(Long Island, NY) Willie Randolph deserved to be fired. Make no mistake about that. Any manager that presided over the 2007 September collapse and then had been unable to exorcise those ghosts from his clubhouse cannot continue in this town. To wash all that bad karma away, a complete fresh start was necessary. But that did not take place.
Nothing against Jerry Manuel, who was named interim manager on June 17 and did a good job in six seasons as the White Sox skipper, but by him being Randolph’s right hand man as the bench coach is basically the same voice. And also one that would probably not be raised to the octaves that is called for with this team.
Randolph’s refusal to show any sense or urgency over the end of last season and the first three and a half months of the current one may not have been a reason for his firing, but should have been. At the press conference announcing Randolph’s firing, general manager Omar Minaya said that he made the move because “right now, the team is under-performing.” While that was certainly accurate, the team was performing just as bad for a much longer period of time.
How many times in Randolph’s post-game press conference did he say one of the following three things: “I’ve seen it all before,” “This is not last year,” or “I’m not concerned just yet,” when being asked if and when things will improve? His complacency may have sealed his fate.
That same complacency may be a trait of the new field boss. That is exactly what this team does not need. Will a soft-spoken, religious man like Manuel give a player such as Jose Reyes a swift kick in the pants when he needs one? The Mets have been atrocious with the fundamentals of the game, such as base running, and Reyes has probably been the biggest culprit. Getting picked off, thrown out attempting to steal when trailing, and getting caught off base for a rally-killing double play have not only taken place, but became common place.
Mistakes such as these are a direct reflection on the manager and his coaching staff. Last anyone checked, the bench coach is not only directly involved, but an integral part of that. Unless Manuel has a drastic change of personality and can somehow instill a much-needed spark, a clubhouse full of followers will remain status quo. A leader is needed. One with a strong voice. Especially with the lack of one amongst the players, a shouting session emanating from the manager’s office would seem like a breath of fresh air. That will not be the case for the rest of the summer.
Seeming to step with caution, Manuel’s comments at his introductory press conference was similar to Minaya’s. “We are somewhat under-performing” and “We need to freshen up the everyday players” were gross understatements. The lack of emotion and lackluster play has been the only consistency with this team, dating back to the final month of last season.
Since taking over, Manuel’s record has been 7-7, not much different than what Randolph was doing. Much of the same nonsense that went on before is still happening, even worse with Reyes, who has been producing but is throwing actual temper tantrums in public during games. Another reflection on the manager for not ending actions such as these.
Anything short of a playoff berth will mean that the search for a full time manager will take place in the offseason. The success that Manuel had on the South Side of Chicago will need to be duplicated and eclipsed for this to work.
Nice guys finish last, they say. Manuel needs to find his mean streak to shake up this group to change that perception. If not, the Mets will finish closer to last than first.