Willie Randolph Should Be In Mets Managerial Mix
The New York Mets seem to be narrowing their managerial search, and reading the tea leaves, it seems Buck Showalter will be the next manager. There are reports Steve Cohen wants him, and there are ties from the New York Yankees between new general manager Billy Eppler and Showalter.
If we are going to go back to Eppler’s old Yankees ties, the Mets could also look at Willie Randolph for the managerial role. With Randolph, there are two things which stand out in his candidacy: (1) he’s actually had success as the Mets manager; and (2) he has unfinished business.
When we look back at Randolph’s Mets tenure, people mostly remember the bad. There was the 2007 collapse, and he was fired one game into a west coast trip. There was the chasm between him and Carlos Delgado. Of course, many forget the 2008 Mets also collapsed, but this time under the helm of Jerry Manuel.
Really, Randolph had to deal with more as the Mets manager than most did. He never had the full backing and respect of ownership. Things got so bad Manuel and Tony Bernazard were going behind Randolph’s back to not only spy on him but to find reasons to remove him from the job. The shame of it was Randolph was quite good at the job.
First and foremost, Randolph was immediately challenged in his job by trying to find a way to graciously end Mike Piazza‘s Mets career. Randolph did it in a way where Piazza not only had a strong season, but he had his dignity during the course of the season.
Randolph was gifted an old foe in Pedro Martinez atop the rotation. Notably, despite the many battles between the two during the heyday of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, there was nothing but respect between the two. Randolph had tried to protect Martinez from the team, but to no avail.
Another challenge with Randolph was the Carlos Beltran situation. He helped Beltran navigate through what was a disaster of a 2005 season and get him playing at a Hall of Fame level. By most accounts, the two had a good relationship, which is something a smart manager will have with their superstar.
One important part of that is the ability to adapt. When Randolph first took over the Mets job, he initially tried to make the Mets more like the Yankees. Case-in-point was the restrictions on facial hair. That is something he eventually rescinded.The ability to adapt to the job is of vital importance.
There were other highlights from Randolph’s tenure with the most important being his development of David Wright and Jose Reyes. With respect to Reyes, he was able to help him hone his skills to develop a more sensible approach at the plate to help him become an All-Star. With respect to Wright, he admitted in his book, The Captain: A Memoir, Randolph helped him become the Major League player he wanted to be. If not for injuries, that would’ve been a Hall of Famer.
Looking at Randolph, one of the biggest skills he had was his working relationship with Rick Peterson. The two worked together to get the most out of the Mets pitching staff, and we saw them do some things which may now be considered commonplace. For example, Randolph had a very quick hook in the 2006 postseason, and he was not afraid to let his superior bullpen win him games. The Mets will be looking for something like that in 2022 with Jeremy Hefner being retained as pitching coach.
Overall, Randolph had strenghts and weaknesses as manager. As we saw with him, the strengths far outweighed the weaknesses. That’s a major reason why he’s second only to Davey Johnson in winning percentage. He was a very good manager, who for some reason, never got another opportunity to manage.
Perhaps at 67, Randolph no longer has any designs on managing. If he does, we need to remember he was a good manager for the Mets. Unfortunately, he never received a fair shake. All told, Randolph knows what it takes to succeed with the Mets. No, he’ll never get the job, but there should have at least been some level of interest.