On March 4 on his New York TV sports talk show, Mikeâ€™d Up on NBCâ€™s New York affiliate, Mike Francesa snubbed New York Mets skipper, Willie Randolph.
Francesa was talking about the Metsâ€™ prospects this season. He observed that they had gotten by in 2006 with great hitting, and that â€śthe Metsâ€ť would paste together a starting rotation, and had a great bullpen. He pointed out that the team had an aging starting rotation for the coming season, with the caveat, that if necessary, â€śOmar will make a moveâ€ť for a starting pitcher. It was always â€śthe Mets,â€ť whoever they were, as if the managing were done by an anonymous committee, vs. â€śOmar.â€ť Not once did Francesa mention Randolph.
Now, I was not a believer in Willie Randolph when he was named Mets manager in 2005. Randolph had never managed; not in the big leagues, and not in the minors. The Mets had just endured two years of the Art Howe fiasco. I had never wanted them to hire Howe in the first place, and if I didnâ€™t want owner Fred Wilpon taking a chance on a green manager prior to Howe, that was doubly the case after he had passed through town. (And Howe was experienced! Heâ€™d been a failure in Houston and a success in Oakland.)
Wilpon had likely hired Howe because he was the anti-Valentine. Bobby Valentine had been one of the best managers in Mets history, and he got the team to the World Series in 2000 for the last time, after a 14-year drought. (I can't seem to recall the name of the team they went up against.) Valentine was brilliant and had a maniacal work ethic, but he could be sneaky and was too much in love with his own cleverness, like the time he started circulating a rumor that slugging catcher and team captain Todd Hundley was partying too late at night, or another time when he got thrown out of a game, and thought he could fool the ump by sneaking back onto the bench wearing a Groucho disguise. Still, he gave his all for Wilpon, and the team gave its all for Valentine. Valentineâ€™s stressing of the fundamentals and preparation had much to do with the team having one of the greatest infields of all time under his stewardship (John Olerud at first base, Edgardo Alfonzo at second, Rey Ordonez at shortstop, and Robin Ventura at third).