Willie Randolph, who went from being perceived as terse and incompetent to bloodied scapegoat in the matter of three or four days, tells the story Friday of his midnight firing in an article in the Daily News. In it, he says how stunned he was when Mets general manager Omar Minaya told him the bad news in the Anaheim hotel. He also gives a blow-by-blow account of how it happened. When Minaya started talking to Randolph, the soon-to-be-axed manager thought only some of his coaches were getting fired. Then he realized what was happening and, not surprisingly, says he took the high road:
"Omar, are you firing me?" I asked. He looked away for a minute and then met my eyes. "Yeah, I'm going to make a move," he said. "It's a hard decision, but I have to make it."
We started going back and forth a little about everything, but this wasn't a time for any heated postmortems.
"You don't have to say anything more, Omar," I said. "I came here to win, and if you don't feel I'm the guy to get that done, then it's your right to make a change. I'm eternally grateful for the opportunity you gave me. I want you to know that."
Randolph doesn't deserve much sympathy for not having a job; he wasn't all that good at it anyway. But no one deserves to be fired the way he was. Randolph asserts in his article that he asked Minaya on Sunday if he was about to be fired, and, if that was the case, that it be done before the team flew to California. For his part, Minaya said Tuesday he didn't decide to fire Randolph until Monday morning, at which point the team had won three of four games -- and was already on the West Coast. Randolph can be forgiven if he doesn't buy that, but as hurt as he says he is, Randolph doesn't believe Minaya handled the firing in a malicious manner:
I won't lie to you. I don't like the way the Mets handled my firing. I think it was pretty weak. I think I would've deserved better if my record had been 0-555, not 302-253.Randolph's right to feel burned. Little in the Mets' play during that hot stretch would have lowered Minaya's opinion of Randolph. And baseball GMs should be able to make faster decisions and not debate them over four days, especially one with as much leading up to it as this one. With a huge boost from the sloppy Mets' front office and some deft storytelling of his own, Randolph has become a sympathetic figure in the Mets debacle. What a difference a week makes.
But I don't for a second think Omar did it that way on purpose, or to be malicious. It just wasn't handled well. The Mets have taken a lot of shots this week, and there have been a number of ugly stories about back-room machinations, but I don't even want to go there.