'The wrong thing to do'
SI.com spoke with senior writer Jon Heyman today about the Mets' middle-of-the-night firing of manager Willie Randolph.
What is your reaction to the move?
I'm not surprised that he was fired. There was a lot of heat on him. The team had underperformed, in the estimation of his bosses. It appeared, as of last week, that he would be fired soon. The thing that's hard to believe is the timing of it. It's very bizarre to fire somebody in the middle of the night and I think it's the wrong thing to do. If they were going to fire him they should have picked another time to fire him. I think they were concerned about firing him on Father's Day, but by doing it in the manner and timing they did, they've turned him into a martyr.
Whose call was it?
From everything I can tell it was general manager Omar Minaya's call. I don't think there was a lot of dissension though. It was generally felt in the front office that the team was better than it performed, but ultimately Omar Minaya was given the call. Of course Omar was well aware of the feelings of the people above and below him. Whether that put pressure on him, I don't know.
Is Minaya's job in jeopardy now?
No. I believe Omar has a very good rapport with the Wilpons and I think they very much want to work with Omar. The nature of baseball suggests that the GM always has a much longer leash than the manager for a variety of reasons, one of them being that it can sometimes take years to implement an overall plan.
Jerry Manuel has been named the interim manager. Do you expect him to last through the end of the season?
Yes. He has being given the season to turn the team around. There's a lot of pressure on him. If they make the playoffs or come close to making the playoffs I think they'll look to bring him back. If the team plays as it has played, I think they'll conduct a search for a different manager.
What's next for Willie Randolph?
I think Willie should be a candidate to be a coach somewhere. I wouldn't rule out him getting another managerial job; he certainly didn't embarrass himself, taking the team within a few pitches of the World Series in 2006. So I wouldn't rule it out, but he's a New York guy and things didn't work here at the end. I think a lot of people would want him on the coaching staff or part of their front office and maybe in a year or two he'd be a candidate to be a manager again somewhere.
Do these midseason firings generally work out well for the team?
Some of them do. Jack McKeon took over a below-.500 team in 2003 with Florida and won the World Series. So it is possible, but that's the exception rather than the rule. A lot of times a GM finds out that it wasn't the manager after all. I guess we're going to find out how good this team is.
Do you expect to see more managers fired in the near future?
Yeah, we're getting to the point now where managers have been given a decent opportunity to show what they can do with their teams. A few others could be in jeopardy. I don't know that there will be a run on it. John McLaren with the Mariners and John Gibbons with the Blue Jays are possibilities.
Will the way in which this firing was carried out have any impact on the Mets' ability to bring in the manager they want in the future?
No. People want these jobs, they're in great demand, so this will be forgotten as soon as the next victory occurs. It was mishandled, it was the wrong thing to do, but the Wilpons have been through a lot and the type of people they are is well-known.