2007 TOPPS WILLIE RANDOLPH
With the Mets hiring a coach from the Yankees with no previous MLB managerial experience, my thoughts turned to Willie Randolph. The Mets hired Randolph following the 2004 season, in which he served as Joe Torre’s bench coach. The previous 10 years, Randolph was the team’s third base coach. And in 1993, his first job after retiring as a player, Randolph was hired by the Yankees as an assistant GM.
It’s not an exact match for Carlos Mendoza but it’s close enough. So, how did Randolph do as the Mets’ manager? He finished over .500 in all three of his full seasons. In his second year at the helm, Randolph guided the Mets to a 97-65 record and reached the NLCS.
The team suffered a collapse down the stretch in 2007 and missed the playoffs, albeit with an 87-75 record. In 2008, Randolph was fired with club sitting a game under .500 at 34-35. The firing midseason for a manager who had been so successful was bad enough. But the Mets chose to do it in the middle of the night, while the team was on the West Coast. And for the cherry on top of this nasty sundae, Randolph was scheduled to be a coach for the NL squad in the upcoming All-Star game, which was being held at Yankee Stadium, where Randolph had been a star player for so long.
Randolph may have greased his own exit. Earlier in the year, he criticized SNY, feeling the Mets’ television network was being too critical of him, especially given the treatment they gave to Torre. Here’s a quote given to a New Jersey-based newspaper:
“Is it racial? Huh, it smells a little bit,” Randolph told The Record. “I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but I think there is something there.”
Was Randolph, right? None of us really knows. What’s fair to speculate about is that this particular hand grenade didn’t sit well with the conservative Wilpon ownership, one who always preferred button-down stars to ones with an opinion. It’s not hard to imagine they felt the same way about their manager, too.
He’s yet to manage in the majors since, although he was a bench coach for both the Brewers and Orioles, the latter under Buck Showalter.
As for the particular card itself, this comes from the only 21st Century set in my collection. It was given to me as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. This is just a stock photo from the internet, as the factory set remains unopened, complete with mock Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle 1951 cards that never were.