Game 66 - Mets
Mets 7, Rangers 1
An Open Letter to Omar Minaya
Hey, how's it going? Sorry for the small talk, I know it's been going terribly. I know your spring was disappointing, and the upcoming summer is starting to look long, hot, and unhappy. Your bosses aren't pleased with your performance, and now that school's out a lot more little kids are around to give you the finger. I know you're squirming a bit these days. And I know you damn well should be.
Here's something else I know: I know you're going to fire Willie.
Of course you are. You don't want to, but you will. This is New York, where sports teams must win in the near term. You knew that when you took over, and little has changed about the expectations levied upon you since then. When someone has been given the raw materials to succeed and a mandate of success but fails to bring it about, negative performance reviews ensue and the usual conclusion is dismissal. It's how these things go.
But here's the thing . . . has Willie Randolph so surely been given the materials to succeed? Willie wasn't given the $140MM payroll, you were. You were provided the clay -- tons of it, and the really good kiln-heated stuff, not that Crayola bullshit. Then you handed Willie the constructive tools that you made out of it, and when he made some crappy-looking lean-to instead of a new estate mansion -- at least in part because the damn hammer head kept falling off and the nails were all slightly bent -- everyone's after his job. I think we all know, though, that the culpability doesn't begin and end with Willie Randolph, and you signing his termination notice feels like what my psychiatrist would call "projection." Touches of hypocrisy, scapegoating, and at least partially misdirected blaming. It's why you've resisted the outcry to fire him thus far, and you'll continue to fight the good fight up until the end. Which is coming soon.
It's not that Willie's doing a bang-up job, mind you. To skipper this fairly well-stocked ship to a 32-34 record actually takes some doing. Things have got to be going wrong in almost systematically freakish fashion. And they have. The round-robin of "who's going to screw it up tonight?" has meant equal opportunity bungling abound; this makes things very difficult for Willie to address, of course, but it also demonstrates a lack of managerial glue pulling everyone together as a unit. Talent meeting concentration and focus makes for success, and I don't think there's a dearth of talent on this team.
So I won't lose too much sleep if Mr. Randolph finds himself on the unemployment line. Guys like Fredi Gonzalez are solving Rubik's cubes while Willie's struggling with Dominoes. It won't be an outrage, it'll just be "unfortunate" and "disappointing."
It will probably also be worthless.
To cut the manager loose right now is to insinuate two things: the roster isn't the problem, and there's somebody out there who can right this ship right now. I'm not sure either of those insinuations is true. Hey, maybe there's a Jack McKeon in the candidate pool who can offer old school fire-lighting with a touch of grandfatherly sage. You tell me. If there's someone who can get Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, and Wagner to meet their expected statistical output, go get him. Of course it would also require that folks like Brian Schneider, Oliver Perez, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, and others seriously overachieve and avoid their usual pitfalls. Maybe your managerial candidate is that good. Oh, and he'd also need shaman-like powers to ensure that the injuries to Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, Ryan Church, Luis Castillo, Ramon Castro, now Trot Nixon, and everyone else on the 25-man cease and desist once and for all. Hey, maybe Pedro Cerrano's looking for work after his playing days. I don't know.
Please don't send Willie packing just to "shake things up." Willie tried that with the lineup. It had excellent short-term (7 games) results. Then reality set in; what, was he really going to play Damion Easley over Carlos Delgado for the rest of the season? Sure, you can shake things up by canning the manager. Guys will be pissed at themselves that they cost a nice guy his livelihood. They'll go out and bust their asses . . . for a fortnight, if all goes well. As a little time passes, this will evolve into extreme disappointment, casting a larger pall over what quickly becomes a lost season.
It's also not fair to the lucky soul/poor bastard whom you bring in to take the reins. How can he say no to managing the New York Mets -- one with a roster of high-priced, superstar talent, no less? Then, barring the miraculous, he'll pilot the team to its .500ish destiny. The world will see what the Township already knows, that this wasn't a skillfully crafted collection of players bound for championship dreams, but a bloated bevy of broken-down ballplayers with a few bona fide studs giving us all false hope. And that neither Willie Randolph nor his successor nor Doug Henning (not even Dan Henning) could have engineered the fate that you sold us (and we sold ourselves) on over the winter. And either you -- or your own successor -- will replace him in December.
Of course, I could be way off. Maybe bringing in Wally Backman or promoting HoJo or wooing Keith down from the booth will give this team a That Championship Season feel. Or maybe an outside guy like Phil Garner or Ken Macha is the answer. Perhaps it's time to give Ken Oberkfell a major league shot.
You know what's really going to happen, though, right? Jerry Manuel will get the job. The closest facsimile to Willie Randolph among anyone associated with the organization. He even does Willie Randolph impersonations at parties. It nearly cements the future of this season as anything but a detour. "More of the Same" will be the new team slogan, that or "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It, And If It's Broke, Don't Fix It, Either."
But why am I telling you? You know this by now. You're the old man at the end of Jurassic Park overlooking what he has wrought with that "Mon dieu!" sort of epiphany. I suppose this letter should be co-addressed to Mr. and Mr. Wilpon, but you're the GM, at least for now.
I wish I had the answer for you, my friend, but the only thing that's clear is how fuzzy everything is right now. I just thought I'd offer my two cents and insist you stave off the lynch mob (inside and outside the organization) until you have something more than a Band-Aid solution and a notion of making a change for change's sake.
Oh, and good luck with all that.
Yours in Metness,
Resident, Mets Township
Contributor, Misery Loves Company (Est. 2003)