Posted: Wednesday September 20, 2006 12:29PM; Updated: Wednesday September 20, 2006 2:58PM
After getting passed over a dozen times, the Mets finally gave Willie Randolph a shot, and he's rewarded them with an NL East title in his second season.
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Willie Randolph won another championship the other night, which, if you haven't noticed by now, he sort of has this habit of doing. The New York Mets clinched the National League East title on Monday, making Randolph a champion in just his second season as a manager. A division title is a minnow compared with the eight pennant winners and six World Series champs Randolph has been a member of as a player and coach, but the way his club dominated the National League all season, Randolph may pick up a familiar piece of hardware by the end of October.
There's a long way to go, of course, before Randolph's Mets can make him a World Series winner again, but he's already gone further as a manager than many of the geniuses running ball clubs apparently thought he ever would. If you are a fan of one of the many teams who bypassed the chance to give him his first managerial job over the last several years, the question you should be asking is, Why exactly wasn't Randolph considered worthy of managing your baseball team?
More to the point, there are many baseball executives who should be asking themselves that question. Randolph could have been the manager of the Reds right now, or the Brewers, Blue Jays, Indians, Devil Rays, Mariners or a host of other teams who will be watching on television while he manages in the postseason this year. But somewhere along the line the people in charge of all those franchises decided that there was someone preferable to a man who had done all that winning, who had been a key part of the most successful franchise in baseball history for a couple of decades.
Randolph estimates that he interviewed for about a dozen managerial openings while he was a Yankees coach. In some of them he probably never had a ghost of a chance. (Can you say "token minority interview"?) In others he was tantalizingly close, but the job always went to someone else. There's no way to know the amount of frustration it caused him, because he keeps his feelings close to the vest. But consider how it must have felt for Randolph to see so many candidates vault ahead of him in line. He saw Cleveland hire 34-year-old Eric Wedge, a relative kid. He saw Houston and Arizona pluck Larry Dierker and Bob Brenly out of the broadcast booth. He saw Lee Mazzilli, a Yankees coach with less seniority, get hired to manage the Baltimore Orioles. He even saw the Mets, the crosstown Mets, recycle the charisma-challenged Art Howe instead of hiring him when they had the chance four years ago.