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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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No Way Out

The people who run the team to which we give an unhealthy portion of our lives are stupid, brutal cowards.

That’s the only explanation for what happened to Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto about 15 hours ago. Nothing Omar Minaya said this afternoon did a thing to convince me otherwise.

Take out your pocket schedule and look at last week and this week. Now, pick the single date and time that you’d pick if you wanted to make the New York Mets look as dumb and mean as possible. If you picked Tuesday morning at 3:14 a.m., well, perhaps a job awaits you at Citi Field.

I’ve thought for a while that Willie Randolph’s tenure as manager of the Mets should be over. But I’ve thought so reluctantly, mindful of a good man who’s seemed every bit as tormented by the last 10 months as we are. And it never occurred to me that the Mets would handle his dismissal in a way that a kind person would call jaw-droppingly incompetent and a less-kind person might call deliberately low and vicious. The just-hired entry-level guy at a downsizing firm — the one who gets the news from the HR harpies instead of from the boss — got more consideration and kindness than the Brooklyn native who managed the Mets to within one gapper of the 2006 World Series.

It’s embarrassing to be a Met fan today. Embarrassing, humiliating and infuriating. That’s not a unfamiliar feeling as a Met fan — I’ve seen Tom Seaver exiled to the Midwest, de Roulet era crowds that barely broke four figures, Vince Coleman throwing explosives at children, Steve Phillips chasing secretaries around desks, Jeff Wilpon tormenting Jim Duquette until his cell battery died, Robbie Alomar tiptoeing away from the pivot, pothead Mets having freakouts in airport-hotel parking lots, “Our Team Our Time,” and Tom Glavine lecturing us on disappointment and devastation. (To name just a few low moments.) But I thought things had changed. I really did.

Sure, there might be poorly executed front-office plans, clubs that tuned out the manager, maybe even a historic collapse every generation or so. Plans don’t work out and misfortune can lay anyone low. But I thought the Mets were past the era of habitual bungling, of routine backstabbing, of their apparent inability to do anything without screwing it up as embarrassingly as possible. Whatever nostalgia we may have for Shea, Citi Field looks like a beautiful park, a deft merger of Ebbets Field and the modern HOK baseball palaces. We can quarrel with the seating capacity and worry about encountering the same old sleeping vendors and snarling concessions staff, but the Wilpons look like they got the stadium part right, and I’m excited to see it. And not so long ago it looked like we’d have a team to match — a young, homegrown core bolstered by savvy role players and top-flight free agents, assembled through smart scouting and by spending money like the big-market team we are. A new park and a team built to contend year-in and year-out before adoring fans.

Well, that dream is gone.

The team itself is lifeless and mediocre, poorly assembled and badly run. The Mets give absurd contracts to punchless, hobbled middle infielders and then can’t find outfielders worthy of starting in New Orleans. The Mets park players who should be on the DL on the active roster for long stretches and fly players who should be in the neurologist’s office around the country. The Mets carry three catchers, then act like they only have two. The clubhouse is leaderless and rudderless. The front office is a Shakespearean drama of whispers and feuds — watching Gotham’s journalists open fire today (with Tony Bernazard and Jeff Wilpon the principal targets) was briefly exhilarating but quickly made me wonder why such critiques have been kept largely under wraps. For ownership we’ve got Steinbrenner Lite — less bluster, but by too many accounts every bit as much paranoia and micromanagement.

Omar played the good soldier today. He said, over and over again, that the firing was his decision, and I’m sure from a narrow, carefully calibrated perspective that’s true. But taking off the blinders, it’s all spin — asked why it happened at 3 a.m., Omar argued that it wasn’t 3 a.m. on the West Coast, that firing after a game was the norm, and finally resorted to the false comparison that firing Willie in uniform would have been much more disrespectful. (True — it also would have been worse to have him dragged out of his room, stripped naked and fired in the parking lot. Presumably that, at least, wasn’t on the table.) What felt wholly and honestly true was Omar explaining that he had to move immediately because the news would have leaked through some third party — in other words, there are people in his own front office and/or owner’s box pursuing their own agendas, and they couldn’t be trusted not to undermine the GM on this, too.

But we knew that — just as we’ve seen how far we’ve fallen from the pinch-me dream of 2006 to the mess we have today. The callous treatment of Randolph, however it came to pass, is the final indicator of just how thorough a disaster things are. And for me, it’s proof that that Met renaissance was a figment of my imagination. This team began its life as a showcase of incompetence, but that hasn’t been cute for 40 years — far too often, it’s been numbing and discouraging. Today isn’t the worst day in Mets history, but it’s definitely on the short list.

The office chatter today (channeling Mike and the Mad Dog) wondered if the Mets, seeking the back pages for 2009, might bring back Bobby Valentine. I laughed — not so much at the idea that the Wilpons might risk once again employing someone who occasionally has an actual opinion, but at the thought of Bobby V. coming anywhere near this horror show. Why on earth would he? If you had a choice, would you?

2008 signees Reese Havens and Brad Holt begin their professional careers with the Brooklyn Cyclones tonight. If I were either of those two young men, I’d talk to my agent. Maybe the paperwork isn’t quite done, or they forgot to include their middle initials in their signatures, or something. It’s too late for any of us to escape the thuggish dolts who run things around here — they’ve got us for life, occasionally for better, mostly for worse.

Anyone not so ensnared, though, ought to run like hell.

21 comments to No Way Out

  • Anonymous

    I must say, and I will keep this short, that I feel much more confident now at 6:15PM than I did this morning at 6:15AM when the news broke for me.
    Manuel has a presence and a persona about him that encourages me and leads me to believe that he will be a positive influence on this team. The fact that his dialogue was unrehearsed and clearly set out a plan for success made me love him immediately.
    When I heard that he was Randolph’s successor, I wasn’t moved either way, negatively or positively. However, having hearing him speak just now, he is a great choice.
    Today’s game will be over-scrutinized and I’m sure that the first questionable call or decision that he makes will be written about ad nauseum. I hope that this city gives him a chance and I think that something special has happened.
    1) He will define bullpen roles
    2) He will call out underachieving players and encourage them to be leaders (ie. Wright, Reyes)
    3) He will encourage pitchers to pitch and go deep into games.
    4) He will punch out reporters that talk on the phone during his press conference. That’s Gangsta!

  • Anonymous

    i didn't hear manuel's press conference because minaya's was so dispiriting that i couldn't listen anymore.
    let's just say omar didn't cover himself in glory and leave it at that.
    there was no reason for this to be as badly handled as it was. and while jace paints a very dark picture about What It All Might Mean, i can't disagree. it really could be that bad.
    yeesh.

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    Don't know what it will mean tonight at 10:05 Eastern (if Omar's OK with my putting on my perception glasses and using that time zone designation), but I fell hard for Manuel. He sounds like he gets it in a way that Omar surely doesn't and I don't think Willie, for all his local roots, ever did.
    Go Jerry. Bring us together…but not in hatred for a change.

  • Anonymous

    If Omar had literally said all that, he'd have been a lot better off. Jay Horwitz had to be cringing.

  • Anonymous

    That was a terrible performance. I'm no Omar fan, but the Wilpon stink was all over this one.

  • Anonymous

    I don't feel like those are things Willie didn't do though. The thing I liked that I heard was that he said “A guy that's my 4 hitter today might not be tomorrow”. Which actually talks to not having bullpen roles. Bullpen roles are for Sept/Oct, June is about earning those roles.
    I dunno, I'm hopeful, but I've been hopeful. the pitch count thing speaks to Peterson more than Willie. I just hope that if Manuel is right for this job, it's because he's right for this job and not that the players suddenly realize they are actually good, and make the playoffs despite/not because of him and we're in this same situation next year.
    I'm not as down on it as I felt this morning, and don't feel it's as 'classless' as the media likes to make it out. Especially if Mike and the Maddog think so, who are about as washed up/out of the loop as you can get.

  • Anonymous

    The more I've thought about it, the more I think Omar did Willie a huge favor. He could have thrown him under a bus after that Padres series or after that depressing loss to the Diamondbacks on Thursday and kept his hands relatively clean, but instead, he fires him at 3:00 am ET after two wins and a cross country flight, draws all of the media criticism onto himself and the Wilpons, and makes Willie into a martyr. Even people who were calling for Willie's head a week ago are now sympathizing. Minaya knew exactly how the media would respond to this. Firing someone is never pretty, but this has definitely made every callous fan that's ever started a “Fire Willie” chant at Shea feel like the jerk they are.
    I'm not sure if this will lead to any immediate or long term results, but it had to be done. The whole issue had become such a distraction for the team. I'm sure everyone on our team respected Willie, but when you work for someone that you are pretty sure will be canned soon, it's tough not to tune them out.

  • Anonymous

    In all honesty this strikes me as some pretty overblown outrage.
    “The just-hired entry-level guy at a downsizing firm — the one who gets the news from the HR harpies instead of from the boss — got more consideration and kindness ….”
    Boy, is this off the mark.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but Manuel nearly made up for all of that. His take on how to handle the September collapse was so insightful, I found myself wondering whether he had ever shared it with Willie or was simply content to remain silent, knowing that Willie's folly in dealing with this would be his opportunity.

  • Anonymous

    way too much outrage from everyone about the timing of these firings.
    you ladies cry on the bus. i'll be on the field. with the gangstas. or at least watching the field.

  • Anonymous

    He seen his opp'tunity and he took it. I think Manuel figured out at least a month ago, and maybe in February, that Willie was a dead man walking, and has been positioning himself all season to have the mantle drop in his lap. Look no further than his getting himself ejected over the Delgado homer, which had the effect of showing Willie up while still seeming to take one for the team.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously, what weird timing. I mean, I guess he had to go on Orbitz and find a ticket home this morning, right? It just adds insult to injury. Why do it now? Why not wait til this weekend? It smacks of a knee-jerk reaction, but that makes no sense right after a win. Baffling. Here's hoping the next guy is more successful.

  • Anonymous

    Typical Mets. If there's a way to screw something up, they do it. Willie is by all accounts a decent guy, but he lost this team at the end of last year and should have been let go then. The act was long overdue, but the way it was carried out was unbelievably stupid.
    At the very least, he should have been gone after the debacle in San Diego.
    There's also the bigger issue of where this team is going. The best teams are building through their farm system. The Mets have no farm system to speak of and the big club is clearly on the downslope. And even worse, the executive level completely dysfunctional with the leaks, backstabbing and infighting. I don't know if we have a quieter version of Jim Dolan and Hank Steinbrenner in Jeff Wilpon, but it is sure starting to look like it.
    The Wilpons need to look at themselves and figure out what the hell they want to do with this team beyond trying to wring every dollar out of the TV network and new stadium. I'm just plain sick of watching a team that can never seem to get it right.

  • Anonymous

    How so?
    It certainly may be off the mark — I've missed that sucker tons of times — but tell me why?

  • Anonymous

    “The Mets carry three catchers, then act like they only have two. The clubhouse is leaderless and rudderless.”
    I bow to few in my disdain for the Wilpons, but they're not the ones who've been keeping Castro on the bench.
    Yet Omar went on TV today and asserted forcefully that Willie should still be a manager in the Major Leagues. Implying at least formally that Willie wasn't at fault for the Mets' downfall. Which IMHO he abundantly was.
    But it's all that big a deal that Omar didn't wait 'til the beat writers woke up in the morning? Yeah, it's a big deal for the beat writers, but do we really have to care about that? With an Internet? In a 24-hour news cycle?
    Or it's such a big deal that Willie had to fly all the way out to the west coast? What, did he cancel other plans?
    I agree that the Mets have nothing but problems these days, but I doubt that letting Willie pad his record with a few extra wins will prove to have been one of the big ones.

  • Anonymous

    I don't care that the beat writers had a bad night. (And some of their bleating about being inconvenienced was annoying.) But the point of doing it at 3 a.m. wasn't to inconvenience beat writers — it was to try to minimize the story in New York, among fans. That's impossible and ridiculous in this day and age, but that's clearly what they were trying to do — a really clumsy attempt at information control and spin.
    It's the same old Mets shit — get paranoid about public reaction, get paralyzed by that paranoia, panic and hastily do the wrong thing in an embarrassing, classless way.

  • Anonymous

    I guess I don't think even the Mets' clueless ownership could have thought that this news would slip by unnoticed, or even less noticed. And it's not like dismissing Willie was a controversial or unpopular move.

  • Anonymous

    I think the outrage here is WAY over the top. Yes, Omar is the world's most pitiful public speaker, sure, the Mets are hamfisted and fearful of poor reactions to a point where they invite them, but calling yesterday one of the worst days in Met history is a real stretch, especially for someone who only a month ago was publically regretting not being the first in line to go public with your calls for an ouster.

  • Anonymous

    I too laugh at the idea of the Wilpons bringing Bobby back, but just because this team is a trainwreck, it doesn't mean Bobby will stay away. You know this. The Mets were garbage in 96. Hell, the Chiba Lotte Marines did nothing for 30 years before Bobby got there. In fact, I don't think Bobby's ego would let him take the reigns on a good team. He'd rather lead a bad team into over-acheivement heaven.
    I believe it was on “Zen of Bobby V” where he said he'd love to manage the Rays. That's just Bobby. And that's why I love him.

  • Anonymous

    I've been advocating dumping Willie for some time, but how he was let go was inexcusable. I found it embarrassing in a way that goes on the short list of worst days to be a Met fan. That's not a stretch for me.
    And this kind of thing has got repercussions: The way the Mets handled this is the sort of typical disaster that will go on the “no” side of the ledger for people wavering about playing/managing/coaching here.
    And odds are Jeff Wilpon will be owner for a long, long time. How many more of these messes do you think he has in him? Peter Angelos was once considered a great owner. Now, his stupidities and missteps are consistent and predictable, and the Orioles are a laughingstock franchise in a beautiful empty stadium. Can that happen here? Who's to say it hasn't already started?