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Willie at the All-Star Game

Mike SteffanosThursday, July 17, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

I have received several e-mails on this topic, and no one was thrilled with Willie's decision to be Steinbrenner's guest at the All Star Game. They felt his presence was an intentional embarrassment to the Mets.

My take, for what it's worth, is that Willie doesn't owe the Mets any consideration of whether something he chooses to do embarrasses them. They made the choice to take his job, which was their right, but that choice imparts a certain freedom to Randolph.

One correspondent pointed out that the Mets are still paying him, and will through next season. I'm sure that there are some conditions in his contract that might limit what he can do while still technically in the employ of the club, but anything that isn't contractually prohibited is fair game.

That all being said, I have to admit that Randolph has lost some of my support and sympathy with his actions since being terminated. Quite frankly, he has shown himself to be a bit of a whiner. He's got his few allies in the press blaming everyone but him for the failures of last fall and the first half struggles.

If I read one more piece about how Willie was undermined by his players I might scream. What is a baseball manager's primary job if not to be a motivating force to his charges? If Willie did indeed lose his team to the extent that the players wanted him gone, it only indicates to me that he should have been fired sooner.

If I was a club owner who was looking at candidates to manage my team, I would consider Willie's post-firing blame fest a strong black mark against him. I liked Willie more than most, but even I shed no tears when he was gone. I don't care how many articles Bill Madden or William Rhoden pen blaming everyone from Jeff Wilpon to Tony Bernazard to the Peanut Vendors. Many of his problems with the press, the fans and even his own players had their roots in his stubbornness as much as anything else.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed the ASG, Willie, but could you please just go away now?

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (4)

The most damning thing for Willie is that the Mets, overall, are 17-9 under Jerry Manuel. And that record has Manuel's first start, where the Mets looked like they were just waking up from a fog, and lost 6-1. That loss total also includes the Seattle game where the home plate umpire was a completely unprofessional jerk, who got suspended for his actions.

So, for all intents and purposes, Manuel's tenure is 17-7. And he's riding high on a 9 game winning streak.

Under Manuel, Reyes is hot. Delgado's hitting. The bench- Easley, Chavez, Tatis, and Castro- are hitting. Pelfrey's dominant. And the bullpen is breathing easier these days.

None of this happens under Willie (and Rick Peterson). You can see this team hustling now, and putting their best foot fowards. They know when they lost a game that they should have won- like the 2-3 loss in Philly. They're also winning games late, a trait from 2006 that they lost last year. Oh, and Manuel's not afraid to get in the umpires' faces and get tossed- while Willie pretended to be Joe Torre for 3 and a half years, and failed at it.

The Mets may not be able to overcome the problems they had in the first half of the season; injuries will happen, Delgado will slump again, and the bullpen will have rough patches. Pedro will continue to be a journeyman 5th starter who probably should be put out to pasture.

The Mets at least have a fighting chance; it's more than they had under Willie. They'll make trades and they'll also make us sad when they hit bumps in the road. If the Mets make the playoffs under Manuel, the final nail in the coffin on Willie will be hammered in.

We'll know why every other MLB team passed on him as a coach. And the Mets will be the better for it.

Jason - I think we need to wait and see if the Mets can sustain winning before we give Jerry too much credit and damn Willie. Still, I like what I see. As for Peterson, I don't quite understand the anger with him. Pelfrey was already turning a corner before he was fired, but no doubt some of the pitchers have benefited from a new voice.

Mike, I agree about Jerry, although I think that the whole atmosphere around the team has changed. They're smiling, laughing, and hustling. Under Willie from the 2nd half of last year and on, it got downright draconian, and not fun.

Peterson's problem, for me was mostly bullpen releated. He (and Willie) mismanaged the bullpen, with no defined roles in it and many arms bopping around between the majors and AAA. Notice that Warthen and Manuel have used Feliciano less and less during their winning streak? He's pitched the fewest innings- indication that A) he's a LOOGY and B)management woke up to realize that he's let ALOT of inherited runners score, and has lost their favor. They've also turned towards Duaner to be the set up man again- and he's responded. Smith's also been a revelation (again), and Schoeneweis is really suprising me.

I agree that Pelfrey began turning the corner under Willie, but I think he remained inconsistent, and was always 2 seconds away from imploding. Under Manuel, they've let him throw ALL of his pitches, and slowly but surely he's gaining confidence out there. You can just feel the mood change with him under Manuel.

The other thing that has helped the Mets is that they're SCORING RUNS under Manuel; and doing it early and late. They're also not sitting back and resting after getting a lead, like they would do (often) under Willie. Nothing gives a pitching staff confidence than a lineup that can back them up. And so far, the Mets bats have.

Time will tell on Manuel, but we haven't heard a peep from Willie since the streak began.

And if the Mets keep up winning, they'll hear less and less from the Phillies.

Jason - Let's just hope they keep hitting. I still think if there's one thing that could sink them (even more than Wagner) it's their offense. I hope Church makes it back.

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