- Willie Randolph was fired, not murdered:
On SNY, Lee Mazzilli raised his eyebrows and shook his head slightly in apparent disapproval at a joke Jerry Manuel cracked during his press conference; on ESPN, Steve Phillips, with his insider’s view of the Mets operation reacted with bemusement at the way things are done in Flushing; the Baseball Tonight crew reacted with varying episodes of anger, frustration and disgust at the way Willie Randolph was dismissed as manager of the Mets. Strangely, Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo were probably the most even-handed and accurate of all the people I heard discussing the decision and its timing (their interview with GM Omar Minaya can be heard here; I’ve ripped the duo when they deserve it, but they do a great job with these interviews with executives and managers after firings.)
In all there was surreptitious joy at being able to cover such a juicy story with so many angles, but self-righteous indignation and outright hypocrisy in the reactions to how the firing was handled. Most of the people around the Mets who know anything about baseball know that it was probably time for Randolph to go; his strategic shortcomings, the way the team was in the same funk as it was for the second half of last year and the constant questions about his job status made his position for the future untenable. Minaya seemed to win some people over with his explanations and Manuel was intelligent, well-spoken, charming and loyal during his press conference. Could the situation have been handled better? Of course; but there are few situations in life that are handled perfectly in the moment; it’s only in retrospect that things come clearer as to the better way to deal with them.
Mazzilli’s reaction befitted someone who had been fired from a managerial job and didn’t think it was right for Manuel to be joking at what amounted to Randolph’s managerial wake; but that’s the point; it was a managerial wake for his job with the Mets. This wasn’t a Mets-Gil Hodges situation where the manager dropped dead and a replacement had to be found quietly and with cautious and respectful restraint. There was no need for funereal tones and somber reactions from Manuel. In a world where managers are often reluctant to turn their backs on bench coaches whom they didn’t hire and look at warily, Manuel was a thoughtful and loyal lieutenant to Randolph and had no reason to be ashamed of letting his personality come through during the press conference in a light moment. How many managers have seen their bench coaches stab them in the back to get their job? Ken Macha did it to Art Howe in Oakland with the Athletics; Mazzilli seems to be of the opinion that Sam Perlozzo did it to him in Baltimore with the Orioles. Manuel didn’t campaign for the job and has nothing to be sorry for by taking such a great opportunity.
As for Phillips, he’s in a unique position because he worked for the Mets for a long time and was also fired; but the head shakes and knowing smiles are out of line for someone who had issues of his own as the Mets GM. Phillips harbors badly concealed resentment for the way the Mets dumped him and if he were able to let the need for revenge go long enough to give an honest appraisal of the situation, it would be valuable to have him comment; but the truth comes shining through with the way he reacts to the Mets struggles and how he slickly slaughters them through the veneer of his position as a former Mets insider.
There are those that classify Phillips’s tenure as Mets GM as a disaster. I’d like to have similar disaster over the next few years of annual contention (despite turmoil), big name players and two playoff and one World Series appearance. He made aggressive moves and while some didn’t work out, he did what I would consider an overall pretty good job. That being said, Phillips is in no position to be ripping the Mets ownership considering how kind and understanding they were when he was hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit—-NY Times Story 11/9/98—-after the revelation that he’d had a series of extramarital affairs including one with a woman who worked at the Mets complex in Port St. Lucie. They provided him with a leave-of-absence from his job to handle his familial problems and let him come back to work. I would’ve given him a leave-of-absence as well—-a permanent leave of absence, not because he was fooling around on his wife (that’s his business, not mine), but because he opened the organization up for such a lawsuit because of his inability to control himself. Add in that as the 2002 season wound down and there appeared to be an understanding between Phillips, manager Bobby Valentine and ownership that if one were fired, both would be fired and Phillips pulled a skillful and Machiavellian end-around on the manager; after Valentine was fired, he reacted with an incredulous, “And Steve stays?!?”
Phillips was allowed to hire the next manager in Art Howe and, as the team continued to spiral, was fired early the next season. Phillips has a first-hand knowledge of the Mets attempts to do things in a nice way without hurting anyone’s feelings because he directly benefited from it. To sit there in his perfectly tailored suit and smugly shrug his shoulders at how the Mets are run is the height of hypocrisy. And I say this thinking that Phillips has star potential as a broadcaster because he’s handsome, intelligent, well-spoken and funny, but he has to lose the agenda first.
In the end, as I said yesterday, it’s done. The move could have been made at anytime dating back to the end of last season, but now Randolph was fired in a clumsy and some say cruel way; but it wasn’t done with intentional maliciousness. If anything it was done this way because the Mets go out of their way to avoid the necessary Billy Beane/Michael Corleone style ruthlessness that’s needed to run an organization correctly. That needs to change to prevent this kind of media nightmare from happening again.
- Yankees 8-Padres 0:
The Padres apologists (especially those that are for some reason enamored of their cheap and arrogant front office) are speculating that the struggles of the teams that were also expected to be at the top of the NL West will provide a window of opportunity for the Padres to
crawl back into contention. The difference is that in looking at the rosters and organizations of their competitors, specifically the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, in comparison to that of the Padres and there’s no way to equate them. The Padres have an awful lineup and an old and injury prone starting rotation. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will eventually right their ships; the Padres are what they are and what that is is a bad, poorly constructed team.