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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Classless & Clueless Clownery

A blue and orange clown car pulled into Anaheim last night. One by one, the clowns spilled out as a calliope played madly in the background. Rollicking, it was.

Then one of the clowns went mad and fired Willie Randolph.

That’s what it feels like as Jerry Manuel takes over the Good Ship Mediocrity. That’s what it feels like to be a Mets fan this morning waking up from having fallen asleep to an incidental Mets victory and seeing on the crawl across the bottom of the screen that Willie Randolph is no longer manager of the New York Mets.

Wait, you groggily ask yourself, didn’t the Mets win last night? More to the point, didn’t the Mets fly across the country with their manager in tow and let him manage on a Monday night? Didn’t he manage all nine innings?

You mean they fired him after that? After a win? On the West Coast, after midnight on the East Coast?

That they did. Those are the New York Mets. Clown college is, as ever, in session.

It never ends. It truly never ends. For two decades this organization has run with that calliope blaring at full blast. How many managers and general managers have been shot out of cannons now?

Everything that has been prelude to Willie Randolph’s tenure comes rushing back in your mind. Everything since the Mets were kings of baseball. Every bizarre backstabbing, every oil & water disaster of front office intrigue. Every painful press conference. Every firing.

Davey Johnson wins the World Series but Cashen angles endlessly to replace him. Buddy Harrelson’s a hometown hero but they can’t wait one lousy week to show him the door. Somebody believes Al Harazin and Jeff Torborg are answers. Somebody sets Dallas Green and Joe McIlvaine against each other in a chess game of disastrous creative tension. Somebody dismisses McIlvaine in the midst of the first successful season in seven because of nebulous skill-set concerns. Bobby Valentine’s coaches are used for skeet shooting. Steve Phillips’ horrible team shrivels and Bobby V, the only manager to actually win anything around here in more than a decade, takes the fall. Art Howe lights up a room. Jim Duquette preaches youth and athleticism and lowballs Vladimir Guerrero. Howe, nice man, can’t manage a meat market and is dismissed without actually being dismissed. No one takes responsibility for the worst trade of a prospect in a generation. Duquette told to take a hike because his team, with an ownership-approved right field platoon of Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer, without Scott Kazmir, with Kaz Matsui elbowing aside Jose Reyes, with Jose Reyes practically kicked in the hamstrings by his own team trainers, with David Wright in only his first season, wasn’t ready to contend even though the public position of his employers was let’s get some youth and athleticism in here and see what happens. Let’s replace Duquette with the guy we wouldn’t give the job to in the first place, Omar Minaya.

Then let’s usher in the hundredth new era in Mets history by giving Minaya the GM job and hiring Randolph as manager and breaking out the checkbook and signing Martinez and signing Beltran and resisting the temptation to trade Reyes and Wright and let’s improve by leaps one year and let’s break out the checkbook some more and let’s sign or trade for more big-money guys and let’s watch a great start, a phenomenal start, a fabulous start and let’s all congratulate each other for the renaissance in Queens. This is improving by bounds as well as leaps: a new day, a new era, a new dawning. The Mets now, after twenty years of thumbs finding the deep ends of asses, know what they’re doing.

And that lasts for not quite one season. And its remnants dissipate the next season. And before that season is out, it becomes mightily apparent that the checks cleared but the players bounced. That the mighty accomplishments of Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner and Paul Lo Duca came with an expiration date. That Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez and Moises Alou were marked fragile. That nobody much liked each other, which wouldn’t matter, except nobody fired each other up with their dislike either. That Beltran was both worth the money and is ridiculously overpaid. That Reyes will never quite grow up. That Wright has been shoehorned into a faux-leadership position by an organization that realized it had nowhere to turn except to a 25-year-old who’s broken out everywhere except at the plate. That it would have been nice to have had some youth and athleticism in place for when all the senior citizens did what senior citizens will do and slowed down with age. That the big-market New York Mets would sign the best pitcher in the game but rely more on the Pagans, the Figueroas, the Evanses, the Tatises and the Cancels for their biggest moments. That Ryan Church’s head was to be treated like carry-on luggage.

Remember Captain Red-Ass and the Marauding Mets or whatever it was we allegedly were on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Remember the feelgood story of 2006? Remember how everything Minaya touched turned to gold? That Julio Franco was a godsend? That Willie Randolph’s calm and soothing patience were just the lubricants for this finely tuned machine?

Did it really all go to hell in a cab in Miami? Was Duaner Sanchez really the linchpin of this operation? Did one dopey trade after another have to be made to get to October only to have October crumble while the bats went cold and unswung? Couldn’t anybody get anybody to run to first? To give a damn?

Did Willie Randolph, who was never anything but Willie Randolph when he was hired, when he was maintained and when he was fired, really have to be kept hanging on after the worst September performance anybody’d seen since Poland’s in 1939? Was it necessary to parade Willie to a microphone in early October 2007 to confirm that a man with a contract was still employed? Did it have to be top priority for the New York Mets to look like they knew what they were doing instead of actually knowing what they were doing?

It’s all a blur of incompetence now, and I don’t mean Willie’s. I don’t want to martyr him. He wasn’t the best manager they ever had, he wasn’t the worst. He was, in the vernacular of hopelessness, what he was. But they knew this last year. They knew this last September. They knew it after September and they knew it in May when they didn’t like an interview he gave. So they gave the man who had a contract one, no two, no three more games…or series to prove himself worthy of their confidence. And it worked. Then it didn’t. Then it was the same old team finding brilliant new ways to lose.

Then they packed him and Peterson and Nieto on a plane only to fire them after their fourth trip west in a matter of weeks, after they won a game, before anybody could get a night’s sleep to think, hey, maybe this is no way to run an organization.

I light no candles for Willie Randolph. He’ll get paid. He did, I’m sure, what he could. He led us to a division title and a division series victory. He led us to within one game of a league championship. In 2006, he could do no wrong. In 2006, Omar Minaya could do no wrong. In 2006, the Mets as an organization, for perhaps the only time since 1986, could do no wrong. I believed that. I’m a fan. I’m supposed to believe that. Those who own the team also believed the personnel they’d assembled could do no wrong, that all their drafting was spot on, that all their confusing intramural maneuvers were healthy, that whatever got them to this point was good for business. That they themselves could do no wrong.

They’re supposed to know better. But when in the last twenty years has that ever been the case?

66 comments to Classless & Clueless Clownery

  • Anonymous

    The more I think about this, the less I care. What is the press screaming about?! That poor Willie's internal clock got goofed up for a few days? I'm sure he can get some sound rest on the giant piles of cash he's about to receive.
    To be honest, I was more upset when I heard Stan Winston died on Sunday.

  • Anonymous

    Now THAT would be something….

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    While we're killing the Mets for dangling Willie by a thread, it just occured to me that the decision to fire him rested squarely on the shoulders of Omar. If that had not changed, then is it more Omar's fault for the way it was handled than the Wilpons?

  • Anonymous

    The more I think about this, the less I care. What is the press screaming about?! That poor Willie's internal clock got goofed up for a few days? I'm sure he can get some sound rest on the giant piles of cash he's about to receive.
    I understand he' s getting paid well, but regardless what you think of him as a manager, he's still a decent man who didn't deserve to get shitcanned after flying over 3,000 fucking miles! And coming off a win no less! At least spare him the trip so he can hang with his family.

  • Anonymous

    I understand the human aspect of it, but I really think it's still getting blown out of proportion.
    Consider this: Let's say Omar says, “okay, we changed our mind. We're sorry about the way things were handled, and we'll let Willie finish out the trip.” Then later on tonight the Mets blow a 4-1 lead because Willie thought 6 innings and 102 pitches were enough for Johan. I guarantee that tomorrow's FAFIF comment section would be filled with, “Willie should have stayed fired.”
    Not to mention what was brought up on metsblog, which was essentially, 'maybe Willie didn't want to wait until Thursday and told Omar 'just fire me now.''
    I could be wrong, but I think we should all just wait and see.

  • Anonymous

    I read 100 + web sites daily. This is the most through article I've read, so far, about the continual incompetence of Mets' ownership, and how, sadly, they don't learn from their mistakes. Fantastic job !

  • Anonymous

    You can only learn from your mistakes if you care to do so.
    This isn't really related, but I'll say it anyway: Fred Wilpon is the same guy who said–on television–that the 2000 World Series was wonderful.

  • Anonymous

    I don't think anybody's calling for it to be undone. Just to have been done less worse (as opposed to better).

  • Anonymous

    Fred (aka Fredo) is an asshat

  • Anonymous

    Anyway fans can organize a one-game boycott where Shea Stadium sits empty? Pay for Citi Field with that revenue, Wilpons!

  • Anonymous

    “the worst September performance anybody'd seen since Poland's in 1939″
    I come for the witty erudtion, but I stay for lines like this. Huzzah!

  • Anonymous

    I heard the bell tolling as soon as I found out it was Omar's decision to make.. How could you not see it?
    But I suppose it is official now, this club is in free-fall mode and it's ugly..
    So it's back to the bad old days..
    rich

  • Anonymous

    I think we're all just depressed that this move, which we've all been anticipating for so long and basically agree with, ends up feeling like just another reason why this team and franchise is hopeless, inept and not to be taken seriously.
    Oy vey.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to add to the comment thread.
    It is very difficult to be one of two Mets fans in an entire Wall Street office full of Yankees fans today.

  • Anonymous

    This is the first time I can remember thinking they can say anything they want today, I can't argue one bit in defense of my team.
    I'm feeling better since meeting the new manager, however.
    Let's Go Mets. What the hell?

  • Anonymous

    Greg, this is not directed at you specifically. But I honestly think people are way overreacting to this.
    Willie was not fired “in the middle of the night.” He was fired after the game. He was in the Pacific Time zone. That would have put the firing somewhere before midnight. And it's not outside the bounds of possibility that he was warned well in advance that this was coming.
    You all wanted this. Everybody wanted this. Now they're getting killed for not doing it with whipped cream and a cherry on top? My god.
    Yeah, it might have been “better” to do it at the very end of last year, but they're already eating Art Howe's contract and Bobby Bonilla's contract and Mo Vaughn's contract and god knows who else's, and they were going to try to give him a chance to clean up the one-horse poop pile on his own — just a year ago he looked like a genius to most people, remember?
    There was no “graceful” way to do this. There just wasn't. Firing a manager (and pitching coach) because the GM hired too much old-and-busted with no way out is always going to blow giant goatherds, no matter what. (Not that Willie didn't do his share of fucking up, but John McGraw himself couldn't have made this much old-and-busted work for him in this day and age.)
    Maybe it's because I live in the Upper Left that I see it this way. The MLB team closest to where I live shoots itself in the foot routinely in ways the Mets couldn't have nightmares about.