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Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It is not a matter of if the New York Mets are going to fire manager Willie Randolph. It is a matter of when. His asinine comments this past week with regards to race certainly did nothing to help his standing with the disappointing club.
For those of you who may have missed it, Randolph wondered aloud to the Bergen Record's Ian O'Connor why Joe Torre never got hassled for his laid back style, something for which the Mets skipper has come under fire recently.
"Is it racial?" Randolph asked. "Huh? It smells a little bit."
When O'Connor asked him directly if he believed black managers were held to different standards than their white counterparts, Randolph expounded: "I don't know how to put my finger on it, but I think there's something there. Herman Edwards did pretty well here and he won a couple of playoff (games), and they were pretty hard on Herm. Isiah Thomas didn't do a great job, but they beat up Isiah pretty good...I don't know if people are used to a certain figurehead. There's something weird about it."
Randolph is a moron, plain and simple. It's a desperate move to pull the race card. I am almost embarrassed to admit that Randolph was one of my idols growing up.
You know why Torre didn't take any heat? Because he won four World Series titles in five years. His team made the playoffs every single season he managed. Torre may not have shown a lot of emotion, but there was a quiet confidence about him that his team fed off of.
It had nothing to do with the color of his skin.
What exactly has Randolph done, other than choke in the NLCS in 2006 and guide his team to arguably the worst collapse in baseball history last season?
Randolph also mentioned that coverage on the Mets' flagship television station SNY - which is owned by the team - was slanted against him. SNY may not be the Yankees' YES Network, commonly referred to as Al-Yankazeera TV, but claiming that the network is biased against him is absolutely ridiculous.
It is almost paranoia at this point.
I used to wonder why it took Randolph so long to become a manager. Now I know why. He is just not that good. There is a reason he was passed over for just about every job in the league. Maybe he doesn't have the temperament to be a big league skipper.
Forget Herm Edwards, how about Randolph busting out the Isiah Thomas card? To quote a great man: Ya gotta be kidding me! Thomas ran what was once a top-5 NBA organization into the ground, making it the laughingstock of the league. Thomas could have been white, black, yellow, green, blue...whatever, he was going to get abused by media and fans alike. If you ask me, he has not been beaten up enough for what he did to the Knicks.
Randolph can apologize until the cows come home, what he did was inexcusable. His excuse was that he thought his comments were off the record. Randolph grew up in Brooklyn and has spent just about all of his professional career - playing and managing - in New York. You can't convince me that he is not media-savvy enough to just leave that topic alone.
The Mets should be better than they are, and appear to have taken on the identity of their manager. Randolph can compare his style to Torre's all he wants, but it doesn't fit with the Mets. They are not responding. Torre's Yankees did not need a rah-rah guy, maybe Randolph's Mets do. I am not saying he should become the reincarnation of Billy Martin, but emote a little bit out there.
I know you can't call for a manager to be fired without having a replacement in mind, so I have one for you: Wally Backman. He is exactly the man to light a fire under this team.
A lot of Mets fans never warmed up to Randolph simply for the reason that they still viewed him as a Yankee. As dumb as that may sound, it is true. You are not going to find many Mets more beloved than Backman, who unlike Randolph, has more than paid his dues in the minor leagues.
Most people believe that another former Met icon, Lee Mazzilli, who works the Mets' telecasts, will be the guy if Randolph is indeed fired. But what evidence did he provide in his brief time with the Baltimore Orioles that he was a big-time, big league manager? Instead of going with a retread, hire someone outside the box. You don't get any farther out of the box than the fiery Backman.
Backman would come with some baggage, of course.
Backman was as hot as a managing prospect as there was a few years ago, and was even named the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks following the 2004 season. However, reports started to surface shortly thereafter that Backman had serious legal and financial problems, and the D'Backs fired him just four days after hiring him.
Backman, who is currently managing the Joliet Jackhammers of the Northern League, has been blackballed by the league ever since, but a lot of people believe he's the best manager in baseball without a major league job.
The last time I checked, it was three strikes and you're out. Backman is on strike one and something tells me he has paid his penance the last few years while toiling in the independent leagues.
I am pretty sure there are plenty of other managers in the league that have made mistakes (See Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, among others).
If general manager Omar Minaya wants to light a fire under this Mets' team, bring Wally Backman back to Flushing. These things are cyclical. Sometimes a team needs Randolph's laid-back approach, and sometimes they need a "psycho" like Backman to get them going.
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