Wow http://www.nydailyne...dden/index.htmlWillie Randolph catching too much heat for Mets' slump
Wllie Randolph's slumping Mets are still on track to make the playoffs, but ...
... he is still on somewhat of a hot seat.
Is Randolph to blame?
Over the past two seasons, the Mets have been in first place 322 days under Willie Randolph's watch, more than any team in baseball. Yet, as they limp back home today, their postseason status (let alone their World Series destiny) suddenly no longer assured and their legions of fans are lining up in full jump mode along the Triborough Bridge, Randolph is starting to feel the sharp edges of the long knives around him.
Rumor has it there is growing disenchantment from above with Randolph, and while no one reporting this has specified the source of this disenchantment, a pretty good guess is COO Jeff Wilpon, who engaged in a contentious, sometimes rancorous contract negotiation with the Mets manager last winter. Those familiar with the mind-set of the team's hierarchy contend the Met bosses believe any manager could have achieved what Randolph did last year, given the talent he had. For that reason, Wilpon strongly resisted giving Randolph the three-year, $5.65 commitment he sought. That Randolph, despite his Brooklyn roots, community involvement and popularity in New York, has never been held in the same esteem as other successful managers is evidenced by the fact that Wilpon and GM Omar Minaya would allow him to name only one coach - and they unceremoniously fired that one, Rick Down, at midseason this year and replaced him with, of all people, Rickey Henderson.
Henderson was one of the game's greatest players and he combined that with an engaging personality. But as a coach, his contributions have been minimal. Around the clubhouse, he is jokingly referred to as the card-playing coach, and those close to the situation say Randolph has had to bite his tongue every day when he arrives at the clubhouse only to see Henderson playing cards with the players. It should also not be forgotten that Minaya said the hiring of Henderson, former leadoff man/base-stealer extraordinaire, would especially be beneficial to Jose Reyes. Has there been anyone more disappointing (to use Wilpon's word) than Reyes these past six weeks?
We also hear that Mets brass is regretting not giving Manny Acta the manager's job three years ago. That chatter grew louder last week when Acta's Washington Nationals were pounding the Mets 12-4 and 9-8 in the first two games of their series in D.C. One can only imagine what Randolph must have thought seeing Mets assistant GM Tony Bernazard openly fraternizing with Acta for nearly an hour before the Mets' games in D.C. in August and then again last Wednesday. As it is, Bernazard spends way too much time in the Met clubhouse, which is supposed to be the manager's domain. But as former Mets manager Bobby Valentine - who complained bitterly to ownership about then-GM Steve Phillips constantly holding court in his clubhouse - can attest, around the Mets that's just not the case.
(For what it's worth, Acta has another year on his contract with Washington and then two more club options, so any thought of the Mets luring him back from D.C. has no merit.)
But while the onus of a team's failing inevitably falls on the manager, the Mets' recent failings seem to be more a reflection of the team as a whole - which doesn't appear to be nearly as good as management thought it was. After all, who didn't have serious reservations about the starting rotation back in April? Is it Randolph's fault he never had a top-line No. 1 starter a la Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, John Smoltz or Roy Oswalt? Or that his starters hardly ever pitch into the seventh inning - which in turn leads to an overreliance on overpriced relievers Guillermo Mota and Scott Schoeneweis, who more often than not don't get the job done? And yet, even with all that and the fact that Moises Alou, Minaya's most significant offseason acquisition, has played 25 fewer games than the departed Cliff Floyd, Randolph has kept the Mets in first place with the best record in the National League for most of the season.
And was it Randolph's fault Thursday night in Miami that his closer, Billy Wagner, was unavailable because of back spasms? Is it Randolph's fault his best pitcher, Orlando Hernandez, has come up hurt yet again at the most critical time of the season? So, yes, the Mets have been in first place every day since May 16, but when you take all of this into consideration - the injuries, Reyes' mystifying meltdown, the pitching deficiencies coming to the fore - it's a wonder Randolph has been able to hold this thing together as long as he has (thanks to the Phillies being beset with far worse pitching problems).
Making it even harder for Randolph is the innuendo that his superiors don't think he is doing a good job.
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