Lay Off Willie

Forget yesterday’s reprieve, Willie Randolph is managing his last games for the New York Mets. Omar Minaya and ownership are using Randolph as the primary scapegoat for last season’s collapse, and the disappointing start this year. Few players have come to his defense, contrary to the Yankees treatment of Joe Torre. All Mets management did yesterday was hang yet another distraction over a team that struggles to handle adversity. The team is a ticking time bomb set to explode, the only question is where and when.

Randolph certainly deserves some of the blame. He is the manager, the team is underperforming, and appears unmotivated, that has to reflect on the job he’s doing – to an extent. However, this season’s demise started in the offseason. Minaya had a chance to fix an old, inconsistent pitching staff that collapsed in September. Johan Santana solved the big problem, an ace starter, but he stopped there. Minaya counted on Pedro Martinez to return as his #2 starter after missing over a year. He projected El Duque as the fifth man, someone who is known to take lengthy in-season sabbatical. That left the mind-bogglingly inconsistent Oliver Perez and still young John Maine to shoulder the load when the other two broke down. Inevitably, both Martinez and Hernandez broke down – even quicker and less productively than I imagined – leaving Maine and Perez to shoulder the load. Disappointing Mike Pelfrey has performed poor in taking over the fifth spot. Minaya created this mess, or should I say, left it.

Look at the position players, same story. Moises Alou is a top tier hitter, even at his advanced age. However, he’ll never be mistaken for Cal Ripken. Last season Carlos Delgado’s imminent demise was obvious to anyone watching. Luis Castillo is a questionable contract. Maybe he’s good for this year, but four years at that money?

You expect Wright, Reyes, and Beltran to play at an All-Star level. Outside of that core, Minaya handed over a team with a number of question marks, filled with inevitable problems. Outside of Ryan Church’s emergence, every question mark has become a resounding negative. The core players, who are supposed to carry the team when they struggled, need carrying themselves. Minaya and Randolph can’t do anything about those three, the rest of the issues come back to Minaya, the real fall guy here.

Randolph is not the best in-game manager, he’s certainly not Joe Torre off the field, nor is he a fiery personality like Lou Piniella. Still, I ask you to find a manager that would do much better with this crew. The team had unrealistic expectations. They are not a 100-win team, maybe 90 wins if everything broke right, which it hasn’t. The Mets are better than their current record, just not as good as people think they should be.

I heard a good point, Wilpon may hold off the firing because Randolph is a coach on the All-Star team at Yankee Stadium. If that actually played into the decision, it’s a disgrace since the team should come first, but I’m not counting it out. Odds are Randolph does not finish the season because this Mets team is not going to markedly improve.