June 18, 2008
Roundtable: The Randolph Firing
by: The Geeks on Jun 18, 2008 1:01 AM | Filed under: Articles

With the news of Willie Randolph’s dismissal coming in the early morning, the staff mailing list was fairly busy yesterday. Here’s a sample of what some of our writers offered:

Chris McCown: It’s. About. Time.

At this point, even the most ardent Willie bashers have to admit some pity for Randolph, who has been hung out to dry for far too long. I’ve never been in Willie’s corner; I think he is a poor tactician, and his over-commitment to casting players in certain roles has cost the team wins, and, in 2007, it probably cost at least the one it would’ve taken to force playoff baseball. But to have to show up at your job every day with no idea if you’ll even work the next day is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and I’m glad that Willie finally doesn’t have to worry about that. The other major upside to this is the removal of the long-running and deplorable sideshow act that this had become for the players. With the distractions over Willie gone, hopefully the Mets can just focus on actually winning games.

As far as Jerry Manuel goes, I don’t think he adds anything to the table that Randolph didn’t. Baseball Prospectus 2004 explained that he was fired because his “…tragic flaw wasn’t so much the failure to exercise leadership as much as the failure to appear to exercise leadership.” Sound familiar? On the south side of Chicago he managed a .515 winning percentage over six years, with one bad year at 75-86 in 1999 and then a bunch of roughly .500 or better seasons to go along with one big 95 win season. Willie left with a .543 winning percentage, including a few roughly .500 years and a big 97 win season. Manuel was +6 in Pythagorean wins over the six years, essentially average. It’s hard to separate the mangers from the teams sometimes, but Manuel may not run with the Mets so much, as the White Sox finished tenth, ninth, seventh, fourth, seventh, and sixth in stolen bases during his years running the team. Of course, the White Sox of the early 2000’s were notoriously power-dominated, led by Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, Carlos Lee, Magglio Ordonez, and a younger Jose Valentin—don’t expect Jose Reyes to slow down, but he may calm the rest of the lineup down a bit. AL managers averaged about 100 pinch-hit appearances a year over the course of Manuel’s tenure. Manuel was almost always below that, averaging closer to 80.

On the pitching side of things, one thing that may benefit the Mets is Manuel’s slower hook. Over his six years as White Sox manager, only four relievers appeared 70 times or more in a season. Randolph has had six in the last two years alone, and certainly was on pace to match that this year with Pedro Feliciano, at the very least. As for the starters, Manuel rode Mike Sirotka over 200 innings twice, Mark Buehrle over 200 innings thrice, and Esteban Loaiza and Bartolo Colon each once. Willie had three in three years, but only Glavine in 2007 topped the mark over the past two (granted that may be more about the makeup of this staff than the team itself). The Manuel White Sox also issued fewer intentional passes, with only one year above 31 as a team. Randolph’s Mets handed out 43, 39, and 40.

Essentially, you can expect Jerry Manuel to be even more patient than Randolph, for better or for worse.

Alex Nelson: That’s some very interesting stuff, Chris. One of the things that bothers me about hiring Manuel is that he can’t represent a radical change to the demeanor of the clubhouse—he’s been Willie’s bench coach all season long and has a history of being a somewhat similar manager. I agree that I just don’t see very much differentiating Randolph and Manuel at this point in time. Maybe the front office is trying to “shake things up.” But how much does something like this really shake things up when everybody’s known it was coming for days?

And that’s the most angering thing about the firing: the timing. It demonstrates a total lack of respect for the team’s employees, something I find absolutely disgusting. Rather than just firing Randolph a week or two ago, the team instead decided to keep his condition almost day-to-day. Minaya refused to cement the team’s thoughts on his job security, whether it was firing him, declaring his job safe, or instituting a deadline (“We’ll re-evaluate at the All-Star Break”). That couldn’t have been healthy for Willie’s state of mind, and it’s a poor way to manage a professional environment.

And to fire him last night? After they send him all the way to Anaheim? They knew they were going to do it; after all, the front office flew out there. Why not do it before he stepped on the plane? I’m sure the double-header made that difficult, but certainly it’s got to be preferable to sending him on a needless trip to the West coast.

And what about the coaches who are going to be largely forgotten for the time being? I don’t agree with the firing of Rick Peterson—one of the few pitching coaches in the game who’s capable of making a difference—but who saw Tom Nieto getting fired? I’d love to know what he’s done in his short tenure as first base coach to merit losing his job.

The Willie Randolph firing was supposed to answer questions. But am I the only one who’s left with even more questions about the competence of this team’s front office than I had yesterday?

Jeff Mathews: Yeah, that first base coach spot was the one thing holding us back. Nieto hardly ever took a player’s batting gloves at first, and his ass-pats after base hits were definitely sub-par.

Dan Scotto: On October 2, 2007, following one of the most significant collapses in baseball history, Omar Minaya called Willie Randolph into his office. Randolph took a seat, sweat pouring from his brow, full of frustration from three weeks of utter suffering at the hands of his team and the media.

“Mr. Randolph,” said Minaya cooly. “After reviewing my notes and your performance, I think we’re going to go in another direction.”

Taken aback, Randolph stammered, “I beg your pardon?”

“You’re fired,” said Minaya. “But we don’t like our options to replace you quite yet. So here’s the deal. You get half a season next year to win back your job. If your club is performing well, and you’re in the thick of the NL East race, I’ll guarantee you your job through 2009. You might even get an extension. But if the team isn’t playing up to standards, we’re going to fire you then.”

“But this team isn’t that great anymore! It’s getting old and might stumble out of the gate,” protested Randolph.

“Leave that to me,” said Minaya.

Although this is a dramatization, I’m pretty sure this is how it went, at least unspoken. Someone had to face the axe following the Collapse, but the Mets weren’t ready to pull the trigger. After a half season of bumbling and, on the surface, uninspired play, Minaya decided to make the move. It was a calculated, rational decision, at least on some level.

Of course, this wasn’t how it went. It became a series of media guarantees and non-guarantees, rumors, false firings, and the general New York firestorm that faces a coach or manager who finds himself on the proverbial “hot seat.” The treatment that Randolph faced over the past month was indefensible, and it proves that the old days of Met dysfunctionality have returned with a vengeance. I think it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t a distraction for the team, which makes it even harder for the manager to keep his job.

As some pundits have said, the Mets should have made the move earlier or made an ironclad guarantee that he would be the manager for the remainder of the season, or at least until the All-Star Break, as Alex suggested. To me, firing a manager seems to be a bit like a witchcraft trial: people making inflamed, passionate, wild accusations against the “witch,” with the accused only growing more and more frustrated and unable to prove their own innocence. It’s a very ugly process.

I’m surprised that the Mets went with Jerry Manuel, which isn’t that much of a shake-up; installing Oberkfell as manager would be more significant. I’m not surprised that Peterson got fired. He missed on Victor Zambrano and he missed on Heath Bell, and someone has to be held accountable for those things. Tom Nieto’s firing is quizzical, but my hunch is that they were just trying to get rid of enough coaching staff to constitute a “shake up.”

Really, if Carlos Delgado had played to his career levels (or even his 2007 second half), and Oliver Perez had built on his 2007, the Mets would be four or five games better in the standings, and Randolph would not be much of an issue. As it is now, the Mets are floundering, and they had to do something to change that. I don’t think it’s particularly fair to Randolph personally, who I think is an adequate manager, but, as they say, you can’t fire the team. Once the anonymous player quotes signifying “time for a change” starting appearing in the papers, it was only a matter of time. And Randolph certainly failed at responding to Minaya’s fictional half-season ultimatum.

John Peterson: By releasing this news at 3:11 AM Eastern Time, the Mets ensured that the news would not make the morning papers, which surely angered the New York media, which, after all, disseminates opinion to the masses. This way the Mets took something that could have been a huge boost to the team’s perception and fan morale, and completely tanked it. Joe Everyman on the street is talking about how badly the Mets botched this. What’s worse, their transgression will be long remembered outside of New York. Even if the Mets eventually fire Omar, what sane and talented general manager is going to want to enter this kind of environment?

Aaron Dorman: I’m not as worked up as some people, maybe even most people, apparently about the timing of the decision, or the way it was handled. It’s a little strange, yes, to fire Willie Randolph after back-to-back wins, but at least they did it. I’ve never been a great fan of his, and nobody could say he was a great tactical manager (see: Guillermo Mota). I also think the media may be playing up the “Mets media circus” angle on this right now, since it’s trendy–perhaps
rightly so—to mock the New York Mess.

I honestly do think, indecent leaks or not, that Willie Randolph wasn’t adequately motivating his players. Consider, for example, the game on May 18th against the Yankees, where Carlos Delgado hit his phantom Home Run. Yes, the Mets wound up winning 11-2, but at the time it was still a ballgame—the botched call made the score 4-0 as opposed to 6-0—and the replay made it obvious that Delgado’s ball was good. I wanted Randolph to show some passion in that spot, and stick
up for his team. I wanted him to get himself thrown out. To me, if a manager really cared, even somebody with a normally collected demeanor should lose his cool when his team is denied multiple runs in outrageous fashion. Someone on the Mets coaching staff did indeed get thrown out of the game for the incident—Jerry Manuel, who will now be taking Willie’s place.

Overshadowed, but no less significant to me, is the firing of Rick Peterson, the oft-quoted pitching “guru” who famously promised to fix Victor Zambrano in ten minutes. I’m not sure if managers really can make a team better, but I do think pitching (and maybe hitting) coaches can have a stronger effect on the team. And for that reason I’m far more satisfied with Peterson’s firing. I have no idea what he’s been actually telling his pitchers, the routines he goes through with them, etc, but very few results over the past four years, to me, every pointed to some kind of pitching genius. And this year especially, some pitchers look like they haven’t been talked to at all. Oliver Perez for example, inexplicably has reverted back to his pre-Mets uberwild self, after being reasonably dependable for a full season last year. And Mike Pelfrey continues to be more or less a one-pitch pitcher. Yes, he got tons of ground balls last night, but, as evidenced by his zero strikeout and bad strikeout rate all year, he doesn’t have a pitch beyond his fastball to really fool hitters. The most I ever heard about Peterson working with a pitcher was the legendary Matt Ginter, four years ago, who was incouraged to mimic archery positions on his way to one exciting win in a New York Mets uniform. Hurrah.

All this said, Omar Minaya probably didn’t handle the situation as well as he could have, and now, the onus for the Mets season falls squarely on him, just like when Bobby Valentine’s firing left Steve Phillips in the headlights. The last two years, he really hasn’t done a great job finding adequate complentary parts for the Mets superstar core, and of course, this draft aside, the farm system remains as big a joke as anything inolving the New York Mets. Maybe somebody—Jerry Manuel? unfortunately, I doubt it—can motivate players to hustle their way into overperforming, but no amount of coaching can make Moises Alou or Carlos Delgado ten years younger. I was a big fan of Omar Minaya’s for the first three years he was a GM, which does sound fairweather I know, but ever since the end of the 2007 season, aside from the Santana trade, he, like the Mets organization, has appeared fairly clueless. And more significantly, as evidenced by the way the Willie firing was handled, it looks like he’s lost some of his “autonomy” back to the Wilpons, which points to him being next on the firing line if the Mets don’t turn it around.

Alex: Well, I agree the decision to fire Randolph isn’t necessarily a bad one. It may have been justified. But there’s an issue with professionalism here. The Mets handled this in an unprofessional manner, and that, I feel, raises legitimate questions about the ability of ownership and the front office to conduct their business.

The real problems I have are the following:

1. Things seem to be spinning out of Omar Minaya’s control, as both Dan and Aaron allude to. It’s just a vibe I get, right now, but it feels an awful lot like the way things felt back when Jim Duquette was being undermined. Watching Omar during the press conference, he just seemed on tilt the entire time, like he was fighting on enemy turf. I’m not sure if Omar’s part of the problem or whether this stems from parties higher up the food chain.

2. Another old problem: the team seems extremely image-conscious without really understanding how to present their image well. The team waits until 3:11 AM New York-time to release the news that Willie Randolph has been fired, before anybody (presumably) knew about it, save Randolph, Peterson, and Nieto. They do this (presumably) to keep it out of the morning papers. (As an aside, is the team even aware that most people don’t get their information from morning papers anymore?) They didn’t fire him on Sunday, because they were frightened to fire anybody on Father’s Day. Ditto on Memorial Day. Instead, they trek him across the country and fire him before bedtime after the team’s won three of four.

How did they think this would look?

John: You’re right about number two: the Mets’ decision to release the news past newspaper deadline time and have the press conference after TV talk show time shows just how out-of-date they are. I mean, just check out Buster Olney’s column. While they are out-of-date, they are image-conscious to a ridiculous degree, which is funny, considering how bad they end up looking.

22 Responses to “Roundtable: The Randolph Firing”

  1. Comment posted by Eli on June 18, 2008 at 1:19 am (#731089)

    I predict that based on the reputation that Willie developed here as a bad tactician (pretty much deserved), he’ll never get another head coaching job again. I feel sorry for Willie. I feel sorry for Willie but he should have been fired last October, and Omar should have been fired as well. With Jerry, we’ll pretty much see more of the same I am afraid.

  2. Comment posted by griffyusc on June 18, 2008 at 1:32 am (#731090)

    Good can we now sit Carlos Delgado on the Bench, like forever and call up Carp

  3. Comment posted by doug sisk on June 18, 2008 at 3:49 am (#731092)

    interesting tidbit from bob klapisch in the record:

    “This was in early May, long before Willie Randolph’s administration came crashing down. The manager summoned one of his veterans into his office for a closed-door meeting, challenging him to focus more on baseball.

    It was a rare, line-in-the-sand moment for Randolph, who avoided confrontation with his players. But the manager’s attempt to assert his authority failed miserably, as the two men raised their voices at each other.

    As he walked out the door, the elder Met taunted Randolph, “I’m going to be here longer than you.”

    any guesses as to whom the “veteran” might be?

    i’m betting $20 that it was delgado. he seems like the hard-headed type that doesn’t like being chewed out or challenged, despite the fact that he’s very outspoken himself.

    what’s the matter carlos, you can’t handle a little criticism? when you’re hitting as poorly as you are, you need to suck it up and take it like a man, then go out and produce the way we expect you to.

    i also think the “vet” in question was a latino player because it seems that willie’s biggest rift in the clubhouse was with the latin contingent. remember that even wagner, as outspoken as he is, seemed to back willie a few weeks back when he was asked about the manager possibly getting fired, whereas the latin players didn’t seem to give any endorsement. and who among the latin players is the most likely culprit? bingo – delgado.

  4. Comment posted by Tim in LA on June 18, 2008 at 5:41 am (#731096)

    For all your anger at Delgado, Doug, that story shows exactly why Willie had to go. He wasn’t fully in control, and didn’t motivate his players.

    I’m really disappointed that the Mets stayed in-house — virtually anyone would have been better than Manuel. But I did like what I saw when he pulled Reyes against his wishes. Temper tantrums aren’t going to work anymore.

  5. Comment posted by doug sisk on June 18, 2008 at 6:41 am (#731100)

    tim, i agree with you 100%. i have no problem with willie getting fired, as i too felt he wasn’t in control of the clubhouse. that said, this unnamed vet who basically told willie to “shove it” is a real d-bag. not that i’m surprised.

    i don’t know a single met fan who approved of manuel getting the job. the most intriguing names that had been bandied about were bobby valentine and wally backman. at any rate, we’re stuck with manuel for the rest of the year, so in spite of our doubts about him, hopefully the team starts to show it actually has a pulse.

    since you live in la, were you able to catch either of the past two games in anaheim? i still haven’t made it to the big A but i have been to dodger stadium several times; definitely one of my favorites.

  6. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester thinks Jeff Wilpon is a tool on June 18, 2008 at 7:53 am (#731102)

    Bobby V aint walking through that door.

    He’s got a great gig in Japan. Why come back?

    Let’s recall how he liked to fuck players over in the press (see Hundley, Todd).

    His act wore thin quickly.

    As for Backman, I doubt the Wilpon’s go for another rookie manager. Odds are they will want a “proven veteran”(c) as manager.

  7. Comment posted by mookie03 on June 18, 2008 at 8:11 am (#731104)

    historically, what effect does it have on a pitching staff to fire the pitching coach mid-season? Seems to me that at least in the short term it would throw them off course a bit. I guess we’ll find out with Perez tonight.

  8. Comment posted by sheadenizen on June 18, 2008 at 9:13 am (#731130)

    Until Minaya realizes the problem is the team he has assembled and not the manager, we will see more of the same lackluster, bumbling play from this team.
    Jerry Manuel seems like a nice guy, but unless he has some magic potion that can increase Delgado’s bat speed, return Castillo’s range, bring back Beltran’s power or make Damion Easley a competent replacement in the field, I fail to see where anything has changed. ( see last night’s game…..)
    Willie Randolph needed to go. I have no problem with that. How they did it was classless. We all know that. But,this team needed surgery and got a band aid.

  9. Comment posted by Hubie on June 18, 2008 at 9:55 am (#731161)

    But,this team needed surgery and got a band aid.

    Agree, but not mid season. We need to live and die with this roster. Any trades sacrificing youth would be follish. I agree 100% with the manuel hiring. Not the time to bring someone in fron the outside. If they don’t play well for Manuel, he’ll be gone and we start 2009 fresh.

  10. Comment posted by JamesSC on June 18, 2008 at 10:34 am (#731206)

    I agree with the Manual hiring as well, while this team is floundering and not playing up to snuff, an outsider in the middle of the season makes no sense. Jerry will only be hear until the end of the year unless the team really seems to respond to him. At that time we can bring in someone else.

    Interesting move with Oberkfell, if they end up wanting him as Manager his bench coach position now might hinder that move. Maybe the plan is to keep him as bench coach under a new coach next year? Guess we will wait and see.

    Agree with most of the above. However, I am still a fan of Omar, so I do not want to see him go next. I think Omar will be the right guy to rebuild this ship if that is the direction we want to take next year.

  11. Comment posted by coolpapabell on June 18, 2008 at 10:45 am (#731227)

    Wow that is some pretty intersting stuff from the Klap. I can’t pull the article up though, but I woudl assume that it is Delgado. I am really apprehensive in throwing Delgado under the bus when A) I wasn’t there B) No accounts named names C) this would not be any where near permissible in court

    I gut however does tell me that the most likely culprit might be Delgado or maybe even Alou.

    Boy this team needs to change. Once Pagan comes back, I would like to see Alou gone by the trading dealine-I assume we will be outof it by then. Maybe we can get some middle relief help. I would also like to see Delgado and Castillo gone. I think we might be able to dump if we eat the contract, and trade him for relievers. I would also like to see Orlando Hudson and maybe Pat the Bat next year.

    Get Garland and resign O.P. on the cheap, and a cheap two year contract for Pedro. If Pedro is unreasonable then goodbye.

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  13. Comment posted by Jessica on June 18, 2008 at 11:05 am (#731258)

    I think the veteran Met may have been Wagner. He had problems with some of his teammates in Philly, Willie didn’t seem to like the fact that he reamed out a teammate in public (Perez’s atrocious outing against the Pirates was at the very end of May, so the timing might fit), and unlike Delgado, Wags has a guaranteed contract through next year (remember, there was a lot of buzz about the Mets possibly releasing Delgado when he got off to a terrible start)

  14. Comment posted by Hubie on June 18, 2008 at 12:10 pm (#731362)

    I would be surprised it was Wagner. He and Willie seem to have been buddy/buddy recently. Add to that his performance was excellent up to the time of the supposed confrontation.

    But remember this is my Perception, Omar’s new favorite word.

  15. Comment posted by JDON on June 18, 2008 at 12:27 pm (#731395)

    I read a story about Delgado. When he was in the minors he was feuding with a home plate umpire over balls and strikes. Once, when he was punched out, he told the ump he would send him a postcard when he reached the majors. This kind of comment is in line with the Klapisch story. Not foolprrof evidence, I know. But I thought Delgado the second I read it.

  16. Comment posted by sheadenizen on June 18, 2008 at 12:48 pm (#731416)

    Interesting move with Oberkfell, if they end up wanting him as Manager his bench coach position now might hinder that move. Maybe the plan is to keep him as bench coach under a new coach next year? Guess we will wait and see.

    Sandy Alomar is the bench coach. Oberkfell is the 1st base coach.

    Get Garland and resign O.P. on the cheap,

    This was a joke right? Boras is Perez’s agent. He’s not going anywhere for cheap.

  17. Comment posted by Brian on June 18, 2008 at 12:51 pm (#731420)

    Interesting move with Oberkfell, if they end up wanting him as Manager his bench coach position now might hinder that move.

    I thought he was coaching 1st last night

  18. Comment posted by Ellis Dee on June 18, 2008 at 1:34 pm (#731472)

    What I like about Manuel is how he would have handled the colapse coming into this season. Using it as motivation instead of trying to “put it behind us” (ala Randolph). I hated the way Willie tried to put it in the past. You just can’t pretend it never happened or wasn’t significant. It’s like trying to run from your past, but it just keeps coming back to haunt you.

    The best thing from all of this might be getting Sandy out of coaching 3B.

  19. Comment posted by §Ø©ª£ μΣŦƒдⁿ on June 18, 2008 at 2:17 pm (#731533)

    “This was in early May, long before Willie Randolph’s administration came crashing down. The manager summoned one of his veterans into his office for a closed-door meeting, challenging him to focus more on baseball.

    It was a rare, line-in-the-sand moment for Randolph, who avoided confrontation with his players. But the manager’s attempt to assert his authority failed miserably, as the two men raised their voices at each other.

    As he walked out the door, the elder Met taunted Randolph, “I’m going to be here longer than you.”

    This is the basest of trash tabloid journalism. Either name names, or don’t print this kind of BS. And all the speculation is this thread is not much better.

  20. Comment posted by jim w. on June 18, 2008 at 3:07 pm (#731585)

    I stayed up to watch Manuel’s post-game press conference after the game last night, and I’m completely sold. It sounds ridiculous, I know. I didn’t expect to like him. But he seems to be something Willie isn’t — a leader. Manuel seems to have a natural authority and charm to go with it. Willie always seemed stiff to me. Grasping for the right thing to say. Looking over his shoulder at fans, media, and ownership whenever he made a decision. The best managers just have to act — simply and resolutely, let the chips fall where they may. From what happened last night, it looks like Manuel is going to do this. Doesn’t mean he’s a tactical genius, doesn’t mean he will make the best use of the stats that should be available to him, but at least he seems like a genuine leader. I was incredibly relieved to see the way he carries himself. What a welcome change.

  21. Comment posted by coolpapabell on June 18, 2008 at 3:31 pm (#731622)

    I know O.P. is a Boras client, but I can’t imagine the Mets resigning if its not on the cheap. If he asks for too much then goodbye. My hope is that if he continues to suck, then he might not be able ask for the moon but……..yeah it is Boras though.

  22. Comment posted by ajsmith on June 18, 2008 at 5:12 pm (#731711)

    I’m happy that Willie’s gone, and of course disgusted by how it was handled (to start, it should have happened in October – bit I digress.)

    As to Manuel, or Nieto, the truth is that no one here, to my knowledge, has any real idea of the relationships involved or even of the work that any of these coaches were doing – or not doing behind the scenes. To say that Manuel doesn’t represent change, just cuz he has been here, makes it sound as if you have any real idea about these things. If you do, I’m sure we’d all love to hear where you’re getting your info. The only things I’ve read are that Manuel is well-respected and well-liked by the players, which immediately seems to me to be a huge difference from Willie.

    I assume that Nieto had to go cuz he was seen as Willie’s guy. I also assume (tho again I’m guessing) that Manuel – though he was Willie’s bench coach – has very different relationships with the players than Willie had, and perhaps even very different ideas about running the team. I’m fairly certain that he would have had the opportunity to discuss these with others in the organization – including Omar – and that Omar, at least, has an idea that he’s not going to be just “more of the same.”

    If he does nothing more than rest Wright and Reyes occasionally, and make 3 fewer pitching changes per week, he’ll already, in my opinion, represent a positive change that will help this team come August and September. If the players – Latino or otherwise – who had seemingly tuned out Randolph – are willing to listen to what he has to say, so much the better. I think that all we can do at this point is to wait and see how he does, and how the team responds. He’s got 90 games or so – and perhaps, so does his boss.

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  24. Comment posted by babahr on June 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm (#731927)

    “Getting close, ‘06,when Beltran didn’t get the bat off his shoulder,” Randolph said, referring to the last out of Game 7, when Carlos Beltran took a called third strike with the Mets down two runs with the bases loaded.

    That’s from the NYTimes, a few minutes ago.

    Pretty stinging statement. True tho.