Fier Thy Words

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Mets’ Handling of Randolph’s Firing Disgraceful

6/17/08

I went to bed a little after 1am on the east cost, the Mets having just won 9-6 out in California, and as far as knew, manager Willie Randolph had survived another day of rumors and speculation surrounding his job status.

Sure enough, roughly two hours later, in the middle of the night, following a 3,000 mile flight and a win, Willie Randolph was fired.

Regardless of whether or not Willie deserved to be fired, and cases can be made for and against his dismissal, the way in which it was handled was an absolute atrocity.

Mets management, headed by owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, along with General Manager Omar Minaya who reportedly flew out to Anaheim to meet his ball club, had the nerve to allow Randolph, and his entire coaching staff, to travel cross country, manage and coach on Monday against the Angels, only to announce this decision at midnight in a hotel room.

It was a classless move by an organization that really shouldn’t wonder why they continue to be seen as second rate in a city that features another organization that has had it’s own share of bad press in the handling of a managerial move when Joe Torre left the Yankees last fall.

In the Mets’ handling of Willie Randolph’s firing, they once again proved to be a bigger story off the field than on it, which has seemed to be the class all season.

Before a single pitch was thrown this season, the talk was about last season’s epic collapse and the impact it was going to have on the team heading into a new season.

There was Billy Wagner calling out his teammates for lacking accountability after losing 2 of 3 to the lowly Washington Nationals, supposedly pointing in the direction of the lockers of Carlos Delgado, among others, when stating that

“You should be talking to the guys over there,” he snapped to reporters in the clubhouse…”Oh, they’re not there. Big shock,”

There was the self-inflicted controversy surrounding some comments Willie made to a reporter regarding the criticism he was receiving, and whether or not race was an issue worthy of being considered.

“Is it racial? Huh? It smells a little bit…I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but I think there’s something there. Herman Edwards did pretty well here and he won a couple of playoff [games], and they were pretty hard on Herm. Isiah Thomas didn’t do a great job, but they beat up Isiah pretty good. … I don’t know if people are used to a certain figurehead. There’s something weird about it.”

Randolph did apologize, and a press conference was called simply to announce he had been spoken to, marking the second press conference called by the Mets organization to give a public vote of confidence to Willie, although neither time (the first being following the end of the last season) left you feeling like management was fully backing their manager.

It is more than fair to have questioned the job Randolph had done between the lines, and his firing wasn’t unjustified.  However, the manner in which it was handled was almost sickening.

One report out states that The Mets had already made this decision prior to their leaving for the west coast, and if true, that only epitomizes the lack of any decency this team could have shown three of their employees.

Randolph, his coaches and his players, had endured weeks of questions and wondering amid a disappointing start to their season, and the uncertainty around Randolph’s job was clearly a distraction to a team that needed nothing less than something other than baseball games to focus on.

Willie will likely be more remembered for the way his team collapsed last season, losing a 7 game lead with 17 games to play and relinquishing an opportunity to win back to back division titles for the first time in franchise history.

His record of 302-253,  with a winning percentage second only to Davey Johnson in Mets history, is now a thing of the past, as Randolph can take another 3,000 mile trip back across country to finally rid himself of the sorry excuse for a ballclub he had probably lost the ears of.

The word being most thrown around the press this morning is cowardly, referring to the way in which the Mets handled this whole thing, and a more fitting word doesn’t exist.  I probably sound redundant but the way in which this was handled was just without class and without any sense of professionalism.

As a Mets fan, and as somebody who has bled Mets orange and blue and both follows this team and supports it as closely and and as hard as anybody, I can’t feel worse for Willie, in spite of the fact that finding justification for his firing isn’t all that difficult.

But somebody who has invested lots of time, energy and no shortage of money into this team, I find myself utterly ashamed of the team I root for, and quite frankly, pretty upset with the way in which this all happened. If the team wanted to fire Willie after the collapse, fine.  That would have been understood.  If they wanted to fire him back in New York a few weeks back when the media was all gathered and a press conference had been called at Shea to announce his staying as manager, that would have been acceptable.

But this was, for lack of an original word on my part, just completely cowardly and disgraceful.

To announce this decision in the middle of the night, in all likelihood to avoid the publicity disaster which awaits Omar Minaya and the rest of management later today, and to avoid the newspaper headlines and media circus sure to present itself at the team’s 5pm conference.

Maybe it’s ironic or maybe just meaningless coincidence, but Willie’s final days at Shea Stadium as manager took place with his predecessor, Art Howe, sitting just a few feet away in the opposing dugout.  Howe was no stranger to a similarly graceless exit, as the team had announced with two weeks left Howe would be fired at season’s end, yet stayed on to manage as a lame duck.

For a team that has lacked consistency on the field, they certainly have shown it off the field, and for all the wrong reasons.

On a day in which the world of sports showed us that humility and grace still exist in the form of U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate, the Mets reminded us that the other end of the spectrum is very much alive as well.

The team’s hierarchy should be embarassed  and ashamed of the way they handled themselves, looking only to protect their image in the process, while showing no regard for the people whose jobs they were taking away.

And for a team that has always played second fiddle to the other team in town, they can pat themselves on the back because they finally found a way to upstage their crosstown rivals, by giving their manager an exit only George Steinbrenner could have executed.

This was a classless move, by a classless franchise, and the only positive thing I can think of coming out of this is that Willie and his dismissed coaches can rid themselves of the real disaster here.

The team itself.

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June 17, 2008 - Posted by | New York Mets, Sports | , , , ,

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