Regardless of whether or not one thinks Mets higher-ups made the right decision or erred in the firing of Willie Randolph early this morning, the general concensus in newspapers, blogs, and on talk radio seems to be that the way this move was made was “classless”, an act of “cowardice”, and just generally bungled.
For several weeks now, I had been growing more and more disgusted with the shameful way Randolph was allowed to “twist in the wind”. Not only was speculation about his job status allowed to brew, it almost seemed that it was ENCOURAGED to brew. One writer wondered if allowing anyone and everyone to have a chance to weigh in on the matter was the front office’s weasely way of taking a barometer reading of media and fan opinion before actually making a decision.
The lack of a vote of confidence for or a clear dismissal of Randolph resulted in the media stirring things up and causing embarassment and distraction to the the players and managers. The lack of assurance could not have inspired confident managing or playing. My feelings that Willie Randolph deserved better than the continuing noncommital responses from his employers to questions raised about his status as manager were echoed in recent days, most notably in the New York Times.
But as inept as the handling of the situation by the front office has seemed over the past few weeks, the way the final blow was dealt reached an unparalleled level of gaucheness, reeking of cowardice and even seeming clandestine in nature.
Randolph was not fired while he was in New York. The guillotine came down after he had made the long cross-country flight with his team following a grueling doubleheader on Sunday. Instead of escaping the unwanted off-the-field brouhaha, Randolph and the team arrived in Californa to find the media circus awaiting them on the West Coast. In spite of the unwanted scrutiny and commotion, Randolph and the Mets managed to come away with a hard-earned win. I assume there was the usual obligatory post-game press conference, and only after that did Randolph finally return to his hotel, no doubt weary and still fighting jet-lag.
I’m sure Randolph was not expecting pillow talk or a reassuring before-bedtime prayer when Omar met him at the hotel, but I wonder if even he was surprised at the maladroit way he and the public were notified of his termination. The press release, filed in the dead of night–specifically at 3:13AM Eastern Standard Time, was well after even the die-hard New York fans like myself who managed to stay awake through Billy Wagner’s turn on the mound would be safely tucked in bed with SNY turned off.
Finding out the news this was morning was a rude awakening, with emphasis on the word “rude”.
It was not unlike opening the newspaper or turning on the radio or TV to learn of an inmate’s execution.
The perceived surrepticious nature of the whole scenario reminded me of the way in which death penalty convictions are carried out in this country. With the exception of a few states, most executions are carried out at 12:01AM. Although supposedly one of the reasons for this is that this gives the state the maximum amount of time to deal with any last minute legal appeals or temporary stays of execution within the 24-hour period of time during which the death warrant is “good” .
The lateness of the hour is traditional too because other prisoners can be more easily “locked down”. Also, when the execution is carried out at such a late hour, the likelihood of any repurcussions or protests or unwanted attention in general–from within or outside of the corrections facility–is lessened.
Whether intentional or not, the handling of the dismissal seemed covert, clandestine…a pusillanimous gesture.
One can argue that Willie Randolph got more of a benefit of the doubt and time to turn his team around than he deserved (not my opinion.) One can argue that he deserved to keep his job through the All-Star break, through the end of the 2008 season, or through the expiration of his contract.
I doubt one can find fans out there who would say last night’s dark-of-night firing was something Willie Randolph deserved.