Matters of Debate
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Topic: MLB Musings
Christine got a job as a counselor at St. John's Prep in Astoria last month, and one of her extracurricular duties is to serve as the moderator for the Speech and Debate Club. At Molloy, the Speech and Debate team actually had varsity jackets that looked just like the ones athletes wore, except it said "MOLLOY SPEECH AND DEBATE" on the back. I bet those kids got their asses kicked on a fairly regular basis.
Anyway, the first competitions are popping up at the end of the month and she sent me a list of potential questions that may be used at one. One of them jumped off the page at me:
3. Should the New York Mets hire Willie Randolph as their next manager?
The short answer, of course, is no. However, I told her I'd actually prepare an answer for her and she said that - if it's good - she might use it as a sample answer for her team. Since it's also relevant for the website (and Forster is STILL bitching I don't update enough), I figured I'd add it here.
The New York Mets have a number of serious problems right now. The team hasn't had a winning record since 2001, the front office has become the laughingstock of baseball and they are without manager since Art Howe was let go early last month.
The Mets are currently in the hunt for a new field general and several leading candidates have already emerged. One of them is Willie Randolph, the former New York Yankee second baseman who played for the Mets at the tail end of his 18-year career. Randolph is currently the bench coach for Yankees manager Joe Torre, after spending several seasons as the team's third-base coach.
Willie Randolph is not the answer for the New York Mets. If the Mets' front office has grown tired of losing seasons and being mocked in knowledgeable baseball circles, they will not hire Randolph to lead them in 2005. They will turn the sights toward brilliant tacticians like Bobby Valentine or fiery motivators like Wally Backman to lead them.
There are several reasons why Randolph and the Mets are not a good fit, perhaps not the least of which is experience. Randolph has never held a managerial position, even in the minor leagues, and there are questions as to his ability to handle both in-game strategy and the dynamics of the Mets' clubhouse.
Baseball is a thinking man's game on the field, where experience is invaluable for a manager contemplating double switches, pitching changes and lineup maneuvers. Off the field, the dynamics of leading a baseball team have changed considerably since Randolph retired in 1992. The Yankee team that Randolph works for now is often hailed as a model clubhouse chock full of quiet professionals, but most other teams - especially the Mets - have considerably more dysfunctional rosters.
Randolph has no tactical or supervisory experience, a combination that could spell disaster for any team that may hire him. Even Howe, who was routinely lambasted for his lack of in-game acumen and his inability to control his team, had managed previously in both Houston and Oakland. Randolph's steadfast refusal to manage at the minor-league level, despite several offers to do so in the last five years, have served only to make him a less attractive candidate to major league teams seeking new managers. Perhaps that's why Randolph is still looking for his first managerial job despite having already interviewed with over 10 teams for vacant positions since joining the Yankee coaching staff in 1994.
To be fair, Randolph's shortcomings are not the only reason he is not a good fit for the Mets. New York is a veteran-laden club with a win-now mentality that is simply not consistent with the level of talent on the field. Baseball insiders claim that the Mets are drowning in a sea of opinions, with everyone from select team veterans to the owner's son having too much of a say in personnel decisions. It is a franchise without direction. The first step toward a return to prominence is installing a competent manager who will not allow himself to be influenced by backstabbing players or meddling dilettantes who have only their last name to thank for their lofty status in the organization.
Randolph is renowned for his professionalism and quiet dignity, but a rookie manager with such characteristics has no place leading the Mets. He will be out-managed on the field and marginalized off of it. In many ways, Willie Randolph is simply Art Howe without the experience, and we've all seen how well the Howe era has gone at Shea.
There are two candidates mentioned earlier who would be a much better fit as Mets manager. Bobby Valentine has managed previously in New York, as well as in Texas and Japan. He is known around baseball for a brilliant baseball mind and an irritating personality that tends to grate on self-satisfied veterans over time. In fact, the Mets fired Valentine after the 2002 season in the wake of a near-player revolt that saw several veterans quit on the season and their manager. Many of those same veterans are despised by the team's fan base but still with the Mets today, despite displaying the on-field ineptitude and off-field indifference that led to Howe's recent dismissal. Valentine's return to Shea would not only give the Mets one of the five best tactical managers in baseball, but it would also send a powerful message to the team - your past shenanigans will no longer be tolerated.
Backman would bring less experience but more fire to the position. Wally is one of the hottest managerial prospects in baseball today, having led a series of minor-league teams to fine finishes in the past few years, and brings a hard-working, take-no-prisoners attitude to the game. He also brings Mets pedigree to the position, having been the team's starting second baseman for much of the 1980s, including the team's last championship season in 1986. His competitive zeal belies his diminutive stature; Backman demands all-out effort from his players and that never-say-die attitude has brought him success at the minor-league level. Backman would be the perfect fit for a team that desperately needs to rid itself of veteran influence and start over with younger and hungrier players.
Valentine and Backman are better options then Willie Randolph and the New York Mets would be smart to hire one of them and to eschew the former Yankee second baseman. Whether or not the Mets still have the ability to do the "smart" thing is a debate for another day!
Posted by Jack
at 12:04 PM EDT