By Mike Steffanos
From Ken Davidoff and David Lennon of Newsday:
Willie Randolph doesn't have much longer to save his job as Mets manager.
"He's got the weekend," a person familiar with the situation said.
The Mets, having lost six of their last seven games -- all of them in heartbreaking, nerve-wracking fashion -- are close to firing Randolph and replacing him with bench coach Jerry Manuel, Newsday has confirmed.
Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson and pitching coach Rick Peterson are both also in serious trouble. SI.com reported today that Mets general manager Omar Minaya was "seriously considering" the change at manager and coaches, while foxsports.com reported yesterday that Randolph's job status was "day-to-day."
The Texas Rangers will come to Shea Stadium tonight for a three-game series. It's not clear precisely how Randolph can save his job -- say, if two wins in the three games would keep him in the manager's office. But a poor weekend will likely result in the firing of Randolph.
The Mets are 31-34 today, residing in fourth place in the National League East, seven and a half games behind the division-leading Phillies. Despite the offseason acquisition of Johan Santana, who has pitched well for them, the Mets haven't been able to shake off the collapse with which they concluded the 2007 season, which put them out of the playoffs.
SI.com's Jon Heyman reported the same thing on Mike and the Mad Dog's radio show earlier. The New York Post has details on that if you missed it. Heyman has also identified Manuel as the replacement and also stated that Peterson and Hojo are likely to depart.
I don't believe the Mets current problems are all Randolph's fault, which I know puts me in disagreement with some of you. I will say this, though, if they're going to replace Willie they should do it ASAP rather than let this fester. That makes no sense, and does no one a favor.
As for Peterson, I think he's received more than his share of the blame for the struggles of the some of his staff. Pitching coaches probably receive too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when they're not. Perhaps Dan Warthen can reach some of the pitchers like Heilman who Peterson wasn't able to help (or stopped listening to him). I suppose it's worth a try. I doubt Peterson will be out of work long, since he has a track record of success.
On the other hand, firing Hojo bothers me. The Mets had a chance to hire Rudy Jaramillo -- the best hitting coach in the game -- last off-season, and elected not to. Jaramillo is one hitting coach who possibly could have made a difference. You could have given Hojo the first base coach's job. Now Jaramillo has re-signed for two years with the Rangers and Hojo is probably gone.
Frankly, if you're going to fire the manager, I wonder about replacing him with Jerry Manuel. Not that Manuel doesn't seem to be a solid guy, but if I was the GM I'd really be looking to shake it up, bringing in someone from completely outside the organization. Wally Backman would be a ballsy choice, and would certainly shake things up, but the Wilpons aren't given to making a move like that. They'd probably be afraid that Backman would embarrass them somehow. No, if there was any chance of it being Backman he would already be managing in the Mets' system.
In any case, if you're committed to doing this, do it today. Why let this hang in the air? It's not helping the team. Especially if it's going to be Manuel, do it today.