Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mob Mentality

The movie Goodfellas was on the other day. I was really tired and wanted (needed) to take a nap to refresh myself, but Goodfellas is one of the movies on my list that I inevitably stop what I'm doing to watch whenever it's on. When I can't make it through the whole thing, the scene I at least try to make it through is the one where Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) thinks he's being made ... and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) is like a proud father waiting by the pay phone to find out when the deed was done. Except he found out it was the wrong deed when Tommy was whacked instead of made. And Jimmy made the phone call only to hear "Nah, there was a problem ... It's done, and ain't nothing can be done about it." And then Jimmy gets mad and beats the phone into the receiver.

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?

Classless? Yes.

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 experience
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
Omar 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.

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.


I.M. Forme said...

i was at this game. when the angels immediately hit one that skipped, easy as you please, past both tatis and easley into the outfield I grimaced. But when easley forgot to cover the bag on the pickoff, my head exploded all over some angels fans. Now i am typing this without a head. it's not as hard as i thought.

Anonymous said...

this team is soft & has no heart. I've never seen a baseball team so excruciating to eatch - they bore the shit out of me!!! Changing mangers mid-season won't help the fact that this team has no soul.

Anonymous said...

Do you dream of a Mets Continent? I do.

Rickey said...

In the period of only one year, we transformed from the NL favorite to a team that's well on its way to becoming the basball version of the Knicks. Lovely.

TW said...

If I were Manual I would ask Omar to bring up Anderson Hernandez for a week, send down whoever and give Hernandez the start tonight. Reyes can throw his tantrum on the bench. He fits in perfectly with the Wilpon's.

I said it months ago and I'll say its again, I wouldn't have been all that upset if we traded Reyes for Santana and held onto Gomez and Mulvey. Sure Reyes is a hell of a talent but he's not even close to being as good as he could be and I don't think he ever will be.

That said, when Maual took him out and I realized the left side of the infield was manned by Tatis and Easley I thought to myself that we would've been better off sending Oberkfell and Hojo out there to finish the game

Anonymous said...

Keith Hernandez makes reference to Hamlet and you go with The Late Shift?!?

Reyes - what's with the "I'm so mad that I'm going to untuck my shirt in front of everybody"? Jose, next time hold your breath to make your childish display complete.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mutt$ fans. If you would like to watch a real baseball team just flip on the YES network. Last night we easily beat the team that owned your sorry Mutt$.

Life is back to normal. The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball and the Mutt$ are a circus act!

Anonymous said...

What is it about the Big Apple that turns local sports teams into a soap opera drama worthy of Susan Lucci?

First the Knicks' saga and now the Mets. And of course there is always the Big Stein Show with the Yankees.

Ed in Westchester said...

Hey Damus, whatever happened to Darth?

Richard Jennings said...

Willie dont worry - Lots of high paying jobs if you know where to look -

$75K, $100K, $150K .....Lots of jobs!

katherine said...

It depressed me to see all those new faces in the dugout. I know I'll get used to the new pitching coach, but I miss seeing Rick P shaking his head and scowling over his papers in the dugout.

However, thank God they didn't bring some stranger in to manage. I felt certain that Jerry would know how to handle the Jose situation properly.

And I forgive Jose for his tantrum, because I think he is upset about the coaching changes, and acting out as a result. You guys, wait til your kids are teenagers - you'll see plenty of that!

I know, I know, Jose isn't a teenager, he should be a professional. But he's emotional, and temperamental, and we can't change that. And don't forget how mad everyone gets when players take themselves out of games for minor reasons! I am glad he WANTED to play!

Anonymous said...

Willie is now unemployed like all other DEMONCRATS!

Go ahead and leach off of government funded social programs, Willie! It's the DUMBOCRAT Way!

Anonymous said...

When the pitching coach came out to talk to Santana, someone in the stands next to me said "I think Johan just said "Who the hell are you?"" :-)

Anonymous said...

Willie Randolph was fired?

Anonymous said...

I dont get it. There's Marlon Anderson, out in left field, hobbling after flyballs, some of which could have been caught, when you have a healthy trot Nixon, who is a real outfielder, sitting on the bench. Then he turns around and takes Reyes out of the game, when Reyes says he can play. Leaving the whole left side of the field defenseless. I hope the decisions get better as the season progresses.

Anonymous said...

metstra - it seems that the folks at Metsblog have taken issue with likening the Randolph firing to a mob hit. They have become Wilpon apologists over there.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is that Willie had to go. The fans wanted it, the majority of the people on this blogsite have wanted it for some time, and the media wanted it. With the team the Mets have, there was no forgiving for last September and Willie was on a short leash this year to start with. Despite the curious timing, Willie will still get paid for 1 1/2 years under his contract so lets not cry too many tears. What is sympathetic is how long he waited as a minority to become a manager in the big leagues. After presiding over the worst regular season collapse in baseball history and the poor start with a roster that was largely viewed as the NL favorite...he won't get a job again anytime soon.

Lets also look at the reality that the Mets are only six games from a wildcard spot with over half the season to go. People are acting like they are out of it. The Yankees came back from last place (and farther back) this time last year and took the wild card from tougher AL competition...the Mets have plenty of time to right the ship. I don't think they will...but there's time.

DAK442 said...

Y'know, we hear an awful lot about Willie being passed over for 11 managerial positions, how demeaning it all was, how tough it was for him to wait, and that it was all about his minority status. How about the arrogance by which he decided he was ready to manage a major league team despite exactly zero days experience running a ballclub anywhere?!

Lotsa people paid their dues. Oberkfell has been riding buses for 13 years. Gary Carter is a frickin' Hall of Famer and he (reluctantly) managed minor league ball. But apparently Wilie was too big a shot for that. He's a Yankee! He shouldn't have to! Well, maybe e might have picked up some tips on double-switches and bullpen management in the bushes.

By all accounts he's a very nice man. My sister met him at a cororate thing and said he was very friendly and accommodating. I wish him the best. But enough with the martyrdom.