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April 4, 2008
  
Willie Randolph Fails at More Than Strategy

As of press time, Willie Randolph’s approval rating on MetsBlog.com stood at 89%. I don’t know whether this is early season confidence, a small sample size of especially enthusiastic Mets fans, or something else, but I don’t understand it. I don’t see how Willie Randolph can be considered a good manager.

Usually the argument for strategically weak managers, a class to which Willie certainly belongs, is that they are good at leading their players. Whether it is getting the most out of a player’s talent, managing differences and disagreements between players, or projecting the right image and example on the field, there are ways for a manager to do his job without being perfect inside the lines. But I don’t see Willie doing that, either.

In his recent chat with Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN, as summarized by Anthony De Rosa of Hot Foot, Randolph admitted that he “considered putting Raul Casanova in… for Ryan Schneider to give him some rest but Schneider talked him out of it.” Leaving aside the question of whether the Mets should use Casanova and Castro against left-handers, shouldn’t the manager be making his own decisions and not be influenced by players arguing for their own playing time? This isn’t a first for Willie. At the end of last year, an injured Paul Lo Duca managed to convince Randolph to play him over the healthy and red-hot Ramon Castro. And how could I forget the 2006 NLCS, when Randolph was unable to turn down the hobbled Cliff Floyd, leaving him on the roster even though Lastings Milledge and others were healthy and ready to go? We can expect players to want to play. It’s the manager’s job to make a decision and be the boss, not serve as the mouthpiece for the team’s veterans.

Too often, though, it seems that the Mets are paying Randolph nearly $2 million a year to just be a friendly guy for the veterans. And for the youngsters, it’s harsh criticism. In that same WFAN interview, consider what he had to say about Ruben Gotay after he was cut from the team:

Gotay really is one dimensional. Gotay doesn’t play the outfield, he doesn’t play the corners. I like Gotay a lot but he didn’t fit into this team. I think Clark right now is a better bat off the bench. Clark can get on base, he can walk, he will scrap and battle. With the left handed dominance in our line up we need a Clark in there to give us an at bat.

First of all, that doesn’t really make any sense. Even without Brady Clark and assuming Alou is in left and not Angel Pagan, the Mets have Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson and Damion Easley to play the outfield. Even Anderson and Easley are just infielders who can play the outfield in a pinch. Surely Gotay could do the same. And how often are they going to need someone for the left side of the infield? While we’re at it, can Clark play the infield? Can he hit right-handed better than Gotay? And hey, don’t we already have a guy who can only play second base? His name is Luis Castillo, and the Mets are paying him $6 million a year for the next four years.

Roster flexibility concerns aside, why does Randolph have to be such a jerk about it? On some level I appreciate that he expresses his opinions about the subject, even if he is only ever critical of young players and is wrong in what he says, but on another level I think it is the job of a manager to have some tact and poise. That means when you’re asked about a young kid you had to cut loose, you just say, “He’s a nice kid and he’s got skills but there’s no place for him on this squad right now. I wish him all the best.” How hard is that?

We all know how last year, Randolph favored whoever else was available over Ruben Gotay, who was red-hot; and Lastings Milledge, who just needed to play. Nor was he content just to make these players sit on the bench. He took the opportunity to bad-mouth them at every turn. Maybe he does this because he sees his job as pleasing the veteran players and getting them playing time. Or perhaps he thinks it is instructive for young players to be criticized and maligned. Either way, it’s asinine.

In an interview with SNY in December, Randolph had this to say when asked what he thought about Carlos Gomez:

It’s like we have a tendency to start to get way ahead of ourselves with young players. And I’ve seen when players take off, and I’ve seen young players become a flash in the pan. So we’re hoping that he’ll continue to work. And he’s a hard worker, but he’s still very raw.

All of these kids are very, very raw and you look at their swing pattern, and you like some things that you see and then you go, well, he needs a lot of work. That’s what I see; improvement, and that’s what you look for year-to-year with your players.

This sounds reasonable, until you realize that Randolph says this about every young player. He just doesn’t trust them, he won’t play them unless forced to, and he will criticize them relentlessly. Asked about Lastings Milledge:

Q. With Milledge, what does he need to work on to improve?

WR: His total game; he needs to improve offense, defense, running bases.

Could you be more specific?

So just because he has some talent, some skills, when you’re in a winning situation, putting together a winning team, all those intangibles are very, very important. You can’t make mistakes when you’re trying to win a championship. So it’s too much to really expect a young player to have all that mastered. Some organizations can be patient with that, some organizations say, you know what? No, we can’t afford to go with a guy at this point in time. He needs more seasoning.

So people that have seen him, seen some of the things he can do, just like Gomez and with young players, but for me you have to make sure you don’t get blinded by one asset, you have to look at the whole package.

Basically, according to Randolph, you can’t win a championship with young players. Forget for a moment the 2007 Red Sox, who won the World Series despite giving the starting second base job to rookie Dustin Pedroia and keeping him there through early season struggles, despite installing Jacoby Ellsbury in center field for the last month of the season, and despite giving September starts to rookie Clay Buchholz in a pennant race. No, we certainly can’t trust rookies when we’re a competitive team.

Beyond this, Randolph fails even at the simple task of getting ejected from the game. While he loses arguments to his own players, he won’t even have them with the umpires. When the line judges ruled Wednesday that Carlos Beltran’s drive was not a home run, after initially and correctly ruling it so, Randolph barely raised his voice before quietly returning to the dugout. There have been other times more worthy of ejection, but consider if you will that the umpires might have been more willing to overturn the decision because it was Randolph, and not Bobby Cox, in the other dugout.

Simply put, Willie Randolph is not a good manager. He is not a good tactical manager, and he hurts the team in the other aspects of his job as well. For the most part I am a guy who bases his baseball opinions on statistical analysis and other rational considerations. But teams don’t just collapse for no reason. Sometimes I think the Mets just don’t have heart, and it’s because of Randolph and his gospel of the “nice little rhythm.”


53 Responses to “Willie Randolph Fails at More Than Strategy”

  1. Comment posted by mr.bmc on April 4, 2008 at 1:11 am (#645421)

    I think this could be part 1 in a long series. You should simply cite some of the many many many articles and posts analyzing Willie’s terrible strategic aptitude. Another installment could focus on just his bullpen mismanagement (to be fair, Willie should share the blame in 2007 with Omar and Rick Peterson). Yet another article could be dedicated to his obtuse press quotes.

    The only flaw in your argument here is the paragraph about ejections. I get what you’re saying but that one point is poorly substantiated compared to his irrational contempt for young players.

  2. Comment posted by astrubal on April 4, 2008 at 5:04 am (#645423)

    Granted, this is a big season for Willie. But it won’t be till October that we can make such sweeping judgments. Frankly, the above slaying of Willie says more about the crank who wrote it than it does about the Mets’ manager.

    In-game managing? inning-to-inning strategy? Willie has his questionable moments, but no more than Torre did with the Yankees. Or even Bobby Cox, in the couple hundred or so games we’ve seen him against the Mets.

    But to spend the larger part of a tirade sorting through extempraneous quotes from Mike and the Mad Dog interviews where Willie is allegedly too hard on the youngsters is as wasteful as that of most of the knuckleheads who wait an hour to get on the radio for a cheap shot after a tough loss.

    As for his inclination to sit on his hands after a call goes against his team, yes, it often bugs me. But he’s consistent on this point; it’s simply not who he is. You want Piniella, well, follow the Cubs and see how they make out with a similar payroll (albeit 20 mil less). The criticism above points out the Beltran non-homer of the other night (yeah, I thought the ball probably hit the crossbar in right, but replay after replay, nothing was conclusive). So Willie comes out. But was he expected to be removed forceably in a straight jacket? Does he have to throw a base in the third game of the season, with a solid lead to boot? Not a good point there pal.

    Tone down the negative rhetoric, Mets fans. Save the boos for the other team. I’ve heard too many slams from the sport radio audience against Willie, to the point it’s a bit creepy. (Same guys call back with accusations that Minaya is trying to move Shea to Santo Domingo). (Note to self: less sports radio)

    Should Willie have them tone down the celebrations? Yes, more than a bit. Should he try to save the bullpen a tad over the first few months? Certainly. But despite last season’s brutal, DNA-altering collapse, which could be dumped on the doorstep of the baseball gods as much as any one person, Willie’s record is very good. Let’s let this season tell us some deeper truths.

  3. Comment posted by elliot on April 4, 2008 at 7:26 am (#645426)

    I think that Willie is improving from year to year, which gives Mets fans hope. As for his failing to stand up to veterans, in the 13-0 blowout, he put Wagner in to pitch the 9th, in spite of the fact that Wagner was vocal about not wanting to pitch in those situations. Willie felt that Wagner had not yet been used, the next day was an off-day, and it was better to get him some work. So, that’s what he did.

    I am not saying that Willie Randolph is John McGraw and Casey Stengel rolled into one. My point is that there is good cause for hope. Willie Randolph is not a terrible manager any more than Tony LaRussa is a genius.

  4. Comment posted by Eli on April 4, 2008 at 7:34 am (#645427)

    I have a number of positive things I can say about Willie as a manager:

    1. He has never been caught, nor has he probably ever been, drunk and asleep at the wheel at a traffic light.

    2. There are few managers, if any, that could have done such a nice job in the Subway commercial.

    3. There is no manager that can say “little” or “nice little” as well as Willie

    Hmmm, that might be it. I guess Omar and Willie do see eye to eye on one thing - the older (and more washed up?), the player, the better. That approach is particularly painful to me who gets most excited about young lotsa potential players trying to succeed. I wish Willie was Acta, but he is not. if the Mets can stay somewhat healthy, they have as good a chance as anyone to make it to the world series. But if the Mets win 100 games and win the world series, I doubt that it will be because Willie is a good manager.

  5. Comment posted by Eli on April 4, 2008 at 8:02 am (#645429)

    he put Wagner in to pitch the 9th, in spite of the fact that Wagner was vocal about not wanting to pitch in those situations.

    Elliot, with all due respect, that doesn’t convince me that he calls the shots (though I don’t think that is his worst fault). I think that using Wagner when he has not been used in a while and there is a day off the next day, will not be objectionable to Wagner, even if the score is 30-0. He knows he needs some work. . Will Willie improve? Maybe a little. Someone who has played chess for a few years, and is not very good, may learn a bit from his/her mistakes, but he/she will never be great at chess.

  6. Comment posted by DoctorK16 on April 4, 2008 at 8:44 am (#645432)

    John,
    Can we wait more than three games into the season for this article. Willie just like the rest of the team, deserves the fresh slate and optimism of a new year. Granted, I think some your criticisms are valid, although I’d say most managers in the league are guilty of many of the same offenses vs. young players, esp. in big markets where they feel the pressure to win now and feel guys who haven’t done it before won’t do it for them. That’s why Juan Pierre in LA is getting abs over Kemp and Ethier at times for example. Willie is 270-219 as a manager, that is a positive result and is kind of the bottom line.

  7. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester 2.0 on April 4, 2008 at 8:57 am (#645435)

    Doc - I 100% agree.

    May I mention how Willie kept hitting Reyes first, despite howls of protest from fans that he would never be a good leadoff hitter?

    Or is that a piece of info to be forgotten?

    How about using Joe Smith last year. Joe was a tad young.

    Or convinving Omar to get rid of Generallisimo Franco.

    The bootom line is this, Willie tries to make do with the players Omar has given him. Do I wish Milledge had gotten more of a shot? Sure. But he did have his struggles at the plate at times. Gotay hit well, but had his poor moments as well.

    Willie over all has done a good job with this team. Let’s see if he has changed. The signs so far are good (using Sho as a LOOGY, resting Beltran and Reyes the other night).

    I recall a couple of games last year were the A- lineup was in place, we all screamed, yet they won. He makes mistakes, but he makes good decisions as well.

    I do want him to not listen to players at times when it comes to getting rest. But to complain about it in April, when guys are still “fresh”, is not the right time. Let’s see what happens in June or July.

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  9. Comment posted by Chris McCown on April 4, 2008 at 8:58 am (#645436)

    As for his inclination to sit on his hands after a call goes against his team, yes, it often bugs me. But he’s consistent on this point; it’s simply not who he is.

    I am not saying that Willie Randolph is John McGraw and Casey Stengel rolled into one. My point is that there is good cause for hope. Willie Randolph is not a terrible manager any more than Tony LaRussa is a genius.

    These are the three half-defenses that have bugged me about Willie Randolph for the last few years.

    1) “He’s consistent.”
    I’m not sure if this is about the relatively meager dollars that managers make in comparison to running a team, or just their lack of impact on the field, but being consistently mediocre and being unwilling to change that is not a good thing. Kaz Matsui was run out of Shea on a rail for being mediocre, and from what I remember, while he had his few backers, they were more of a silent minority than anything. Fans wanted Roger Cedeno to be dumped in the East River. These two players were consistently mediocre and didn’t change their games much either, did we give them a chance to keep (fornicating) up? No! We got rid of them for better personnel.

    2) “Well, he’s not the best manager, but manager X isn’t too great either and he won/is a genius/has a ring.”
    Look, no one is saying that having a manager is the most important factor to winning. The players on the field are going to decide most of the stuff. The argument is not “Willie Randolph is a bad manager compared to most of his peers,” but instead “Willie Randolph is a bad manager.” There are 8 billion people in the world, and a professional baseball team is giving big time dollars to someone who has proven that he’s not very good at tactical decisions by the numbers. Maybe one day every team will have professional tacticians that run the games and people like Randolph can sit on the bench and implement them while looking very stoic and being respected for his baseball background. Until that day, in a National League full of parity, in a playoff spot that was lost by one game in a season where Randolph made at least a double digit number of tactical blunders (not just moves that were sort of questionable, outright blunders), employing Willie Randolph when the resources are there to find someone who would be a better manager is not a good thing for a baseball club to do.

    3) “He’s Improving.”
    I don’t buy it.
    In fact, that one sweeping move that he made on opening day that was so universally praised…I didn’t think it was that great. It was nice of him to figure out after a year of watching Schoeneweis failing miserably that he was not a guy who could be any better than a lefty one out guy, but a) Wise had not given up a hard-hit ball yet, and b) It was still a 4-run game. Maybe it’s a good move in the era of specialization that we’ve come to today (if you carty 12 pitchers, you might as well use them), but I would’ve given Wise a chance to cleanup his own mess considering how the men had reached base. At least until the tying run was drawing nigh.

    That’s not to say Willie Randolph hasn’t had great moments. Going for the kill in Game 3 of the 2006 NLDS was a terrific move. But Juan Pierre has hit home runs too. That doesn’t mean he’s improving.

  10. Comment posted by Joe A. on April 4, 2008 at 9:11 am (#645441)

    Terrible article. Usually I can find somthing I agree with in every article. Not this time. And picking quotes from Willie and trying to show what they reveal about his ability to manage is ridiculous.

  11. Comment posted by Danny on April 4, 2008 at 9:13 am (#645443)

    I’m conflicted here. I’ve been very vocal about Willie’s inability to integrate young positional players onto the team. ANYBODY with half of a brain can know to stick Reyes and Wright into the lineup and get in their way (although most people with half a brain would have batted Wright higher than 7th or 8th after he proved he was probably better than Chris Woodward, that completely cancels out any goodwill for me for sticking with Reyes at leadoff, but I digress). These are the most elite of prospects, and the Mets had nothing else with any value of any sort standing in their way. I also slammed Willie for his bullpen decisions, particularly his infatuation with Mota, his denseness in deploying Schoeneweis, and his refusal to try and integrate Humber or another young pitcher into the bullpen when they were HORRENDOUSLY blowing every game in September.

    But I also want to give Willie a chance this year.

    Chris, while I agree that on the surface, Willie probably over-managed the 8th inning on Opening Day, I would like to point out that Willie was also the manager for Pedro’s first game as a Met, which the Mets blew in painful fashion after a brilliant start, and they didn’t recover for 2 weeks. Now that team wasn’t very good, but Willie REALLY wanted to win the first game to set a positive tone for the seaso, and I don’t blame him for that.

  12. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 9:52 am (#645459)

    Willie sucks and we will probably see this come September and October as we’ve seen the past 2 years. But…

    HAH!

  13. Comment posted by Steve Hubbell on April 4, 2008 at 10:06 am (#645471)

    B!T is always good for a raucous screed. I never fail to enjoy your stuff, man. Keep it up.

    Now, as for what you’re actually saying.

    First, there’s an annoyingly circular quality to your reasoning (and that of other Willie-detractors). Sometimes, two Willie-loathers, making diametrically opposite criticisms of Our Leader, will express admiration and complete agreement for each other. For example, if Willie listens to one of his players (LoDuca, Schneider), he’s a softy who lacks the courage to be an effective leader. If he ignores his guys’ preferences (see Wagner, Feliciano and others who griped about not having defined roles in the bullpen), he’s slammed for failing to heed the express wishes of his players. Well, which is it? I know nothing about managing a ML club, but I’m guessing it’s sometimes appropriate to listen to your players, and other times not. Discretion is the better part of valour. Or something.

    Second, it’s got to the point where you’re poring over every utterance, every on-field move, every change in facial expression, and every fast-food commercial for new material with which to hoist Willie on his petard. And not surprisingly, you find plenty to gripe about. But I’m wondering if ANY manager can withstand that sort of scrutiny. Every time I watch some other skipper manage–even the sainted Cox, LaRussa and Piniella–I find reason to marvel at the bizarreness of their coaching technique. On observing some odd pitching change, I’ll say to myself, “Wow, that’s totally f*cked up. Thank God he’s not coaching the Mets,” only to remember with a start that Our Leader can also confound, baffle and vex.

    You’ve been hammering away for some time at this youth-hatred business. But weirdly, even though Willie’s been at the helm of the team for more than three seasons, I still haven’t heard all the bottled-up rage against him that all the young players must be feeling. Some of those players are no longer with the team, and so would have little to lose with a well-aimed swipe at the skipper. But that dog hasn’t barked. The only guy who I can recall dissing Willie on his way out the door was….Dougie Mientkiewicz.

    I think you’re misreading some of the remarks he makes about young players. He’s hell-bent on keeping them sharp and focused, not letting them believe their own press clippings. I remember his swatting down questions from the hack pack about whether Mike Jacobs was the second coming of Lou Gehrig, back in 05. He just didn’t want the kid having to shoulder that kind of expectation. He doesn’t always succeed in motivating his players (who does?) but I do think he feels mentoring young talent is a calling of his. And I kind of agree.

    And you have to admit that if keeping the clubhouse free from bickering and back-stabbing is a goal of a manager, he’s done a pretty good job.

    He may have overseen one of the worst-ever late-season collapses by a Major League team, but he also owns the best winning percentage in the National League since 2005.

    The good with the bad, friends…

  14. Comment posted by HAH! (What, What in the Butt) on April 4, 2008 at 10:20 am (#645486)

    I am, Dep. ;)

  15. Comment posted by swankenheimer on April 4, 2008 at 10:40 am (#645508)

    I think you’re wrong, dead wrong. I think Willie learned quite a lot from Torre. He has put his own seasoning on it, but nonetheless it’s the same approach. He understands that his role is to get the best players on the field for every game. He also understands that he is not the General Manager, so he is going to play the players he gets from upstairs. As for the younger players, I think a lot of his criticisms are right on the money, and will bear out as we see these players develop over the next few years. This team wins or loses based on the choices the front-office makes during the off-season. With a player like Schneider, as you used for an example, Willie is basically telling him that he trusts him. By trusting the player, Willie sends numerous messages throughout the organization - such as a) that he trusts his players; b) that it’s the player’s job to live up to his promise and potential; c) that he will not be responsible for the player’s poor performance, and that responsibility falls on the player and the General Manager. This is why Omar doesn’t like him, and why Omar wants Manny Acta as the manager instead. Willie makes Omar look bad. Hot-stove chatter is always about Omar, not Willie. Willie isn’t getting the players he wants, so he using the players Omar gives him. Arguing with umpires makes for good entertainment, but it’s useless. I would like to find a statistical reference that shows how effective arguing an adverse call is on either the call itself, or the outcome of the game. Bobby Cox is entertaining, sure, but Bobby Cox has precisely one World Series win with the Braves to show for all his shenanigans. Willie takes risks, not huge one’s, but he does take risks in those inning-by-inning strategic points - and those risks pay off about 50% of the time. There are a myriad of reasons why I think Willie is a good manager, and certainly better than you would portray him to be. I think he is doing an excellent job, and will continue to do so. Furthermore, I still don’t understand your love affair with Lastings Milledge. Everything Willie ever said about him is true.

  16. Comment posted by davidg on April 4, 2008 at 10:43 am (#645511)

    Make no mistake - Willie is a bad manager on nearly every aspect of the game. What makes Willie such a lightening rod (vs. say Joe Torre who was equally as flawed) is that Willie’s poor influence on games has a real effect on the outcome of the Mets post season hopes.

    Look at the Yankees as a contrast - they have traditionally been deeply stocked with all-star talent and they play in the AL with a DH. Their team was set up to be “Torre proof” - so even with some poor managerial decisions (like bad bullpen management), the team could still be projected to win the needed “95 games” to make the playoffs.

    The Mets just don’t have that luxury. Sure if we had a healthy team, we’d qualify for the 95 win status, but as we learned in Game 2 this year, the team will not have all its necessary parts for much of the season. The manager of the team will have a real impact as replacements are used and situations are “managed”. And Willie’s decisions generally have a “net negative” impact on the Met’s performance - last year it cost us badly and this year they may do us in again.

    We all know about Willie’s poor strategic and tactical management of the game. We have lived for years watching him make very questionable moves or not making moves that scream to the average fan of the game. Willie knows that he is clearly in over his head as a strategist/tactician - he openly admits to managing by “feel” - a phrase he uses to try liberate himself from any post game analysis.

    The only attribute that anyone could point to as an asset was his ability to get the most out of his players. In 2006, the team excelled and some might have attributed its success to Willie’s general stewardship. But from my perspective - that was always a stretch. For one, Willie has never managed young players well. For another, he isn’t a good internal communicator - often making changes (switching line-ups, bullpen use) without consulting his players. He also has appeared to not have control over the clubhouse (and I’m not talking about what music is played or whether a player could have facial hair) - I believe the Milledge situation, the “know your place rook” would either not have happened or would have been handled much differently with a manager who had the real pulse of his team.

    But regardless of what I think, the facts speak louder than any re-hashing of Willie’s actions. Last year the team spiraled completely out of control at the end of the season. And each man’s reaction on the team was very telling of his character and his role within the group. If anyone wasn’t a David Wright fan before September, you had to become one during that month. Wright stood up - pledged that the team would try harder, held himself accountable and went out and gave it his all. Most others on the team slunk away from the press, played without any seeming passion and ultimately failed on the field. The trouble was that Wright - while saying the right things was too young to bring about a change of attitudes in the club house. This was a place where the manager was desperately needed – and Willie was nowhere to be found – absolutely nowhere. Rather than finding the key to ignite his team, Willie acted much like many of the players on his team – seeming to accept his fate and play out the season. His infamous quote, “if we get to sip the champagne, then great – if not, then so be it” said it all. One could argue that Willie was trying to take the pressure off his team – but it was a misguided attempt that was completely un-thought out. On a team that needed a spark – none was found in its leader and the rest was history. This is not to say that another manager could have saved the season – maybe they couldn’t have – but at least they would have tried (and tried and tried) to turn the team’s fortune around. As if Willie’s statements and actions in the middle of the downfall weren’t enough, his off season reflections were even worse. A few months after living through the end-of-season horrors, Willie was asked what he would have done differently given the chance. His response was “nothing”. He intimated that the outcome wasn’t his fault – that the blame laid with others. Just great.

    Willie needed to be fired at the end of last season – but the Wilpons did not want to part with more money on another non-performing asset (remember the Art Howe debacle) and Willie had two more years of big money to be paid. So instead they settled on another middling decision – bring him back, but keep him on a short leash. Another great decision.

    From my perspective, it’s never too early to have a “Willie debate”, but for most others the real debate will probably take hold in a month or two. Until then, let’s continue to see if he shows any capacity of learning from his mistakes (not that he ever has in a meaningful way) and let’s build the tide for change if it’s deserved after the quarter post turn of the season….

  17. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 11:30 am (#645569)

    Davidg, that post was inspired man. Nice!

  18. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on April 4, 2008 at 11:33 am (#645571)

    I’m glad somebody else still remembers the Floyd Debacle.

    Whoever was responsible for it should’ve been fired on the spot for that… and if it was Willie, that should’ve been an automatic fail.

  19. Comment posted by SoCal Metfan on April 4, 2008 at 12:11 pm (#645602)

    I don’t even like Willie, but I felt this article was totally overblown, and not even remotely objectively fair analysis of his managing. He’s not perfect, he makes mistakes, but to read this article, you’d think he’s deaf, dumb, blind and is starting Damien Easley over David Wright.

    And the Willie-hate in the comments, if you go by that, it sounds as if Willie kicks David Wright in the nuts before every game, forces Shoeneweis to throw righty, puts thumbtacks in Jose’s shoes and changed the prescription on Delgado’s contacts.

  20. Comment posted by NjMF on April 4, 2008 at 2:02 pm (#645661)

    AGREED !!!!. Willie is the worst. The last 2 season collapses I blame on him. He doesnt motivate, he doesnt want to let the young guys play and he ia arrogant.

    So lets see….
    Alou is old and injured. Pedro the same. Schneider, castro and Delgado are on the way out… Wagner is not all that great anylonger……..

    I am GLAD that you wrote this. I predict that If the Mets are not in 1St by ASB, Willie is DONE. He should have been fired last year..

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  22. Comment posted by John Peterson on April 4, 2008 at 2:04 pm (#645662)

    Yea, I’m a crank. I’m a hack. But I’m glad that there’s such feeling on both sides, and I want to address some comments.

    First, I agree that it is a little early to be criticizing the manager. But my opinions about Randolph have not changed just because it is a new season, just as Randolph himself has not repented of his errors and will continue to make them. As davidg pointed out more eloquently than I, Randolph laid the blame for the collapse squarely on his players and declared that he would have done nothing differently. When the Mets needed him to be a leader, he was not able to be a leader. This has not changed, spring, summer or fall. Maybe not in April, maybe not in May, but Willie needs to go.

    Re: Arguing calls and ejections. I agree with Chris McCown that his consistency in this regard is no defense for mediocrity. Being consistently bad is still bad. In response to swankenheimer, who says, “Arguing with umpires makes for good entertainment, but it’s useless”: I disagree. The best managers, the ones who have consistently gotten more out of their team and gotten better calls on the field, are the ones who argue the longest and hardest. John McGraw, Earl Weaver, and Bobby Cox are the best examples. Randolph is nowhere near their pedigree, and I think umpires are more willing to rule against the Mets because of it.

    DoctorK16, I know it’s early in the season. But I don’t know why Randolph deserves a reprieve. I don’t know why we have such sort memories. Why is his approval rating at 89% now when it probably was or would have been much lower at the end of 2007? What has changed? And as for “most managers in the league are guilty of many of the same offenses vs. young players” (and other offenses and tactical blunders), I don’t see why that should be an excuse. There are different demands for managing in a place like New York, of course, but I still think Manny Acta would be much better here. And there are other young managers who are showing their talents right now, and could do a much better job here. These include Trey Hillman in Kansas City, and others. Obviously the demands of handling the media have to be considered along with strategy and clubhouse management, but there has to be better candidates out there. I don’t see why we should take “there are other bad managers” as an excuse.

    As for it being stupid to quote from an account of Willie’s WFAN interviews or just take some things he has said about young players and form it into an image of the man, I don’t see the argument. Sure, I could have taken a lot of things out of context and made Randolph appear to have opinions and tendencies he doesn’t have. But you all have heard him in countless interviews and read his quotes all over the place. He does consistently throw young players under the bus. He does make it a point to “trust his players,” and he clearly demarcates who is “his player” and who isn’t. Guillermo was his “guy.” Gotay wasn’t. Green was. Lastings wasn’t. Etcetera. This kind of thing is divisive and only encourages a further divisiveness in the clubhouse between young and old or whatever other groups/players might be favored or out of favor. This is bad. Just because the same kind of thing (even worse, actually) happened with the Dodgers last year is no excuse for it.

    Steve, I think you’re conflating what I said in this piece what other people have said. I never complained about Willie “ignoring guys’ preferences,” especially re: defined roles in the bullpen. I’ve never said anything about that. I can say something now, though: I don’t like the way Willie handles the bullpen, but it has nothing to do with defined roles. In fact, the way roles are defined is what leads to poor bullpen decisions. The “save” rule, for the one. Then there’s dividing up time by inning. Roles could be better defined by leverage. Second, I don’t think I’m poring over every utterance. I’m just pointing out a pattern of opinion and behavior. I didn’t mention any facial tics or Subway commercials. And finally, have you not heard the comments of Milledge and Gotay? Sure they didn’t specifically call out Willie. But the guy’s only been manager for a short time. Those comments are coming eventually. Young guys don’t want to rock the boat just yet.

    What davidg says about the collapse gets to the heart of what I was trying to say. The way Willie handled the collapse and the aftermath was worse that any tactical decision he has made, any lineup decisions he has made, any failure to argue a call, any derisive comment about a young player. The Mets needed him to be a leader, and he wasn’t there. In fact, he made sure to deflect all the blame on his players and make comments about how it wouldn’t be a big deal if they didn’t make the playoffs. He was basically the inspiration for Tom Glavine’s “I’m not devastated” comment and the the general lack of fire that the whole team displayed and certain players alluded to.

    These are not the strongest arguments against Randolph, but I think they need to be made to complement his strategic failures. Personally, I like listening to Willie talk and find him pleasant. That’s not the point. Unlike most people, I enjoy listening to President Bush and find him a pretty cool dude. But that doesn’t mean I agree with either man’s way of doing business.

  23. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester 2.0 on April 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm (#645677)

    NJ - and how is Willie to blame for the old guys and the injuries?
    He is given a roster by Omar. You wanna blame someone for that, blame Omar.

    As for Willie being at fault for the “Collapse”, can we all remember that from about June on forward, this was a 500 team. A team that had multiple injuries to players young and old. Yet, they still battled till the last day. He made some silly decisions (why not use Humber in the pen, why still use Mota). But at the end of the day, it is the fault of the PLAYERS who crumbled. Reyes didn’t hit. Glavine spit the bit. Heilman and Feliciano and others in the pen didn’t get it done. The only hitters who hit were Alou, Wright and Beltran.

    Is Willie the best manager? No. But for Pete’s sake people, this team over the past 3 years is better than what we’ve had in a long time.

  24. Comment posted by Steve Hubbell on April 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm (#645682)


    I enjoy listening to President Bush and find him a pretty cool dude.”

    Wow.

    [The sound of esteem falling off a cliff]

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  26. Comment posted by John Peterson on April 4, 2008 at 2:32 pm (#645699)

    Wow.

    [The sound of esteem falling off a cliff]

    What? You didn’t like hearing Bush talk about baseball last Sunday?

  27. Comment posted by redstripe n chronic on April 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm (#645724)

    I basically agree with this article. Managers do not have a huge impact on their teams’ records, obviously, but I believe a bad manager has more negative impact than a good manager has positive impact. Willie is a bad manager. Of course, I was a big Gotay fan and Milledge fan and plan to go see him at the new park down here (go to school in DC) asap. That may play a part in my opinion, but it still is a valid opinion. His refusal to incorporate young players into the lineup is very frustrating. I feel like Willie somehow got this rep as being a good mentor or teacher for young players, because he happened to have Wright and Reyes blossom on his watch (which they would have done anywhere b/c they are ridiculously good at baseball) but Willie seems like the exact opposite to me. The fact that young players never seem to get a fair shake on this team is a huge problem for the future, and part of the blame has to go to Willie (although it is an organizational problem as well).

    That said, the Wilopns ain’t firing him mid-season. The time for him to go was last October, so now we just have to take the good with the bad and hope Willie can progress as a manager somehow.

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  29. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on April 4, 2008 at 3:12 pm (#645748)

    Without delving too deep into this mess — I’m not endeared to Willie Randolph, but he’s a manager; I’m not endeared to any of them — I would like to say one thing that has always puzzled me about Randolph.

    He has an attitude, particularly with the media. In a guest column for Baseball Analysts Peter Abraham called him “inexplicably angry,” which was funny, because I got the same impression just from watching press conferences. Part of me wonders if that’s just the way he is. Another part questions whether he feels the need to be defensive with the New York media, and that’s just how he handles it. It just really surprises me since the media has largely been nothing but supportive of him.

    I also wonder if this is why the things he said about Gotay and Milledge came out sounding like they did.

  30. Comment posted by lucienlc on April 4, 2008 at 3:13 pm (#645749)

    As davidg pointed out more eloquently than I, Randolph laid the blame for the collapse squarely on his players and declared that he would have done nothing differently.

    This is simply not true. I heard Willie interviewed at the beginning of the season about the collapse, and he most certainly did take blame upon himself. He admitted to having been too passive, believing that the players would find a way to get it done. Since they didn’t, he said that if he had it to do over again, he would have been more involved, more vocal, etc.

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  32. Comment posted by John Peterson on April 4, 2008 at 3:19 pm (#645756)

    This is simply not true. I heard Willie interviewed at the beginning of the season about the collapse, and he most certainly did take blame upon himself. He admitted to having been too passive, believing that the players would find a way to get it done. Since they didn’t, he said that if he had it to do over again, he would have been more involved, more vocal, etc.

    I hadn’t heard this. I had heard him say “nothing” when asked what he would have done differently. Do you have a link/source for this?

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  34. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on April 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm (#645762)

    You can find one here.

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  36. Comment posted by Peter H on April 4, 2008 at 3:41 pm (#645776)

    Most others on the team slunk away from the press, played without any seeming passion and ultimately failed on the field. The trouble was that Wright - while saying the right things was too young to bring about a change of attitudes in the club house. This was a place where the manager was desperately needed – and Willie was nowhere to be found – absolutely nowhere. Rather than finding the key to ignite his team, Willie acted much like many of the players on his team – seeming to accept his fate and play out the season. His infamous quote, “if we get to sip the champagne, then great – if not, then so be it” said it all. One could argue that Willie was trying to take the pressure off his team – but it was a misguided attempt that was completely un-thought out. On a team that needed a spark – none was found in its leader and the rest was history. .

    I just don’t agree with this. The Mets collapsed because their pitching fell apart. The offense continued to perform, & staged a bunch of rallies against Florida & Washington. It had nothing to do with a lack of spark.

    That’s not to necessarily defend Willie’s leadership I do think the pitching’s implosion at the end of 2007 was partly psychological. Whatever the merits of Willie’s play-it-cool approach, it obviously failed to calm the players.

  37. Comment posted by SoCal Metfan on April 4, 2008 at 3:47 pm (#645786)

    I’d like to also dispell the notion that he doesn’t let young players play. Maybe he doesn’t play youth as much as you or I would like, but many commenters state that he simply refuses to let young guys play as thought it’s fact.

    Lets objectively look at the 3 of the younger players on last year’s team:
    Lasting Millege had ~200 ABs last year in 60 games, mostly in a platoon situation with Shawn Green.
    Gotay had ~200 as spot starter and utility infielder.
    Carlos Gomez had ~125 ABs in 58 games.

    Now you can argue they should have played more (hell, I make the same arguement), but some people keep saying Willie absolutely refused to play the young guys and that just isn’t true.

    Lets look at two other young players that the Mets have:
    David Wright, age 25 last year, played 160 and had almost 700 PAs.
    Jose Reyes, age 24 last year, played 160 games and had over 700 PAs.

    Willie has his faults and they merit note, but arguing them is different from hyperbolizing them.

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  39. Comment posted by John Peterson on April 4, 2008 at 3:50 pm (#645792)

    You can find one here.

    Randolph certainly sounds like he’s in pain there, but it doesn’t sound like he’s taking any blame. If anything, that’s more of the same. I trust my guys, I trusted them, but maybe they were too complacent. (Implying maybe that he should have done something. Maybe.) And then more of the same youth-hatred.

    What am I missing?

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  41. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on April 4, 2008 at 3:54 pm (#645804)

    But during a 30-minute interview in which he also took “full responsibility,” Randolph addressed a range of topics, including the team’s lackluster play down the stretch and whether he intends to tweak his managerial style for next season.

    “When you go through it, you don’t feel like you’re being complacent,” Randolph said. “But when you look back, you kind of have to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Well, maybe that’s what it was at times.’ It’s a funny thing to define, but at times we didn’t put the hammer down like we said.”

  42. Comment posted by Lister on April 4, 2008 at 3:54 pm (#645806)

    May Elohim bring us Joe Maddon.

  43. Comment posted by Hubie on April 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm (#645808)

    John, most met fan will disagree with you here. Willie has takem a good chunk of the responsibility for the collapse. In particular I am 100% sure I’ve heard him say that he trusted the veterans too much and that he was not on yop of the team as much as he should have been in September. I’m not a huge Willie fan and we all questions his in-game strategy, but the players all seem to respect him and that is a huge part of the job.

    Just find the timing of your article strange. Its a new season, we won 2 of our first 3 and you are dumping on Willie. None of us were happy with 2007. Lets give Willie and this club a chance to redeem themselves before we start burying them again.

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  45. Comment posted by Peter H on April 4, 2008 at 3:59 pm (#645817)

    Well, in this Daily News article, Randolph does criticize himself, but he also says this…

    Says Willie, “I felt all year long we didn’t have that killer instinct consistently that we should’ve had. We had at it times when our backs were against the wall, and we did show some fight (the Mets went 8-2 after the first four-game sweep by the Phillies), but you have to be careful when you put your back against the wall, because you can’t always get off that wall. In the end, that’s (exactly) what happened.”

    Randolph says he believed in his players’ character right to the final game, confident they would right themselves, and admits now the faith was misplaced: “I definitely gave them too much credit. I was looking for them to reveal to me that they were ready to be champions, but they showed me they weren’t ready.

    …which certainly sounds as if Willie is deflecting the blame.

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  47. Comment posted by John Peterson on April 4, 2008 at 4:03 pm (#645826)

    Haha, well here’s how I look at that, Alex:

    Taking “full responsibility” is just a cliché. He’s not actually taking responsibility, because he keeps putting the blame on the team for it.

    Sure, he “addressed a range of topics.” They asked him “whether he intends to tweak his managerial style for next season,” and he basically told them no, he would not.

    When you go through it, you don’t feel like you’re being complacent…

    By “you,” he means “one,” as in, “whoever is going through this,” as in, “the players.”

    But when you look back, you kind of have to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Well, maybe that’s what it was at times.’ It’s a funny thing to define, but at times we didn’t put the hammer down like we said.

    The players have to look themselves in the mirror and say, “yea, we were being complacent. We didn’t put the hammer down.”

    If he is actually saying that he is at fault in that statement, that’s pretty weak. You kind of have to look in the mirror and maybe that’s what it was.

    Grow a pair, Randolph.

    The undertone of everything Randolph says in that article is, to me, something like:

    “Damn these players. I was a winner. I am used to winning with the Yankees. What the hell is wrong with these players? They were good enough to win, and they didn’t.”

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  49. Comment posted by John Peterson on April 4, 2008 at 4:06 pm (#645832)

    I definitely gave them too much credit. I was looking for them to reveal to me that they were ready to be champions, but they showed me they weren’t ready.

    This is classic Willie. Yea I apologize. I apologize because I wrongly put my faith in a bunch of losers.

  50. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 4:09 pm (#645836)

    Precisely Peter H. His defenders don’t like to admitt it, but Willie has been more than evasive regarding his role for the collapse. When the media asks him about his role in it, he gives off the typical “I’m responsible” line and then he deflects it by mentioning how his players failed him. He needs to take TOTAL responsibility for that failure as a manager, because it is the manager’s job to make sure that their team ready to finish. Take a great manager like Jim Leyland, for example, his team loses its first 3 games against KC this season and he takes the complete hit because he understand the reality which accompanies being a leader of men on the field. To me, noone has really held Willie accountable for last season’s failure–not even himself.

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  52. Comment posted by John Peterson on April 4, 2008 at 4:10 pm (#645838)

    On the topic of former Met youths bashing Willie:

    “I’m not going to go out of my way to talk to him,” said Gotay, who had tears in his eyes last week when told he was put on waivers. “I’ll talk more to the players than him, because I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with the players.”

    http://www.nypost.com/seven/04042008/sports/mets/waiving_has_gotay_steaming_104995.htm

  53. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 4:15 pm (#645846)

    Whoops, looks like Willie isn’t the most popular with the youngsters.

  54. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 4:19 pm (#645852)

    Willie sucks.

    But the HAH! movement marches on.

  55. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 4:22 pm (#645859)

    Here is what a real manager sounds like:

    Jim Leylend, on the state of the Tigers and who takes the blame:
    “Right now we don’t look very professional. I take responsibility.”

    On what the Tigers looks like out on the field:
    “We look terrible at the plate. We’ve looked like a dead club. We’ve looked like an old club. We look like we’re not prepapred, and that’s the manager’s responsibility. I accept full responsibility for that.”

  56. Comment posted by Tim in LA on April 4, 2008 at 4:32 pm (#645865)

    Steamboat Willie is the worst kind of stupid. It’s stupidity lined with a veneer of arrogance that will always prevent him from learning from his mistakes. Managers don’t matter in a really tangible way, but they do set the tone of a ball club. And this team’s only chance on that front is if Wright and a few other goods seeds step up and becomes an overriding leadership.

  57. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 4:37 pm (#645870)

    Tim, you are on the mark.

    Stupidity + Arrogance + Obstinance = A Dangerous Thing

    Willie and George W. share this comon.

  58. Comment posted by Tim in LA on April 4, 2008 at 4:40 pm (#645871)

    Willie and Dub isn’t a bad comparison now that you mention it…although I do believe Willie at least tries to win.

  59. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 4:47 pm (#645881)

    although I do believe Willie at least tries to win.

    Could have fooled me in September 2007.

  60. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 5:39 pm (#645946)

    HOLY SHIT BALLS BATMAN! Devastator is coming to the big screen! Fuck yeah!

  61. Comment posted by DoctorK16 on April 4, 2008 at 5:55 pm (#645978)

    He has an attitude, particularly with the media. In a guest column for Baseball Analysts Peter Abraham called him “inexplicably angry,” which was funny, because I got the same impression just from watching press conferences. Part of me wonders if that’s just the way he is. Another part questions whether he feels the need to be defensive with the New York media, and that’s just how he handles it. It just really surprises me since the media has largely been nothing but supportive of him.

    My theory on this is that he feels the media is the reason he had to wait so long to get his shot as a manager and he doesn’t trust them. Also he’s very aware of being the first black manager in New York and doesn’t expected to get treated fairly and is very guarded with the media.

  62. Comment posted by HAH! on April 4, 2008 at 5:58 pm (#645981)

    I agree Doc. But he still sucks as a manager.

  63. Comment posted by Tim in LA on April 4, 2008 at 6:13 pm (#645997)

    and doesn’t expected to get treated fairly and is very guarded with the media.

    Maybe, but then it’s just another example of his failure to observe and adjust. The media does nothing but kiss his ass.

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  65. Comment posted by Chris McCown on April 5, 2008 at 7:40 am (#646473)

    Actually, Randolph refusing to take any of the blame is vaguely reminiscent to Larry Dierker in Houston, who’d always cast the spotlight on his own players.

    Of course, Dierker actually was a pretty good tactical manager, so at least he had that going for him…

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  67. Comment posted by Simons on April 6, 2008 at 12:42 pm (#647132)

    The conflation of George W. Randolph is making more and more sense after this weekend. George has said the words “I take full responsibility” but at the same time reporters ask him if he’s ever made mistakes and he’s like, “Hmmmm, can’t think of any!” On Saturday’s game you had Willie leaving in Sosa to give up the grand slam to Johnson and he’s like, “Well, what can you do.” Umm, bring in Pedro Feliciano maybe?

  68. Comment posted by argonbunnies on April 10, 2008 at 1:30 pm (#651364)

    I would understand all the criticisms of this article just fine if John’s points were made in a vacuum. However, they were made to Mets fans, in the context of everything we’ve seen from Willie. As such, his examples are not “special case” outliers, but rather specific representations of GENERAL PATTERNS. Each example he gave could be followed with 100 others just like it.

    Here’s the biggest one for me:

    Willie was asked in spring training about giving Reyes a day off last September. I perked up at the question, because it’s something EVERY MET FAN was suggesting at the time. Willie’s response was that he tried. But when he broached the subject with Reyes, Jose said “No way,” even walking out of Willie’s office at least once. Willie summed it up to the reporter with, “What are you supposed to do?”

    I don’t think I need to say anything more.

    Re: Willie’s tactical prowess, I think he might be improving, but I’m not sure. (If Wise returns and pitches well, we’ll see how he uses Show and Sosa then.) His refusal to even add the Wheel and the Squeeze to his playbook still strikes me as some alarming sign of mental limitation, though.

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