“We had one really big disappointment, but I think for the most part my staff and I were able to get the team back to a certain respectability or way of playing the game… It’s a tough town, and we raised the expectations real quick here when I was here… We were a victim of our own success… When a manager gets fired there’s always that little window where everyone sees what happened – is the new guy better or worse or whatever. And all of a sudden, after a period of time you can always look at it, ‘Was it the right thing, worth it, did it make a difference?’ But that’s the way it is in sports. In sports, managers and coaches are expendable… Omar and I will always have a certain bond together. I’m eternally grateful for him for giving me the opportunity… I know his family, and Omar’s really a solid baseball man… I’ve told him this before, I’m always rooting for him… I really root hard for them… David Wright and Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran and those guys, they gave me an opportunity to get one game from going to a World Series. There’s really a soft spot in my heart for those guys. I really root for them to do well.”
~ Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph
Randolph is capable of being a successful manager, but it should be in a smaller market. He was clearly too paranoid of the New York media, and understandably so since he grew up seeing it first hand for 20 years. He’s also very hands on. From what I saw, Willie loved to teach and talk the game, it always looked to me like he would do best with a young team, in a small market. Here, in New York, in this fish bowl, with these expectations, and higher-priced, experienced talent, where a manager is unable to regularly throw batting practice and work infield drills because he must do pre-game press conferences and talk to local radio, etc., instead of studying and working with his team to the extent that he wants, Willie was going to struggle.
There is no question he entered Shea Stadium, with some new players, and changed the culture from what it had been under Art Howe. The 2006 NLCS was disappointing. Then, management started to panic, his buddy and hitting coach, Rick Down, was fired, the team started to stumble and quit on him, they had a terrible September and what had once been good started to implode… and quick… and that was pretty much that, finally coming to a close in mid-2008.
I often wonder, had Willie not been so paranoid, and had Minaya and Co. not overreacted in 2007, had the players not sensed weakness from above, how would things have worked? He was not the best in-game strategist, he did some very bizarre on-field moves during games, but had he been given players that meshed better with his personality, his style of baseball, with support from above, and had he not essentially had a break down, could things ever have gotten back on track?