Joe Torre feeling for Willie Randolph

Yankees vs. Indians 2007 Regular Season CoverageRead Mark Feinsand's Blogging the BombersRead fan blog Subway SquawkersThe Yankees are in, and the Mets are out. But that wasn't Joe Torre's first thought on Sunday, when he saw that his crosstown rivals would miss the playoffs. Torre picked up the phone and dialed Willie Randolph. "I called (Sunday) night," Torre said yesterday. "But I didn't get him." Not that Torre could blame Randolph. "If you go through something like this - especially in New York - you don't want to pick up your phone," Torre said. As Mets skipper, Randolph has taken the brunt of the blame for the team's September tailspin. According to Torre, that often comes with managing in the high-profile Big Apple. Torre's own team struggled early, opening the season 9-14, and he remembers people calling for his head. "I know what (Randolph) is feeling," Torre said. Just last Tuesday, the Yankees fell to Tampa Bay. After that loss, the team's second straight, Torre says he was "a mess. "It just so happens that once you get in that negative turn, it's tough to get turned around," Torre said. Torre's squad survived; Thursday in Cleveland, he'll make his 12th straight postseason managerial appearance. Torre insists that Randolph, who coached with the Yankees for 11 seasons before taking over the Mets in 2005, also will overcome this latest setback. Randolph's frustrations will dissipate in time, Torre said. "It will go away," Torre said. "It's something that spirals out of control sometimes." The only sure antidote is wins, and the Mets lost six of their last seven games. But Torre still recalls Randolph's success. Randolph led the Mets to the NL East title last season, one year after taking over the team. Torre still hopes Randolph will take his call. Yesterday morning, Torre was in Union City, N.J., at Jose Marti Middle School, opening his Safe at Home Foundation's 11th Margaret's Place. Named for his mother, Margaret's Places Continue Reading

Willie Randolph, Omar Minaya show united front

Just as winning has a way of covering up the little fissures in any team, losing has a way of making them look worse. This has been true of the Mets the past two weeks as their NL East lead over Philadelphia went from seven games to just two. The airwaves and the Internet have burned with rumors of a disconnect between manager Willie Randolph and upper management. Fred Wilpon's rare appearance in the Mets clubhouse may take some of the starch out of those rumors and reports. The owner had a closed-door sitdown with Randolph and general manager Omar Minaya to voice his support. Afterward Minaya echoed the show of solidarity to the media in the home dugout. "As a player and a coach, he's been through a lot. Willie's right at the top of the list. I myself believe that the experience Willie has helps out as we go through (this)," the GM said. "Last year in the playoffs, how he handled those type of games and those situations showed (it). "When I hired Willie, in the back of my mind I knew that there are certain people for some reason (that) are associated with winning. I . . . believe he has been associated with winning." Randolph's stoic demeanor came under fire as the Mets started to stumble. Those sentiments were fanned when the manager said that if the team didn't reach the postseason "so be it." A report last week on said that upper management was critical of his strategical decisions, among other things. It also quoted Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon as saying "I'm disappointed in Omar, Willie, the players....That's everyone. We shouldn't be in this position. But we are." Randolph said Jeff Wilpon "has a right to be frustrated." A report in last Sunday's Daily News described how management had undermined Randolph in numerous ways, from a contentious contract negotiation to not letting him assemble his own coaching staff. Asked to comment yesterday on the details of their meeting, Fred Wilpon declined. Of the meeting with the owner, Continue Reading

Willie Randolph gets lift from friend who survived 9/11

The survivor's name is Joe Goldberg. He's 54 years old, a guy from South Jamaica who barely got out of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, and not even a year later, found himself afflicted with a serious liver condition, as well as Crohn's Disease. Goldberg is one of Willie Randolph's best friends, and maybe the most upbeat person the manager knows. Goldberg rescheduled a doctor's appointment Friday and flew up here from his home in Boca Raton to be here for his friend, for the Mets, complete with the blue rubber, Lance-Armstrong bracelet that is on his left wrist. Willie Randolph has the same bracelet, on his right wrist. "Got Guts," the wrist band says. It was a surreal day at Shea Stadium yesterday, as memorable in its own way as any in the park's 43 years, John Maine throwing the game of his life, four outs from the Mets' first no-hitter, as the team forestalled an altogether different sort of history. The benches cleared twice, pitching coach Rick Peterson angrily jawed at Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo and 63-year-old third-base coach Sandy Alomar bravely protected Jose Reyes when Olivo was throwing a punch at him. The Mets' lead is gone and they were a second-place team as night fell, but after the two most emotionally wrenching games of Randolph's young managerial career, after five straight defeats and a squandered seven-game lead, a day of runs (13 of them) and respite, of stunning pitching and defense to match, was a most welcome departure for the manager. "Just what the doctor ordered," Randolph said in the Mets clubhouse. He loosened his No. 12 uniform shirt, and unbuttoned it, and smiled faintly. "We're still breathing. We've got a chance." Throughout the Mets' sorry slide, Randolph has been a beacon of outward calm and optimism, insisting that he still had faith in his guys, no matter how misplaced it might seem. He has been through pennant races for 30 years. He knows all about baseball's brutal vicissitudes, knows that panic Continue Reading

Willie Randolph catching too much heat for Mets’ slump

Over the past two seasons, the Mets have been in first place 322 days under Willie Randolph's watch, more than any team in baseball. Yet, as they limp back home today, their postseason status (let alone their World Series destiny) suddenly no longer assured and their legions of fans are lining up in full jump mode along the Triborough Bridge, Randolph is starting to feel the sharp edges of the long knives around him. Rumor has it there is growing disenchantment from above with Randolph, and while no one reporting this has specified the source of this disenchantment, a pretty good guess is COO Jeff Wilpon, who engaged in a contentious, sometimes rancorous contract negotiation with the Mets manager last winter. Those familiar with the mind-set of the team's hierarchy contend the Met bosses believe any manager could have achieved what Randolph did last year, given the talent he had. For that reason, Wilpon strongly resisted giving Randolph the three-year, $5.65 commitment he sought. That Randolph, despite his Brooklyn roots, community involvement and popularity in New York, has never been held in the same esteem as other successful managers is evidenced by the fact that Wilpon and GM Omar Minaya would allow him to name only one coach - and they unceremoniously fired that one, Rick Down, at midseason this year and replaced him with, of all people, Rickey Henderson. Henderson was one of the game's greatest players and he combined that with an engaging personality. But as a coach, his contributions have been minimal. Around the clubhouse, he is jokingly referred to as the card-playing coach, and those close to the situation say Randolph has had to bite his tongue every day when he arrives at the clubhouse only to see Henderson playing cards with the players. It should also not be forgotten that Minaya said the hiring of Henderson, former leadoff man/base-stealer extraordinaire, would especially be beneficial to Jose Reyes. Has there been anyone more disappointing (to Continue Reading

Omar Minaya backs Willie Randolph, but not completely

More coverage:Filip Bondy: Mets should not make hasty decisionsLisa Olson: Mets' brass disconnected from fan's outrageSchoeneweis denies report of steroid shipmentsDiscuss: Who should stay and who should go?Audio Slideshow: The Mets collapseMets lose NL East title to Phillies on season's final dayRead Adam Rubin's Surfing the Mets BlogSubway Squawkers reactClick here for complete Mets coverageOmar Minaya continued to praise Willie Randolph yesterday ... kinda, sorta. The GM wouldn't go so far as to guarantee Randolph would return in 2008. But Minaya intimated he would offer a positive analysis of the manager of one of the greatest collapses in major-league history to ownership when he presents his winter plan. "I believe in Willie Randolph," Minaya said during an afternoon address at Shea, a day after an 8-1 loss to the Marlins in GameNo. 162 resulted in Philadelphia's coronation as division champs. "I believe Willie Randolph is a winner. I think he's been around winning. And I also understand that you may not always win." Pressed about what his recommendation to Fred and Jeff Wilpon would be, Minaya offered: "I think I'm giving you an idea of my sentiment of the work that Willie has done. But I feel it's only fair to present to ownership what I think going forward. When you lose the way we lost, you have to step back and reflect." Meanwhile, Jeff Wilpon wasn't waiting. The team's chief operating officer issued a George Steinbrenner-esqe statement yesterday. It said in part: "All of us at the Mets are bitterly disappointed in failing to achieve our collective goal of building upon last year's successes. We did not meet our organization's expectations - or those of our fans." Some of the disappointed players showed up at the clubhouse yesterday to collect their belongings. Among them: Moises Alou, Ramon Castro, Carlos Delgado, Damion Easley, Orlando Hernandez, Guillermo Mota and Jorge Sosa. "This might be the first time I won't watch the Continue Reading

Omar Minaya, Mets publicly endorse Willie Randolph

Audio Slideshow: The Mets collapseRead Adam Rubin's Surfing the Mets BlogDiscuss: Who should stay and who should go?Subway Squawkers reactClick here for complete Mets coverageWillie Randolph thanked Omar Minaya for what the manager referred to as a "vote of confidence," even though yesterday's 40-minute press conference felt more like a clemency announcement from the Mets' GM. Regardless, when the Mets report to spring training in Port St. Lucie in February, Randolph will - as expected - skipper the team for a fourth season. "I felt the way the season ended I had to at least step back and ask myself, 'Moving forward, should Willie Randolph be the manager?'I thought about that, and I also thought that I needed to talk to my ownership about what I was thinking," Minaya said yesterday at Shea. "And after thinking about this, I have decided that Willie should continue to manage our club." Randolph suggested he never doubted he would return, although he revealed that the 48 hours of ambiguity were uncomfortable. He will earn $2 million in '08 and $2.25 million in '09. "When you put your heart and soul out there every day, and you lead the team every day, oh yeah, it stings you a little bit. I'm going to be honest," Randolph said about the time of uncertainty since the Mets' elimination on Sunday. "I don't take it personally because I know where my heart is, and my resolve, and what I'm going to do to help get this team back on top." After his job status had been resolved, Randolph dissected the 2007 Mets. On the team's apparent complacency:"Complacency is a real funny thing. When you go through it, you don't feel like you're being complacent. But when you look back, you kind of have to look yourself in the mirror and say, 'Well maybe that's what it was at times.' It's a funny thing to define, but at times we didn't put the hammer down like we said. But I think the players we have here are tough enough and are smart enough to make this Continue Reading

RISING SON. Willie Randolph’s great-grandmother was a slave. His parents, sharecroppers. His success is a symbol of his family’s perseverance

HOLLY HILL, S. C. - In the fading daylight of a Monday afternoon, Randy and Minnie Randolph are out for a ride in their GMC pickup truck, driving back in time. The truck is spotless inside and out, same as their house and garage and even their refrigerator, which has shelves so shiny you can't believe real people actually use them. "We didn't have much when we were coming up, but everything we had was clean and in its place," Minnie Randolph says. Behind the wheel, Randy, a small, sinewy man who doesn't say much, passes the meandering creek where Minnie was baptized, through a drab downtown with a dozen vacant storefronts and a Piggly Wiggly supermarket on the outskirts. His real name is Willie, but hardly anybody in Holly Hill (pop. 1,364) calls him that. He turns onto Coach Road and drives a piece, past the old Smoak farm and a grove of Southern pines. It used to be a cotton field. It was just one of the places where the parents of the first African-American manager in New York baseball history used to be sharecroppers, working from morning to night for a white landowner, in exchange for a shabby place to live, a patch of land to grow vegetables and a few dollars. "We'd pick the cotton, and haul the cotton," Minnie Randolph says. "You'd fill up the sack on your back and take it to the end of the row, and every evening you'd weigh it all and put it in the cotton barn. " You'd get a dollar for every 100 pounds you picked. If you worked hard you could pick 200 pounds a day. Minnie's mother, Lucille - "She was an old-fashioned hard worker," Minnie says - would often get to 225 pounds. Minnie was out in the fields even when she was seven months pregnant with the future manager of the New York Mets. "Back then we didn't know any better. This was life," Minnie says. "There were women who used to work all day and give birth at night. " "It's a hard life, but you just have to deal with it," Randy says. Willie Randolph is 52, the oldest of Randy and Continue Reading

Former Yankees push to get Willie Randolph managing in baseball again

Some of Willie Randolph’s former teammates are hoping that the attention he’s getting this weekend spurs baseball people to think of him as a manager again. Goose Gossage says he wants the plaque Randolph is getting in Monument Park to lead the Yankees to celebrate more of their stars from the late ’70s. “He should get another chance to manage,” says Bob Watson, the former Yankee who was also once their GM. “He’s had all kinds of experience.” Brian Doyle, who starred in the 1978 World Series when Randolph was hurt, stumped for Randolph, the former Met skipper, too, saying, “Why isn’t Willie managing somewhere? That’s my biggest question.” Watson, a former GM of Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, said he’s going to suggest Randolph get that gig in 2017, if he’s not managing. Watson even grumbled that Randolph hasn’t been getting interviews, saying, “There’s a rule in place. That’s something our new commissioner will have to look at.” Gossage had a few suggestions for who from the ’70s era also should be honored: “(Graig) Nettles, Sparky (Lyle). I know I’m going to leave people out, but Bucky Dent. He was a great Yankee. Roy White. Mickey Rivers. “What a weapon Mickey was. He could beat you so many ways. It’d be nice to see Mickey in there.” Randolph, who has said he’d like to manage again, was the last manager to take the Mets to the playoffs. He piloted them from 2005 until he was fired after 69 games in the 2008 season, finishing with a record of 302-253 (.544). Continue Reading

Willie Randolph joins legends in Monument Park at Yankees Old Timers’ Day, takes dig at Mets

Another Yankees captain has his place in Monument Park. Willie Randolph was honored in the Bronx on Saturday with a new plaque for center field. Randolph was a six-time All-Star second baseman (five with the Yanks) and won two World Series in his playing days with the Bombers, followed by four titles as a coach with the team from 1996-2000. “I love you too,” Randolph said to the crowd. “A kid from Brownsville, Brooklyn got a chance to sit on the bench on the greatest stage in sports and do it in his hometown. . . . You guys have made me feel like Yankee royalty. Thank you very much.” Randolph, 60, was mostly gracious and emotional during his time at the microphone, but drew some laughter with a dig at the Mets. “When I walk around the street, cab drivers yell ‘We love you! Willie, when you coming back? Willie, you got a raw deal with the Mets!’” Randolph said. The Mets infamously fired Randolph as manager in June of 2008 during a West Coast trip at 3 a.m. Eastern time. HARPER: YANKEES BLAST OFF TO UNEXPECTED HEIGHTS “I was being silly, you know that,” Randolph said afterward with a smile. “I think my coaching staff and I did a good job for the Mets. Fifty games over .500, a pitch away from the World Series. . . . You talk about Yankee captain, you talk about this day, but I’m just as proud of being a Met manager. Are you kidding me? How many kids can grow up in a city and say (they) ended up managing the team they rooted for as a kid. That’s crazy. My whole career has been storybook like that if you look at it.” Randolph led the Mets to a 97-win season in 2006 before they fell in Game 7 of the NLCS when Carlos Beltran looked at strike three with the bases loaded. He also oversaw their epic divisional collapse in 2007. He has not been a manager since then and hasn’t coached since 2011 with the Orioles, but Randolph Continue Reading

Old teammates thrilled to see Yankees honor Willie Randolph with Monument Park plaque

The tough old Yankees who worked alongside and won with Willie Randolph are expecting an emotional evening Saturday when their superlative second baseman is honored with a plaque in Monument Park. Will the player who was so gritty that one of his nicknames was “Hard Willie,” according to Brian Doyle, be able to hold back tears? “I’m not sure anyone will,” says Bucky Dent. “I can’t even imagine being in his shoes, being a New Yorker, through and through, and having this honor,” adds Rich (Goose) Gossage. “Oh, my God. It’s going to be a day he won’t soon forget. “People loved him.” The ceremony honoring Randolph, the former Yankee co-captain, will be a highlight of the Yanks’ 69th Old Timers’ Day at the Stadium. Randolph, who turns 61 next month, wore pinstripes from 1976-88 and also spent 11 years as a Yankee coach. All told, he’s got six World Series rings — two as a player (1977 and 1978) and four from coaching (1996, 1998-2000). Randolph, who grew up in Brooklyn to become a famous Yankee and, later, the Mets’ manager, made six All-Star teams. His career on-base percentage of .373 would make him highly coveted today; Randolph took walks when doing so wasn’t as cool as it is now. Conversations with Randolph’s former Yankee teammates always seem to come back to common elements in his game: “He was so consistent, so professional,” Doyle says. “Willie was all about winning. He was Hard Willie. He did everything full-speed and he did everything 100%.” There were light moments, too. Dent recalls Randolph was as good with a zinger as anyone on a raucous club. “Those teams back then, we fed off that kind of stuff, on the bus, around the batting cage, guys coming back at each other,” Dent says. “It was fun to be around the personalities.” Randolph and Mickey Rivers often Continue Reading