Willie’s Wait, Part II: His Chances For 2005

By Korbid Thompson
Updated: January 9, 2005

Willie Randolph
Willie Randolph

NEW JERSEY—About two months ago, fellow BASN writer Tony McClean “took off his objective sports reporter’s cap”, and donned a New York Mets cap, due to the hiring of new manager Willie Randolph. While I welcome Tony to put on his Mets cap, it’s time for someone who has been a unobjective Mets fan for over 20 years(with the actual caps to prove it) to throw his two cents in.

First, I’ll start with the manager himself. For one, I am not one of those aforementioned Mets fans that Tony spoke of who gets hung up on former Yankees players joining the other side. After all of the players they have taken over the years(i.e. Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, etc.), it would be nice to springboard towards a championship with one of their past treasures. After all, Randolph was a part of those great Yankee teams of the late 1970’s, and as much as I despise the Bronx Bankers, I welcome him aboard – until he messes up, anyway. Just kidding, Willie.

All kidding aside, although Randolph is the first African-American manager in the history of either New York baseball team, he knows as well as anybody that New York is not the place to fail. Just ask his predecessor Art Howe, as incompetent as he was over the last 2 years. There are a ton of managers/coaches who have been dumped into the landfills of New York City, one of whom was New York Giants football coach Jim Fassel, now working as an assistant with the Baltimore Ravens. Point being that if Willie can�t hack New York, he will find out in a hurry. NY’s fans and media will not hesitate to tell Randolph what they think of his strategic moves, as well as GM Omar Minaya’s personnel decisions.

With Carlos Beltran in the fold, let’s look at Willie’s Mets for 2005. Their two biggest needs are a power hitter(either Beltran or Carlos Delgado) and a lot of bullpen help. With the age of the starting rotation, there won’t be many complete games thrown by Met pitchers this coming season. While Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine will lead this staff, who is there to go to besides closer Braden Looper? They will try Mike DeJean as the primary setup man, but other than that, it’s all youth and unproven pitching. It will be interesting to see where Willie goes in a 5-5 game, bottom of the 7th inning. Well, that’s for a little while yet to come.

One of the big problem areas for this Met team is their defense, or serious lack of. Shortstop turned second baseman Kazuo Matsui had more errors than a calculator should be allowed to count. Returning shortstop Jose Reyes will have to prove once and for all that he can stay on the field for an entire season. If that happens, Met fans will be happy with his production. Third baseman David Wright has 30 home run potential just waiting to come out, along with his .300 batting average. Left fielder Cliff Floyd is still a Met, because nobody is willing to take a chance on him. Why? See my comments about Jose Reyes. Mike Cameron patrols center, but will miss the first month of

05 with a nagging wrist injury. If Beltran is not a Met, then right field is up for grabs. Rookie Victor Diaz is a possibility, but inexperience is a dirty word in New York. As for first base, please get Carlos Delgado.

When you have a Hall of Fame catcher such as Mike Piazza, how do you tell him he can

t catch anymore? That will be one of Willie

s chief responsibilities, making sure that Piazza does not kill this team with his countless ground balls from his arm – not his bat. Aside from that, Mike

s slumps are getting worse with every year, and his injuries are becoming more frequent and longer. How does Willie put a stop to that? Good luck.

As of right now, the Mets are better than last year, but not by a lot. With the Atlanta Braves getting Tim Hudson from Oakland, they are once again in the driver’s seat of the National League East. Even with Philadelphia’s virtually inactive off-season, they are still a force in the division. As for Florida, I do believe that the Mets can jump ahead of them this year. Washington barely knows where they are playing ball at, much less where their wins are coming from. I could see 80 wins from this team as presently constituted. It will take at least 90 to give them a shot at the playoffs.

Then, of course, there’s all the outside stuff. Four straight disappointing seasons(3 of them 90-plus losses), playing in the same town as the Yankees, dealing with the instability of Pedro Martinez, the New York media, the New York fans, a $100-plus million payroll, lack of major league experience, and did I mention the New York media? From who his opening day pitcher is to who his 25th man will be, it will all fall on his shoulders. Let’s just hope it doesn’t all fall, period.

It’s those kind of decisions that will determine Randolph’s fate in New York – and his fate as a manager – and yes, his fate as an African-American manager. As we all know, there aren’t too many of those in the game. So, as a Mets fan who has waited 19 years for another championship, I root for Willie. As an African-American who loves his baseball, I will do the same.