump Willie the right way and give their fans a sign that they're not ready to give up the season and are ready to do anything they have to do to change the voice and charge up their roster.
Instead, they give their fans a peek into their vapid thought process, and have embarrassed them along the way. They make Willie sit through these awkward news conferences to announce that he wasn't losing his job, like that movie that tried to tell the story of the late night wars of the early nineties but ended up being one of those strange cult movies that also ... strangely ... is one of those movies that I watch whenever it's on. (Goodfellas and The Late Shift: the only time you'll see those two movies in the same sentence.) Where Jay Leno says that "hey, we've all gathered here at this news conference, and I have the job! We're here to celebrate the fact I haven't been fired yet!"
Instead, they fire Randolph after a 2,500 mile plane ride and one day in Anaheim. Good job, boys.
Instead, they fire Randolph, Rick Peterson, and Tom Nieto (an arbitrary choice if there ever was one), to try to put a charge in this roster. And Ken Oberkfell, who has been promoted to the coaching staff after managing in the Mets' minor league system for 13 years, joins the major league squad ... and would most likely be fired as part of a purge if there's a new GM next year. Way to see the fruits of 13 seasons riding buses in the minors.
And instead, Jose Reyes ... who's development has been tied to Randolph for years, and is one of the players expected to improve after Randolph's dismissal ... develops a beef with Manuel one play into the new era. One f***ing play! Manuel takes out Reyes as a precaution after he was flexing his leg a bit and tried to work through it. But Manuel, who wants to keep the roster fresh, saw taking out Reyes as an opportunity. Reyes threw a mini-fit and sulked off.
This gives you confidence for the rest of the season?
And there you have it. The Jerry Manuel era: kicked off with a fresh controversy, Reyes' injury replacement forgetting to cover second base on a successful pickoff play, and a rousing six singles. Not really the desired effect. And guess what folks: it's guaranteed to last the rest of the year ... the same guarantee that Randolph couldn't get because, in Minaya's words: "what if I gave Willie the guarantee for the rest of the year and then the club lost fifteen in a row?"
"You know, we always called each other good fellas. Like you said to, uh, somebody: You're gonna like this guy. He's all right. He's a good fella. He's one of us.: You understand? We were good fellas."Manuel, for the record, is only fourteen losses away from that mob mentality kicking in again.