Mets GM, ownership supporting Randolph despite slow start to season

Updated: May 24, 2008, 2:47 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Mets general manager Omar Minaya voiced support for Willie Randolph on Friday night as speculation swirled that the embattled manager's job could be in jeopardy.

"Willie Randolph is our manager. He has my support, he has our ownership support," Minaya said during New York's 6-5, 13-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies on Friday night, the Mets' fifth straight loss. "That's what I'm going to tell you. I'm here to support Willie, our ownership supports Willie."

Minaya said he planned to meet with Randolph on Monday or Tuesday, after the team returns home from its current road trip.

Minaya flew to Denver to meet the team after the Mets were swept in a four-game series at Atlanta. He said he made the decision to join the club before Thursday's loss to the Braves.

[+] EnlargeOmar Minaya
AP Photo/James A. FinleyOmar Minaya, left, says he and the Mets' ownership support manager Willie Randolph despite the team's subpar start to the season.

"The team's not playing well. Sometimes as a general manager, you've got to see how the team's playing," Minaya said. "You always leave open the possibility of visiting the team. I thought it was important for me as the general manager to be with the team."

Before the game, David Wright defended Randolph, laying blame for New York's 22-23 record on the players.

"We don't want to see Willie get fired," the All-Star third baseman said. "I don't want to see anyone get blamed for something I'm responsible for. That's what we feel as players. Willie's not out there having bad at-bats or making bad pitches, that's us."

Randolph is on the hot seat for the Mets' poor play -- and comments he made this week about how he is portrayed by the media.

"I'm the manager, fair or not, that's the way it is," Randolph said. "I don't feel anyone needs to defend me or really just state the obvious -- the players are ones that have to go out there and play and produce. I'm one of the guys that doesn't take credit for winning, but I understand because I am the manager, I'll take the bulk of the blame for losing. I don't think that's fair, but that's the way it is, and I accept that."

Randolph said he isn't taking Minaya's trip to Colorado as an ominous sign.

"Omar, he doesn't travel a lot, but he's the general manger so he can go where he wants to go," Randolph said. "I found out he was coming. He picks his spots, I guess. I don't read much into that."

Willie Randolph is our manager. He has my support, he has our ownership support. That's what I'm going to tell you. I'm here to support Willie, our ownership supports Willie.

--Omar Minaya

Randolph, the Mets' first black manager, created a stir this week with comments he made that appeared Monday in The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He brought up race when he questioned the way he has been presented by SNY, the team's TV network, and the criticism he's received in the media.

He apologized Wednesday for the comments.

"First of all, I don't agree with how he views certain things. I think he explained himself, I think he apologized," Minaya said. "I told Willie, 'Look, you made a mistake.' With that being said, I think we all make mistakes. I think Willie admitted he made a mistake.

"I think the way we decided to do it was, look, why don't we just get through this week and when we get back in New York, why don't we sit down and talk personally? Just look each other in the eye. Basically sit down in a room and have Willie kind of have a conversation with the ownership and myself, tell us a little bit how he felt and why those things were said," the GM added.

In a curious move, one former Mets star has already contacted the team to express interest in potentially replacing Randolph.

Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, in an interview on "The Mike & Murray Show" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, said he called Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz to ask if it would be a good idea to phone owner Fred Wilpon about a possible job opening.

"I just want them to know of my availability," said Carter, currently managing the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden League in California. "I'm only a phone call away because my contract allows me to leave the ballclub. I could be in New York tomorrow, if necessary, because if there's anything at the major league level I can leave this job."

In 2006, Carter managed the Mets' Class-A St. Lucie team in the Florida State League.

"I politely tried to tell him in a nice way that this isn't the time or place to do that," Horwitz said. "Gary's an old friend. I just listened to what he said, and I said, 'Gary, it's not the time or place to make those kind of inquiries.' "

Randolph led the Mets to the NL East title in 2006 and within one win of the World Series before they lost Game 7 of the NL Championship Series to St. Louis. Last year, the Mets had a seven-game lead in the division on Sept. 12 before losing 12 of their last 17, including an 8-1 loss on the last day of the season, to finish second to Philadelphia.

Randolph said the collapse, one of the worst in major league history, has nothing to do with the struggles of 2008.

"I really felt we put last year behind us," he said. "Any pressure we feel is because of staying in the mix and not reverting back to last year. I don't sense that at all. No one ever talks about it, no one ever brings it up, so if we are looking a little like we were last year, there's no correlation."

Wright said Randolph hasn't talked to the team about his job.

We don't want to see Willie get fired. I don't want to see anyone get blamed for something I'm responsible for. That's what we feel as players. Willie's not out there having bad at-bats or making bad pitches, that's us.

--David Wright

"Willie's kind of shouldered that burden for us," he said. "He hasn't spoken to us about it. He's tried to keep us distant from that as much as possible, and I think everyone respects him for that. As unfair as the players think it is, the finger has to be pointed at somebody."

The Mets came into Friday night 4 games behind the first-place Florida Marlins in the NL East. Last weekend they swept a rain-shortened, two-game series from the New York Yankees before losing four in Atlanta.

After Thursday's 4-2 loss, Wright said he could see a difference in the players' attitude.

"Guys are starting to take it personally," he said. "Guys are getting genuinely upset that we're losing. That's a good sign. We got embarrassed in Atlanta. I saw this look that we've got to take this out on somebody, and hopefully that's the Colorado Rockies."

Randolph said his focus is on getting a team considered among the favorites to reach the World Series back on track.

"I'm still here, and I'm just hell bent on getting a win, just winning some games," he said. "That's where my focus is. I can't control anything outside of that."

Wright said winning will end the speculation about Randolph.

"We want to win to win, not to save Willie's job," he said. "Willie wants us to go out there and play the baseball we're capable of. It's not about trying to band together to save Willie's job. If we win, that's going to help the manager out. Plain and simple. I think we have too much talent and we're too good of a team to be mediocre and be average at the end of May."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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