Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gone, Willie, Gone

3:15 AM is not when you get fired.

3:15 is when the secret police come pounding on the door, the dogs barking to let you know there's no way out. It's when the phone rings and it's always real bad news, the call coming from a hospital or the side of the road. It's when cheating lovers try to sneak in the back door, listening for floorboard creaks as they make their way in dread to the darkened stairs.

It's not when you fire the manager of a baseball team, particularly not a team that just flew out west, just won its game, just went through yet another round of "is the manager going to get fired?" questions. If the Mets thought they could downplay the whole thing by waiting until the team was out of New York and most WFAN listeners were asleep before lowering the boom on Willie Randolph, well, that's the sort of thinking that would have worked in 1974. These days, not so much.

Did Randolph deserve to get fired? Probably. His team wasn't responding to him and the talented players weren't playing up to their potential. But you can't blame Willie for a thin bench, for a roster constructed of aging and injury-prone veterans without adequate replacements waiting for their inevitable breakdowns, for the annual Billy Wagner finger-point-and-melt-down. If he'd gotten more from Jose Reyes, Randolph probably wouldn't be in this position right now. If he hadn't had to try to get more from Endy Chavez, Marlon Anderson, and suchlike, if his roster hadn't been constructed that losing Ryan Church was actually a major blow, then he probably wouldn't be in this position now, either.

All of which means that Omar Minaya has used his last bullet. He's out of cover, and the next body to hit the floor will be his. And if Jerry Manuel doesn't somehow take this mismatched collection of parts and start winning immediately, then the call will go out on the airwaves for his head, too.
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