Minaya explains Randolph's dismissal
Mets general manager: 'I had to make a decision'
ANAHEIM -- Shortly after Willie Randolph arrived back at his hotel on Monday night, fresh off a victory, Mets general manager Omar Minaya called him into his own hotel room. The two talked for roughly 15 minutes, and then the conversation ended.
Randolph emerged from the room no longer manager of the Mets.
"I wanted to go directly to Willie myself and personally tell him of this decision," Minaya said. "I wanted to look him in the eye and tell him straight."
Minaya then called pitching coach Rick Peterson and first-base coach Tom Nieto into his makeshift office, and those two also left without jobs. He offered the interim manager's job to bench coach Jerry Manuel and contacted replacement coaches from Triple-A New Orleans. Only hours after flying across the country for this sole purpose, Minaya's quick purge was complete.
The Mets issued a press release just after midnight on the West Coast, 3:15 a.m. ET, and most Mets players heard the news around that time. A new era, however sudden, had begun.
"I don't have much to say, really," Randolph told multiple news outlets from his hotel in Costa Mesa, Calif. "I'm just very disappointed that I'm not going to be able to fulfill what my dream is, which is to come here and help this team win a world championship. I'm just going to miss my players. To the fans, I'm really sorry that I wasn't able to fulfill what I really said I wanted to do here and get this team to a world championship. That's what I've been about. It's very, very difficult right now, but I'm ready to move on."
Randolph then flew back across the country to be with his family in New Jersey.
"I was really stung by it," Randolph said. "I was surprised."
The dismissal itself was not the surprising part. Randolph knew his job was in danger, and he went as far as to ask Minaya last week to make a decision -- one way or the other. The two talked after Sunday night's doubleheader against the Rangers back in New York, and Minaya told Randolph that he would almost certainly make a choice during the team's road trip to Anaheim and Denver. Either Randolph would remain for the balance of the season or he would be dismissed.
Minaya slept on the decision, then decided on Monday morning that Randolph's time was up. So he flew to California, and arrived in the midst of his team's win over the Angels, and then called Randolph into his hotel room after the game.
"That's all it is," Minaya said of his conversation with Randolph. "It's a kid from Brooklyn communicating with a kid from Queens."
Minaya did not dismiss Randolph on Sunday, he said, because he wanted more time to think over the decision. He did not dismiss Randolph directly after Monday's game because he considered that disrespectful. And he did not wait until later Tuesday morning because he feared that some news outlet would break the story.
So instead Minaya did it at a most unorthodox early-morning time.
"I know the perception is that the way it was handled, it was disrespectful, maybe," Minaya said. "The reason it was handled quickly is out of respect to Willie."
Randolph completed his managerial tenure with a 302-253 record over 3 1/2 seasons, but he was 40-48 in his most recent 88 games dating back to last September.
Hired before the 2005 season, Randolph became the first African-American manager to lead a team in New York City, a point of pride both for Randolph and Minaya. And though Minaya said he had no disrespect for Randolph the man, he insisted that a change had to be made.
"I love Willie Randolph," Minaya said. "Willie Randolph is my friend. But this isn't about love. This is about a general manager. This is about we're trying to win a championship, and I had to make a decision."
So the Mets forged forward on Tuesday night with Manuel, and not Randolph, at the helm. Manuel managed the White Sox for six seasons before joining the Mets in 2005 as the first-base coach, and then became Randolph's bench coach the following season.
Manuel said that he considered Randolph a "good friend."
Even recently, as rumors swirled around Randolph's future with the club, Manuel stood loyal. He came into the manager's Shea Stadium office one day to offer his personal support, not yet knowing that he was destined to succeed Randolph.
"I went into Willie's office and told him, 'Hey, very few know what you're going through, but I happen to be one of them. At some point in your life, you're going to say that you're better for it. You're going to say that there was tremendous growth through this,'" Manuel said. "And the way it was handled, Willie handled it very well, very classy."
Now, it's Manuel's team. He's already aligned his new coaches, naming former Triple-A New Orleans manager Ken Oberkfell as his first-base coach and former field coordinator Luis Aguayo as his third-base coach. The Mets also promoted Triple-A pitching coach Dan Warthen to relieve Peterson in that same capacity with the Mets. Third-base coach Sandy Alomar took over Manuel's old role as bench coach.
There's a new look and feel to this club, with so many significant pieces of the past four years now only memories. Randolph took a good chunk of them back with him to New York on Tuesday, and the Mets remained here, in the sun of California, without him.
"I don't think I'm here to talk about Willie's shortcomings," Minaya said. "The reason I made the decision was, right now, this team is underperforming. It's not really about Willie Randolph. I'm responsible, too, as are the players. We win as a team and lose as a team. It's not about one individual."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.