Willie Randolph fired as manager of the Mets

After weeks of speculation that his jobwas in jeopardy, Willie Randolph finally got fired by the New YorkMets while most fans were sleeping. Randolph was let go in the middle of the night Tuesday, 2½months

News 12 Staff

Jun 17, 2008, 1:23 PM

Updated 5,870 days ago

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After weeks of speculation that his jobwas in jeopardy, Willie Randolph finally got fired by the New YorkMets while most fans were sleeping. Randolph was let go in the middle of the night Tuesday, 2½months into a disappointing season that has followed the team'scolossal collapse last September. Bench coach Jerry Manuel takes over on an interim basis forRandolph, who led the Mets to within one win of the 2006 WorldSeries. They got off to a strong start again last year butplummeted down the stretch and have been unable to rebound. A preseason favorite to win the NL pennant, the $138 millionMets (34-35) had won two in a row when Randolph was dismissed earlyTuesday morning - making him the first big league manager to getfired this season. Pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto alsowere cut loose in an enormous overhaul that was revealed in afact-of-the-matter news release at a stunning time - about 12:15a.m. PDT, nearly two hours after New York's 9-6 victory over theLos Angeles Angels. Ken Oberkfell, the club's manager at Triple-A New Orleans, andDan Warthen, pitching coach for the Zephyrs, will join the majorleague staff along with Luis Aguayo, a Mets field coordinator. A message left for general manager Omar Minaya was notimmediately returned. The Mets said Minaya and Manuel would beavailable to reporters at Angel Stadium at 2 p.m. PDT on Tuesday. Reached by phone nearly three hours after Monday's game, Metsutility man Marlon Anderson said he didn't know that Randolph hadbeen fired and he didn't want to comment until he heard the newsfrom a member of the team. "Not tonight," Anderson said. It was a frustrating end for the 53-year-old Randolph, who wasset to be an NL coach at the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium nextmonth. Signed through the 2009 season, Randolph won't be able to movewith the Mets into new Citi Field next year, either. He was slatedto earn $2 million this season and is owed $2.25 million in 2009. Now, the 54-year-old Manuel takes over a squad that still hasplayoff aspirations. He's had success before, too. Quiet and confident, Manuel managed the Chicago White Sox from1998-2003, winning AL Manager of the Year in 2000 after guiding hisclub to the league's best record (95-67). He steps in for Randolph, known for his exceptionally steadyplay as a six-time All-Star second baseman and even-keel demeanoras a coach with the Yankees. Yet Randolph's time in charge of the Mets was marked by highsand lows from the get-go. Hired by Minaya to replace Art Howe for the 2005 season,Randolph lost his first five games as a major league manager, thenwon the next six. He nearly guided the Mets into the 2006 World Series, losingGame 7 of the NLCS to St. Louis on Yadier Molina's tiebreaking homerun in the ninth inning. The Mets and their fans were convinced 2007 would be their year.Poised for a big run, what followed was one of the biggestcollapses in baseball history: Leading the NL East by seven gameson Sept. 12, they lost 12 of their last 17 and missed the playoffsas Philadelphia rallied to win the division title. Several times, Randolph tried to separate last season's failureand this season's struggle. "I really felt we put last year behind us," he said lastmonth. "Any pressure we feel is because of staying in the mix andnot reverting back to last year. I don't sense that at all. No oneever talks about it, no one ever brings it up, so if we are lookinga little like we were last year, there's no correlation." Many Mets watchers, however, felt there was a carry-over effect.Injuries to Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou and Ryan Church, anotherdown year by Carlos Delgado and a sudden slump by closer BillyWagner didn't help. With each stretch of inconsistent play, chants of "FireWillie!" grew louder at Shea Stadium and on New York's sports talkradio station. Despite a $138 million payroll, the highest in the NationalLeague, and the offseason addition of ace pitcher Johan Santana,the Mets never found their groove. Even when things briefly wenttheir way, Randolph caused trouble. Coming off an uplifting, two-game sweep at Yankee Stadium inmid-May, the first black manager in New York baseball historycreated a stir by suggesting in a newspaper interview that he wasportrayed on Mets broadcasts differently than a white manager mightbe. Randolph brought up the race issue as he detailed the way he'sbeen shown by SNY, the team's TV network. "Is it racial?" Randolph was quoted. "Huh? It smells a littlebit. ... I don't know how to put my finger on it, but I thinkthere's something there." A couple of days later, Randolph apologized to Mets ownership,SNY and his players "for the unnecessary distraction" he'dcreated. Late last month, Randolph got a temporary reprieve when he metwith ownership. "Willie's job was never in danger going into this meeting,"Minaya said after the session. "Willie has my support. He has thesupport of our ownership. ... There is no limbo period. Willie isthe manager." But no promises for the future were made. Raised in Brooklyn, Randolph enjoyed many of his favorite andfinest moments in the Bronx. He played for the Yankees from 1976-88 and was a member of twoWorld Series championship teams. Surrounded by stars Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson,characters Sparky Lyle and Mickey Rivers and volatile GeorgeSteinbrenner and Billy Martin, Randolph merely went about hisbusiness. He made for a good fit in pinstripes, and later became aYankees co-captain. Randolph batted .276 lifetime - he got 2,210 hits in 2,202 games- and never made an error in his 47 postseason appearances. After finishing his playing career with the Mets in 1992,Randolph served as an assistant GM with the Yankees in 1993. Thenext year, he moved back onto the field and became their third-basecoach, a post he held for 10 seasons. He was part of the Yankees team that won four World Seriestitles, and was manager Joe Torre's bench coach in 2004. Beforelanding the Mets job, Randolph said he interviewed unsuccessfullyfor 11 or 12 managerial openings. Randolph had Torre's full backing for the move over to Queensand they remained friends, filming a series of popular local TVcommercials together. Randolph was hired in November 2004 and, boosted by the additionof Carlos Beltran and Martinez, the Mets showed immediateimprovement. They went 83-79 in his first year, stopping a slide ofthree straight dismal seasons. The Mets did far better the next year, tying the crosstownYankees for baseball's best regular-season record (97-65) andwinning the NL East for the first time since 1988. Making their first playoff appearance in six years, the Metsswept the Dodgers in the first round despite an injury-depletedpitching staff and went into the NLCS against the Cardinals withhigh expectations - those ended in Game 7.


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