06/17/08 2:01 PM ET
Randolph was always a professional
Willie carried himself with class and dignity throughout career
Randolph, simply stated, is a pro. He's a pro in every sense of the word. If you examine the way he conducts himself, the way he treats other people and the way he goes about his daily business, you have to conclude that Randolph is the ultimate professional.
It's all so evident because Randolph has lived his adult life in the fishbowl of Major League Baseball. He's been there to be seen, to be judged, to be held accountable.
I've often thought that if you wanted to teach a young player how to wear a baseball uniform, at least in the way I believe a uniform should be worn, you would point to a picture of Randolph.
And for that matter, if you wanted to show pictures of how a Major League player should dress out of uniform you also could use Randolph as a prime example.
The striking part of all of this is that today, Randolph's name is part of a story about how a baseball move was handled in what most are terming a very unprofessional way.
The move, of course, was the post-midnight firing of Randolph and two of his coaches early this morning by the New York Mets.
I know Randolph well enough to know that in his heart of hearts he is more upset by the firing of coaches Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto than he is by his own dismissal.
Randolph knew all of the signs were present to indicate he could be dismissed by the Mets. He knew that as the manager of a team that has struggled he could be the one to pay the price.
Randolph's main concern was more about the people he termed "my guys" -- his coaches. Randolph related to his coaches better than most managers. That's because he served in the role for so long with the New York Yankees.
Randolph knew coaches make contributions and seldom get credit. He appreciated the fact that his coaches gave him support.
The stories in New York and throughout the country have been playing out for weeks about how Randolph might get the axe. Randolph accepted the turmoil in the best way possible, even making light of the situation to try to ease the cloud over his team.
When the end finally came early this morning, it was the way it happened as opposed to the fact that the team finally made a decision related to its managerial position.
The Mets had flown across the country after a doubleheader on Sunday to play the Los Angeles Angels last night. When Randolph returned to the team hotel following a 9-6 victory over the Angels, he was told by general manager Omar Minaya that he was being removed from his position along with the pitching coach Peterson and the first base coach Nieto.
A news release was sent to the meida -- at 3:15 a.m. Eastern time. In the middle of the night, the Mets had announced that Willie Randolph -- a man of class and stature -- was no longer the manager of the team.
The main question from the media was obvious: Why bring Randolph and his two coaches across the country only to fire them and have them return to New York?
When Randolph meets with the press, you can count on one thing. He will handle all of this with the greatest of class and the greatest of dignity.
His concern probably will be more for his dismissed coaches while stating that he hopes his former players will go on to find success and turn their season around.
As the former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I was honored to be associated with many outstanding people and outstanding players. I'm pleased Randolph is on that list.
I'll always remember the first time I saw Randolph in a Dodger uniform. It was the spring of 1989 and we had signed Randolph as a free agent after second baseman Steve Sax had left the team to sign with the New York Yankees.
It was the first day of the spring workouts, the sun was shining brightly at Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Fla., and our coach Joey Amalfitano was hitting ground balls to our infielders.
After Amalfitano had hit a number of balls to Randolph at second base, the longtime coach came over to me to whisper something in my ear.
"Fred, that guy at second base sure smoothes out those ground balls," said Amalfitano. "This guy is a real pro and he's going to help us."
Willie Randolph did help the Dodgers, just as he helped every team he played for and worked for during a professional career than began 36 years ago.
With all of the turmoil surrounding the Mets, Randolph returns to his home in New York with his class and dignity in hand.
He's always had that ability to have a really bad hop come his way and make everything look so smooth. So professional.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. His book-Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue-was published by SportsPublishingLLC This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.