What bothers me about the Willie Randolph firing isn’t that it came now instead of after last season, but rather that it was done with absolutely no class by a GM who doesn’t belong in a MLB front office. Omar Minaya has made a plethora of questionable moves during his tenure as GM of the New York Mets, and this one was clearly his worst. Sure, you can argue that the Mets’ collapse at the end of last season warranted a firing – I tend to disagree, but that’s for an article nine months ago. You can also argue that the rather pedestrian start to the season by a team loaded with big names (sound familiar, Yankees fans?) warranted a firing of Randolph, as well. Either way, it didn’t need to happen like this.
I’m most disturbed by the timing and logistics of the situation. While the 34-35 record for the Mets thus far is unacceptable with its current payroll, I didn’t feel the blame should point solely at Randolph. The Mets were reeling last week, caught in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and having lost 6 of its last 7 games. But two of those games were blown by closer Billy Wagner, and the team lost three consecutive games to the San Diego Padres by a score of 2-1. Perhaps Willy could have made a move here or a move there to generate an extra run or two along the way, but when your offense scores 3 runs in 3 games, the onus needs to fall on the hitters and not the manager.
But nonetheless, if you’re going to fire a manager, the right time to do it might be during a losing a streak or at the tail end of it. Instead, Minaya chose to do after a 9-6 win last night and the Mets’ second win in a row. Not only that, but the team had won four of its last six and just received a boost in the return of Pedro Martinez, who had been out since early April. To me, however, that’s not the worst part. The Mets’ 4-2 win over Texas on Sunday split a doubleheader as the team took two of three from a high powered offense. And they did it at home, in Shea Stadium, in New York, where the team plays its home games, where the players, coaches, and organizational employees all call home and lay their heads. Again, if you’re going to fire a manager, do him a favor and fire him at home before a long road trip out West. Yet again, instead, Minaya decided to let Randolph lead his troops over 3,000 miles across the country to LA for a 3-game set against the AL-West leading Angels. And after that aforementioned 9-6 victory over said division leading Angels, Minaya then decided to fire his manager. On the road. On the other side of the country. After two consecutive wins. At 3:15 in the morning. When the rest of the country is sleeping. Ridiculous.
So let me get this straight, Omar. You have your manager pack up his things and travel across the country so he can win a game and then you can fire him so that he can again pack up his things and fly back across the country and go home without a job. Way to show some class. The fact that he fired him after winning two straight games indicates this was pre-meditated. Which makes the situation even worse. If the intention of Omar Minaya was to fire Randolph, why didn’t he do it after Sunday’s doubleheader at home? Or at least wait until another uninspired effort from his ball club led to another disappointing loss? Or, as I mentioned earlier, why didn’t he drop the axe last week after the five-game losing streak? Minaya doesn’t seem like the type of guy whose forte is good timing. You know the kind. The guy who tells his wife he’s leaving her the same day she gets fired from her job. Or the friend who reminds you at a relative’s funeral that you owe him $20 from that bet you guys made last week on who could chug a beer faster.
The bottom line is that Minaya made the move that everyone has been clamoring for since last September, but he couldn’t have screwed it up any worse. And I think he should follow his former manager right out the door for his transgressions as GM, this latest incident being his most offensive gaffe.
And I feel the situation sheds light on the question as to who should ultimately be held responsible for the poor performance of a baseball franchise: the manager or the GM? The GM and front office builds the roster with which the manager must work with. Unless the manager makes a seriously glaring error or serious of blunders, why should he be held responsible for poor signings? As a family friend so aptly stated this morning, it is the manager’s job to make chicken salad out of chicken $hit.
So let’s revisit the Omar Minaya track record as GM. During his time in Montreal, he traded away a trio of prospects for hard-throwing right-hander Bartolo Colon. Not bad, right? Well, those prospects were Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips. He also dealt away Jason Bay, Orlando Cabrera, and Chris Young during his time there. Sure, the Montreal Expos were always positioned for an annual yard sale out front, but that doesn’t excuse Minaya.
Flash forward to 2004 when he came on board with the Mets and promptly signed free agents Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to overpriced contracts. Martinez is making $11.8M this season while Beltran is collecting $18.6M. Minaya then acquired Carlos Delgado in 2005 in exchange for Yusmeiro Petit and Mike Jacobs, who is now the slugging first basemen for the Florida Marlins. Jacobs is making $345,000 while producing a stat line of .245/16/43 while Delgado rakes in $16M for a pedestrian .242/9/43.
Minaya made a flurry of transactions between 2005 and 2007 that saw the likes of Xavier Nady (.314/10/49 in ’08 for the Pittsburgh Pirates), Brian Bannister (17-15, 4.26 ERA, 41 starts in ’07 and ’08 for the Kansas City Royals), and Padres’ setup man Heath Bell (10-7, 2.00 ERA, 2 saves and 46 holds in 117 appearances in ’07 and ’08) all depart New York and flourish. And he’s overpaying other players, as well. Moises Alou ($7.5M), Orlando Hernandez ($7M), Oliver Perez ($6.5M), and Luis Castillo ($6.25M) are all cashing big checks with little production. Like his counterpart in the Bronx, Minaya has turned the Mets into an overpriced retirement home for ball players. He brings in big name players at a high cost to drive revenue, yet his teams aren’t winning ballgames because of injury, age and lack of talent. He certainly needs to be credited for bringing in players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, John Maine, and Ryan Church, and his work as GM certainly played a role in the Mets winning the NL East in 2006 and coming within a game of the World Series. But let’s face it: Minaya’s percentage of success is 50/50 at best and he never really gave Randolph a World Series caliber team.
That’s why I like what they did in Seattle. A month ago I listed John McLaren’s name on the chopping block, and rightfully so. The woeful Mariners are 24-46, worst in major league baseball. But the team recognized that it may not entirely be McLaren’s fault. The team is littered with low talent hitters, does not have viable arms in the bullpen and the rotation has two potential aces and three no talent losers. How is a manager supposed to win under those conditions? He’s not. So by ridding itself of the GM, it allows a new guy to come in, try and correct the issues at hand and give a guy they believe in an opportunity to win under new terms. Perhaps that’s what the Mets should have considered first before disgracefully dismissing its manager in the wee hours of the morning after the team’s second consecutive win, 3,000 miles from home. There was a better way and another way to do it, and the Mets and Omar Minaya chose neither.
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