Mets, Willie Both Scratching to Survive
Memorial Day could have been either somber or celebratory at Shea Stadium, depending on how you view the job that Willie Randolph has done with the Mets. After meeting with top brass, Randolph emerged unscathed, but did not receive any guarantees that he will be around if wins do not start coming in bunches.
"Willie's the manager, as I said on Friday," general manager Omar Minaya told the gathered media at a pre-game press conference. "Willie's our manager. Willie has a contract for next year. I am hoping that Willie will be the manager for many years to come."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but after Randolph's tumultuous week - which was brought on by his own comments and the team dropping six of seven on their last road trip - any sort of backing will have to suffice.
How would the Mets respond? They took two out of three from the National League East division leading Florida Marlins. Perfect wins they were not, but when you a desperate for a positive sign, beggars cannot be choosers.
The Mets are still playing sloppy baseball and will have to do some serious soul searching to rectify the season. Uninspired and undisciplined play has plagued this club since last September, and no matter how many times Randolph says in his post-game press conferences, "This isn't last year," the way the team has dragged itself with inconsistent play throughout the first two months of the current season, it is a direct continuation from the collapse of '07.
The types of negatives associated with the Mets can be pinned directly on the manager and his coaching staff. Getting picked off, attempting to take an extra base trailing in a game, swinging at the first pitch following a walk when your team is desperate for base runners are just a sample of what has been regular play at Shea.
Randolph acknowledged that his players tried their best to shoulder the blame for the team's woes. "They have always been supportive of me," the manager stated at the conference. Many in the clubhouse may have said that it was on them, but nary a player came directly out and said that they want Willie around all year.
That remains to be seen. Fred Wilpon and his son Jeff, along with Minaya, sat down and tried to clear the air. Considering they are paying nearly $140 million in salary, the Wilpons have every right to question what has been going on of late.
This team was put together to win it all back in 2006. Losing Game 7 of the National League Championship Series to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals turned out to have more ramifications than it appeared that October evening. The team felt that it was better than St. Louis and had a good case for the majority of the following season. That was until the final month.
This is another aspect that can be blamed on the manager. He has to get his team mentally prepared for ups and downs, and that apparently has not been honed. They acted as a smug bunch last September while never feeling a sense of urgency, and that has continued.
Eerily similar to Randolph's demeanor.