Willie Has To Go

By Korbid Thompson
Updated: September 30, 2007

NEW YORK — As a Mets fan of 23 long years, I have watched the disasters such as the teams of the mid 1990s with Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray, Juan Samuel, Jeff Kent, and so on, and so on. How about 1998, when the Mets only needed to win one game to force a 3-way tie for the wild card, but lost their last five games to watch October from their TV sets?

Oh, don’t forget the ’99 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, when John Franco and Armando Benitez conspired to make more Mets history by not holding a lead in an extra inning Game 6 that the Braves would eventually win a trip to the World Series, via a bases loaded walk.

Then, there was the sheer embarassment of falling to the crosstown Yankees in a five-game World Series in 2000. Then, there’s the Art Howe era — or should I say, error? Don’t even get me started on 1962, and pretty much all of the ’70s.

So, the point is that there have been many a mistake at the hands of this franchise over its 45 seasons of existence. Keeping Willie Randolph as manager will be one more.

Where do I begin? There is a serious culture problem around built around this historic choke job — not “collapse” — choke job, that took place at Shea Stadium over the last week that allowed the Mets to lose the National League East to the Philadelphia Phillies. For example, Carlos Beltran not running down fly balls over his head, Jose Reyes not running out much of anything,

Carlos Delgado being lazy on the basepaths, and in the field. David Wright not being able to throw a baseball from third base to first without it being an adventure. It goes on and on and on. Sure, there is plenty to blame on the players, a good number of whom are overrated. However, Willie Randolph is the captain of the ship. He has to be held accountable, period.

Randolph’s mishandling of a shoddy bullpen, repeated mishandling of his bench, and mishandling of player injuries are now sticking out like sore thumbs. I don’t really care about his lack of energy during games and post-game conferences, although it is noticed. What’s more glaring to me is that Willie’s Xs and Os leave a lot to be desired.

His decisions — or lack of a decision — has cost this team too many games over the last 2 years. Last year, the Mets were the “better team” in the NLCS against the Cardinals, and that didn’t exactly work out. This year, they were the “better team” in the N.L. East over the Phillies and Braves, and that became a historic embarassment.

Aside from some of the players who should be shown the door, as in Tom Glavine and especially steriod using numbskull Guilermo Mota, just to name a couple, Omar Minaya should take a 50% pay cut for completely botching the bullpen, not fixing it before the July 31st trading deadline, and letting it cost him.

Pitching coach Rick Peterson deserves more than a few criticisms, as well. Rickey Henderson, Howard Johnson, Jerry Manuel, there’s enough to go around for everybody.

There’s no easy way to fix this. It’s going to take great leadership to do just that. Unfortunately, Willie Randolph just doesn’t have it. Listen, I was all for Willie being the manager of this team. First African-American manager, the whole deal. Just check out my “ Willie’s Wait Part II ” article that I wrote for BASN just two years ago. It just hasn’t worked out.

Too many blown leads, too many blown saves and too many losses to Philadelphia tells me all I need to know about the man who wears number 12. Too sum it up, a four-game sweep of the Mets in Philadelphia ended with our fearless leader intentionally walking Jimmy Rollins to pitch to All-Star Chase Utley, only for Utley to smack a base hit off Billy Wagner to win the game, 11-10 (on August 31st).

August 16 — the Mets have a 5-0 lead against the perennial-losing Pittsburgh Pirates — lost 10-7. September 30 — with the season on the line, Willie decides to stick with the already aged Tom Glavine, even when he clearly doesn’t have the heart or skill to get a Florida Marlins batter out, until he puts the Mets in a deficit that was not to be overcome. Too many examples, too little time.

In 2000, when the Mets started at 27-28, manager Bobby Valentine took it upon himself to own up to the responsibility of a lackluster performance from his team. He came out and said that if this team does not perform, that he should be the one to lose his job, not his coaches, who were fired at the time.

When hitting coach Rick Down was let go earlier this season, all Willie could do was complain to Omar Minaya about it, and not take responsibility himself. Not once has Randolph stood up, and shouldered the blame for this debacle. That’s misplaced arrogance. That’s ineptitude. Something that has been tolerated around Flushing, New York for too long.

If the ownership of the Wilpon family and the New York Mets are truly serious about winning a championship in the next 21 years — being that it’s been 21 years since the last one — there needs to be serious changes. The most serious one of all starts with their manager.