Not The ‘Apple’ Of Their Eyes

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: September 12, 2008

CALIFORNIA — The New York Mets, Jets, and Knicks are the teams in question with former African American management. The names of these African Americans released are Willie Randolph, Herman Edwards, and Isiah Thomas.

Of the three, only Edwards has landed on his feet with the Kansas City Chiefs. Randolph and Thomas have yet to find another job. Let’s start this review with the Mets and Willie Randolph.

The Mets did not play fundamental baseball under first time manager Randolph at the end of 2007 and the start of the 2008 season.They went into a complete collapse at the end of the 2007 baseball season.

Holding a seven-game lead with two weeks left, New York lost the division by a single game to the eventyual champion Philadelphia Phillies. Many New Yorkers wanted Randolph fired last September because of that, but it did not happen.

Met management gave Randolph another chance, but placed higher standards on this team’s performance. The Mets and Randolph could not live up to these invisible standards and failure followed.

Randolph was released from his duties in the spring of 2008. The Mets promptly went 14-10 in their next 24 games and made outstanding fielding plays every game. They finally played like a real baseball team.

They moved from last place into the middle of the division with the Phillies and Marlins. Entering Friday night’s play, New York led the division led by three games over Philly with 17 games remaining.

The Mets should win the NL East this year, but it still leaves a very bad taste in the mouths of many longtime Mets fans because they feel that Randolph should currently be at the helm.

Many Mets fans believed something went wrong in the clubhouse at Shea Stadium last year. The club’s private internal issues were at the core of Randolph’s release. Many current players did not want to play for Randolph, feeling there were too many rules.

Thus, creating the untimely demise of Randolph in a Met uniform.

Randolph wanted the Mets to play the “Yankee way” and many of the Mets did not like it or want to hear that. The Yankees are baseball’s Darth Vader in the eyes of the Mets and their fans.

The Bronx Bombers were the team from the Dark Side and the Mets wanted no part of that. The Yankee-Met World Series of 2000 showed just how powerful the Yankee image in New York as they swept the Mets in a very dull four-game Subway Series.

Both teams are acquiring new stadiums next year. The Mets have to share the historic event of closing old Shea Stadium and the opening of new CitiField Park with the closing of “The House that Ruth Built”, with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium.

Last year’s Mets were willing to play for their next manager, Jerry Manuel. The current Mets did not want to be the clean cut Yankees of the National League. Many players just layed down and played dead for Randolph and it cost Willie his job.

Randolph’s grace period ended on the early spring road trip to Anaheim. The Mets won the first game of a West Coast road trip on a Monday night. Then came the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night.

The question remains why send a guy 3,000 miles away then fire him? It is suspected that the Mets upper management had no guts to fire him face to face in the city of New York.

The organization lost a positive relationship and created a credibility gap with the NYC African American community after this incident. This gap continues to grow with African Americans and MLB given the low numbers of Black players on active rosters (only 8% of the league) in in 2008.

The Mets were always considered second class citizens in New York City. This was and still is a YANKEE town. Randolph had to deal with this mentality his entire tenure. The Mets just play in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York.

The Mets are still living through the baseball ghosts of the past, with two National League teams leaving New York City. With the Giants in San Francisco and the Dodgers in Los Angeles, the state of California still haunts the Mets and their fans.

Winning two World Championships and five division crowns won’t erase that pain. The Mets cannot compete against the Yankees 26 World Championships, 39 American League Championships, 16 division titles and three Wild Card appearances.

Randolph came from Darth Vader Land to straighten out the young upstarts. The Mets have a very short championship record: two World Series Championships, four National League pennants, five Eastern Division crowns and two Wild Card appearances. Paultry numbers compared to the Yankees.

Randolph cited two other great Black New York coaches having the same problems, including Edwards. The Jets were the laughing stock of the AFC East until Edwards turned the program around in 2001-2005.

Edwards put life back into the Kelly green monsters winning the AFC East in 2002. He placed the Jets into the playoffs three of his four years in New York City. Now his job is re-tooling the Kansas City Chiefs and he is experiencing difficulty turning this young team around.

Herm’s team had to play in Giants Stadium, not their own ball park. He also had to deal with a New York-New Jersey fan base that loved the Giants and considered the Jets an ugly stepsister. A situation very much similar to their baseball brothers, the Mets.

This year proves that point as the Super Bowl Champion Giants rule the tri-state area and are the kings of the city. It seems as if everybody has forgotten the Jets, until Brett Favre came in to give life to the Jet program. Right now, the Giants rule the New Jersey-New York football world.

Last but not least, is the former head coach and general manager Isiah Thomas of the Knicks. New York is now the laughing stock of the Eastern Conference.They have been a second division team for almost a decade now.

When the Patrick Ewing era ended, so ended New York’s championship mystique. The Knicks have been going backwards with each passing year. Isiah traded all the players of value within two years.

The Knicks now can not score, can not defend, they just can not play fundamentally-sound NBA basketball. The Madison Square Garden crowd got restless, and Mr. Thomas had to go.

This once proud franchise is now in complete shambles. The old glory days were over for the Knicks and Thomas just seemed to make it worse. The tri-state area has fallen in love with the Nets.

New Jersey won back-to-back straight Eastern Conference titles from 2002-03, something the Knicks never achieved under Thomas. They also acquired star point guard Jason Kidd and power forward Vince Carter.

The Nets are the basketball darlings of the New York-New Jersey area. The team is slated to be moving back to New York City area in the borough of the Brooklyn with an African American owner — rapper and producer Jay Z.

Lets see how the New Jersey- New York area responds to another African American sports leader in the area. It just seems that African American managers get a shorter grace period, and are watched closely.

Black managers are judged more harshly, unlike most white managers.

So far it’s 0 for 3, in New York City.