New York Mets Head West, Where Heads Will Roll
This should be the last road trip for some coaches and a few players.
When Willie Randolph sent backup catcher Robinson Cancel up to pinch-hit for Pedro Martinez in the bottom of the sixth in yesterday's nightcap against the Rangers, the crowd booed heartily.
With the score tied 2-2, another starting pitcher was leaving another quality start in the hands of the embattled bullpen. The bullpen that had unraveled again in the opener, leading to another one-run loss.
But Cancel vindicated Randolph by smacking a two-RBI single, and then the bullpen vindicated pitching coach Rick Peterson by making those two runs stand for the remainder of the game.
This might be the last moments of vindication for them, while in a Met uniform. The team is poised to make changes very soon, not just in the coaching ranks, but in the player ranks as well.
Fred Wilpon sat with Omar Minaya yesterday, and he had to hear the tenseness of the crowd. The uneasiness that has enveloped the Mets' audiences for the past calendar year has changed the fun, family atmosphere that Wilpon is always quick to allude to when speaking of his fan base, and has turned into a hostile throng that does more jeering than cheering these days.
That alone, I believe, will force Wilpon's hand this week to make changes. Unfortunately, manager Willie Randolph will be at the top of the list of those changes.
Randolph has taken the Joe Torre approach to managing. That method works only in certain circumstances—even for Torre—who has only had success with it in a Yankee uniform. The veterans are supposed to lead by example and counsel the young.
This has not worked in Flushing. This Met team is chock-full of introverted veterans who play their games and then recede into their lockers. The club has lacked much-needed leadership from that group and not gotten it.
Willie has not filled in the gaps left open by those veterans; it is not in his personality to do such. As a result, the team does not seem cohesive. There are no kangaroo courts and there is no inherent tutelage going on.
Omar Minaya has done his best to build and supplement the roster, but he is also guilty. He has overestimated some players' value and made some errors as well.
The firing of Randolph will be just the beginning. Pitching coach Rick Peterson and a few other coaches will be relieved of their duties along with him. Jerry Manuel, the Mets' bench coach, will take over as manager. AAA manager Ken Oberkfell will join the staff, along with his pitching coach Dan Warthen.
The other changes will come from the player ranks. The Mets may make a run at Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia, perhaps dangling Oliver Perez, Aaron Heilman, and others. With Moises Alou and Ryan Church out indefinitely, the trade for Trot Nixon may not be the end of the changes in the everyday lineup.
Some writers are questioning the Mets' "haste" in making these changes. They are being too kind to Randolph and his staff. Professional sports are about winning. This club is not competitive and has not been for awhile. That is mainly the players' fault but you cannot fire all of them. Some will be gone, but most will stay. The manager must go.
Randolph has not been able to unleash the five-tool potential of Carlos Beltran. This has hurt the club greatly. Beltran was once considered to be the game's most talented young player. Instead, he has regressed over the course of his time here and has become a major disappointment.
Willie and Peterson have coddled players and pitchers, and the team is complacent in its mediocrity. David Wright and Jose Reyes have become unfocused.
In his defense, Minaya has saddled Randolph with too many ailing veterans, and he misjudged the talents of some relievers, such has Scot Schoenweis. He has also allowed the team to ruin former first-round pick Aaron Heilman by forcing him into relief duty against his will.
Bad luck has also played a part. The injuries to Duaner Sanchez and Ryan Church, two players that Minaya adroitly traded for, were unforeseen. Sanchez's taxi accident destroyed his pitching shoulder. His rehab was poorly supervised and he has not come close to regaining his form. His stuff is gone.
Church has suffered two concussions this year and may not return for awhile. Even when he does, it is unknown how the injuries will affect his future.
So brace yourself for the changes. Randolph will go, and so will the majority of his staff. But if the team does not respond, it will be Minaya on the hook come September.
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