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Willie Randolph In Trouble?

May 9, 2008

The team is 71-71 since last June 1st and the management plans to sit down and evaluate Randolph’s performance at the end of the month. I am sure other teams do that, but ownership might just have a quibble. From Dan Graziano’s article at the Star-Ledger:

Where Randolph comes up short is in his failure to recognize what kind of team he has and manage accordingly. Randolph is a decent man who cares deeply about his team and his job and believes strongly in himself. But he’s also stubborn, and that’s what has him in trouble.

Randolph came from the Yankees, where the championship teams of the late ’70s and the late ’90s were packed with hard-nosed winners. He believes he shouldn’t need to motivate or fire up big-league players, because his teams never needed that.

In principle, he’s right. He shouldn’t need to remind major-league players that it’s important to raise their games in big spots, or not to take games or at-bats off.

But unfortunately for Randolph, his players are soft. His players are the types who don’t raise their games in big spots, who do take at-bats off. His players coast through long stretches of the season, assuming their talent will carry them through without any extra effort or emotion on their part. His players are not self-motivators, and they are a group that might respond well to being scared every now and then.

That’s not to say they need a Larry Bowa/Lou Piniella type of screamer. “Scaring” players like this would be as simple as letting them know their playing time isn’t guaranteed — that a long, languid slump by the $17 million-a-year center fielder isn’t going to be tolerated when there’s a hungry, energetic Angel Pagan around to man the position while Carlos Beltran gets his head together on the bench.

Randolph doesn’t do that. He does what Joe Torre used to do when his veteran players slumped. He tells them he believes in them and will stick by them until they come out of it.

But in the case of these particular Mets, it doesn’t work. These Mets get too comfortable. They can keep mailing it in at no threat to themselves or their lifestyle. You went 0-for-5 again, Carlos? No problem. You’ll be back in there tomorrow, have no fear. We’ll never embarrass you.

By now — after the playoff flop of 2006, the historic meltdown of ’07 and the sleepy start to ’08 — Randolph should understand this, and he should be doing something about it. He is not.

But does scaring players with the threat of losing playing time work? Or does it alienate the player? I hate watching Carlos Beltran’s at bats as much as anyone, but playing time is a blunt instrument to effect change. I think Beltran might be served by taking fewer stinking pitches, myself. How does one build the desire to get pissed off at each failed at bat like Paul O’Neill? And do the Mets want players that tightly wound?

Don’t get me wrong, I think Willie needs to do something more than sitting back in the cut. or the dugout, as it were.

This weekend: The Cincinnati Reds. Analysis here from Amazin’ Avenue.

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