Finally, Fred Wilpon speaks about Willie Randolph's firing. On Sunday, we reported that Fred Wilpon, David Wright, and others, would be holding a press conference to announce a national initiative to support American Veterans returning from military service.
At this press conference, Wilpon praised Willie Randolph's performance as manager, even though he agreed with general manager Omar Minaya's decision to dismiss him last week.
"I think Willie did a good job. I think that the results the last, say, 14 months were not up to what we thought it had to be," Wilpon said Monday. "What Omar finally decided was that he had to make that change."
(Many have discussed whether or not Omar made the decision on his own, and if he has “full autonomy.” When it’s Omar’s money that’s being spent, then, and only then, will he have full autonomy. It’s Fred’s money. He and/or Jeff, his son, are going to be consulted with any decision that dramatically alters the team.)
Randolph, celebrated for bringing the Mets within one win of the World Series two years ago, was dismissed on June 17 with New York at 34-35. The Mets are 3-3 under new manager Jerry Manuel.
"Obviously, we've been playing well in the last few games," Wilpon said.
Wilpon said Minaya made the initial decision to relieve Randolph on June 16, after a doubleheader split against Texas.
"He called me at the end of the doubleheader and asked me whether we can meet," Wilpon said after a news conference at the commissioner's office. "He told us what his recommendation was going to be, and that what he wanted to do was replace Willie and replace the two coaches, and that he wanted to do it expeditiously. He wanted to do it in person. And he said, just like he always does, trades and everything else, he said, `I want to just think about it overnight.'"
Mets executives spoke again at 9 a.m. ET on June 17 and made the final decision. Minaya then traveled to California and told Randolph after the Mets beat the Los Angeles Angels.
"Management and the owners approved of what his plan was, so we were OK with the switch and we were OK with his recommendation, and he implemented that recommendation," Wilpon said.
Wilpon rejected criticism that the Mets were unfair to Randolph because of the timing of the announcement, which came just after 3 a.m. ET. Randolph said he was stunned.
"The intent here clearly was to respect Willie, to respect his feelings and to do it in person," Wilpon said. "It's never easy to fire anybody. Believe me, it is not easy to do, and Omar took a lot of time. We took a lot of time listening to him and thinking about it."
In the end, Randolph was dismissed for a lack of wins.
"It's all a matter of performance, and Willie knew this when he started," Wilpon said. "Recognize we gave Willie the chance -- Omar gave Willie the chance to be in this position. He had never been a manager in the Major Leagues or Minor Leagues."
(Mentioning that Willie had never been a manager before bothers me. Is that self serving to create empathy for the Mets, for giving him an opportunity ? Is it an excuse for Willie’s performance not meeting expectations ?)
Minaya's first big decision after the Mets hired him as GM in September 2004 was to make Randolph the manager.
"I think Omar has done a great job," Wilpon said. "Everybody who makes decisions is not going to make all right decisions. He has made some great decisions. ... Our Minor Leagues are in much better shape than is being reported."
(Now that he’s praised Omar, is his job on the line if the Mets finish under .500, or miss the playoffs ? If the Mets, currently under .500, continue to be under .500, is Omar allowed to go into seller’s mode, get younger, less injury prone, and rebuild for 2009, without putting his job in jeopardy ? Also, I don’t expect Wilpon to criticize his own team, but, their minor league teams are among baseball’s worst. Baseball America, among others, does not speak highly of their prospects. Their AAA team is a halfway house for other organizations’ unwanted players. Their St. Lucie team (A) has an embarrassing winning percentage. Even their better prospects are not ready to help this year, and may not be ready to help in 2009. This is the Mets’ biggest problem, and why Omar feels compelled to go for the quick fix, by trading for a veteran Trot Nixon who was playing in the minors all season, or, signing veteran players who were released by other teams. Their farm system desperately needs to be built so that it can be helpful.)