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Can't Help Myself: I Like Willie

Mike SteffanosMonday, April 10, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I'm outing myself and earning the scorn of my fellow Mets fans: despite his flaws, I think the Mets have a pretty good manager.

There is a nice Marty Noble article on Mets.com about the relationship that Willie Randolph and Cliff Floyd developed last year. Last year in spring training, the rookie manager made it a point to sit down with his talented but fragile left fielder, and let him know how important he was to the team. According to Cliff, that talk transformed him:

[Randolph] changed me. He changed everything.

Willie said, 'I want you on my team.' No one ever said that to me before. That was awesome. It made me feel important -- to me. He told me he wanted me on the field. He got me to play when I didn't feel well. He made me a better player

Randolph drives a lot of the fan base crazy, and I have a feeling that he always will. Willie likes to manage from his gut, and sometimes his gut tells him to do some crazy things. Last year it seemed that almost all of those moves backfired on him, from expecting Shingo Takatsu to throw Miguel Cabrera sliders (but not explicitly telling him that) to watching Danny Graves toss away an 8-run lead in one of Pedro's games last year. Given the talent upgrade that this team underwent in this past off-season you would think that he might get away with a little more of that this year. Still, as soon as this team hits a rough patch it will be open season on Willie again.

I'm not a big fan of all the moves that Willie makes, but I've become a big supporter of his as a manager, as I get reminded of in comments and e-mails sometimes. Keep them coming, I always enjoy hearing from people that disagree with me, it's part of what makes this really fun. I know you won't let me down, Ed, as you have become addicted to refuting my razor-sharp logic. :)

It's easy sometimes to focus on what a manager does poorly and take his strengths for granted. Davey Johnson always drove me nuts. He never pushed his teams to be sharp fundamentally, and that's one of my pet peeves. The Cardinals teams they always seemed to be battling for the Eastern Division title was always more fundamentally sound than Johnson's Mets, and that always seemed to bite them in a close race. Still, no one was better at imparting swagger and confidence in his players than Johnson, and that won them a title in 1986.

Willie has a little of that, but unlike Johnson puts a priority on defense and solid fundamentals, and that's a nice combination to me. I think it's the right combination for this team. Even though he'll make you shake your head with some of his pitching moves, and a lot of you hate the way he constructs a batting order, I believe the Mets finally have the right man for the job again. That doesn't mean that I'm going to agree with everything he does, nor defend all his moves. He's going to have to develop a thicker skin if he's going to survive here, and it wouldn't hurt him if he learned to explain himself sometimes. Still, when this team goes in to its inevitable slump, I'll be easy to recognize -- I'll be one of the few Mets fans NOT calling for Willie's head. (Note: I reserve the right to renege on this if he brings Takatsu back.)

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Comments (2)

Dont forget you asked for it.

1. The Pluses: a. He did not pressure the kids. But kept faith in them. I believe he WAS right to hit Wtight 8th. but at mid season changes were necessary during the pre-all star break slide. And that cost us the post season.
2. He is pro veteran. But XTREMELY stubborn. He may have won vs Beltran. Who is scoring tons of runs. but its his faith in Reyes that impresses me.
3. After bobby V. he is a HUGE dropoff in X-O's. Bobby won games on his strategy. But this team is chemistry in motion.
4. THE ONE YOU OMIT is Omar.
a. HE has Bannister on this team, yet dealt Petit.
b. HE traded Cammy for Nady, who is second guessing him now.
c. He let Piazza go (quietly), Lo Duca's mark on this team is clear.....in Keith H's words this team is fundamentally sound EVERYwhere...very un Metlike.
d. Duaner Sanchez for Seo and Bannister for Benson. Early returns look good. Julio is Xcess at this point but I like his potential, or he still has trade value (see benitez) to a team needing a closer.

My contention with Willie is his bias to veterans, not hot pitcher/hitter. And his X-O failures. But if the Mets play the way they have and Willie evolves (note MetsBlog who says Kaz goes to the bench, not to 2B)then I will rant but not throw stones at Willie.

all managers evolve, and Wille is growing into this job albeit slowly. Heck I needed help to grow into mine.

You have to stop writing comments that are better than the original post...

I agree with you that Omar has looked good so far. I gave him props for Julio Franco a few days ago. I made fun of that signing and he's doing EXACTLY what Omar said he would.

I think Willie and Omar are going to be here a long time. You're right, Willie will be Bobby V. with strategy, but I think he's better with the players. Bobby always has HIS GUYS that he got along with, but he would get on the wrong side of a lot of the vets. Willie seems to relate to all his players.

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