Randolph to remain manager of Mets
Job security not an issue in skipper's meeting with ownership
NEW YORK -- In the end, there was none at all. All the questions and speculation about the job status of Willie Randolph morphed into status quo. The Mets didn't change managers, they changed uniforms -- from road grays to home whites. And they expressed hope they would change the direction of their season as well. As Aaron Heilman noted after all was said and not done: "The only change is we start winning games."
Randolph was in place in the dugout, wearing No. 12 on Monday night when the Mets played the first-place Marlins, his job security seemingly much as it had been before a two-plus hour afternoon meeting with owner Fred Wilpon, son and COO Jeff and general manager Omar Minaya, the man who hired him following the 2004 season.
For the second time in less than eight months, Randolph sat at a microphone in what used to be the Jets locker room, having side-stepped what people within and outside the organization had seen as a near sack. Minaya said Randolph's job was not in jeopardy and recited the term of his contract -- expiration after the 2009 season: "Willie's the manager, as I said on Friday. Willie's our manager. Willie has a contract for next year. I am hoping that Willie will be the manager for many years to come.
"There is no limbo. Willie is the manager. And Willie, as I said this weekend, has the support of ownership and the support of the general manager. When you don't win in this town -- and going into the season across the board a lot of guys had us as the best team in the league -- when you don't win, yes there's tension in the team. Tension is created.
"Our fans expect us to have a good team. All the experts, across the board, if you look at all the predictions before the year, most of them had the New York Mets being the best team."
Neither Wilpon attended the media briefing -- an announcement that the club had made no change, something the Yankees once did with regularity. Neither attended the briefing that followed the Mets' 2007 season when speculation existed that Randolph might be replaced.
Randolph and Minaya said most of the meeting had involved discussion of Randolph's remarks a week earlier in a New Jersey newspaper that raised the specter of race in how the Mets' network, SNY, had portrayed the manager. Indeed, Minaya said the meeting wouldn't have happened at all if not for the comments and whatever offense the Wilpons took to them.
Which was not the say the team's performance wasn't addressed.
"Any time we talk as a group," Minaya said, "it is always about how we can get better. We always talk about stuff like that. We started out talking one-on-one about stuff [the remarks] that transpired last week, and we talked face-to-face about that. ... There was disappointment expressed -- passion, that's something that was expressed off and on during the course of the meeting. It was productive and everything went well."
With no changes made and no future changes planned -- aside from the type Heilman mentioned -- according to Minaya, the players recognized ownership hadn't relieved Randolph of his responsibilities but rather not held him particularly responsible for the fourth-place standing and 23-25 record the team carried into the Marlins series.
"That's the way it should be," Heilman said. "It's on us, myself especially. I've been horrible."
"I didn't know what was planned," John Maine said. "But I'm glad [Randolph] is still here."
"The ball is definitely in our court now," David Wright said. "Like I've said all along, it's up to the players."
And Billy Wagner made the final pitch: "What we've done isn't Willie's doing. He's done a good job with what he's got. He can't play for us, but I think he'd like to ... because he loves to win. It's unfortunate we put him through this. He's our leader. Unfortunately, we're not all followers."
Minaya said there was no need for him to address the players, but Randolph called a brief meeting some 70 minutes before the game. He had no opportunity to characterize his message publicly and probably would have declined. Excerpts of what Randolph said to the media after meeting with ownership and Minaya follow:
"They have always been supportive with me. That's the way they were today. I didn't go in thinking I was going to get fired. ... I was looking forward to being the manager today, tomorrow and the rest of the year. They were very supportive. They just wanted to make sure we were on the same page in terms of getting this turned around in the right direction. After we cleared the air, it was just about what can we do as an organization to get back on track.
"My main concern is just bringing the team back to the point where they are playing good solid baseball. I think the bottom line is just winning ballgames. I try not putting too much in my mind that I can't control. Right now the organization is really committed to getting this thing turned around."
Randolph characterized the discussion about his remarks thusly: "[Fred Wilpon] voiced his opinions about what he felt, and I explained to him what I was thinking and it was something that I apologized for and explained my side of it. ... I think this boils down to I am here to do a job. And I look at the baseball season, it's from April to September. So, there are always situations that arise that make you think your job is less secure. Now, for me, it's just a matter of going out and winning ballgames. I don't feel that pressure. I am here now, I am here to manage."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.