Willie Randolph was one of those players who did everything above average. However, not as much above average as Chase Utley, but he stayed away from injuries and had a longer career than Utley. He didn’t have the peak that Utley did but had more seasons he was helpful to the team. I have Utley rated higher due to his peak.
Basically, Willie Randolph was a quiet hitter remembered for being a solid quiet ballplayer on the Yankees. With all the characters on the team, Randolph was hardly noticed. That might have hurt his hall of fame chances. Also, his managerial career didn’t help. This is different as managerial careers usually help a player.
Let us take a look at Randolph’s managerial career and see why he isn’t popular. His first problem was he managed in New York. He managed the Mets for four years. If you do something wrong in New York everything is magnified. The team was kind of old. Its two best starters were hall of famers, but Tom Glavine was well past his prime. Pedro Martinez was still great at age but age 33 didn’t pitch a lot of innings. The team did have two youngsters in David Wright and Jose Reyes and age 22. Carlos Beltran was in his prime but had an off season for him. Mike Piazza was a catcher on the team, but he was now 36 which is really old for a catcher.
Now in 2006, Beltran had a great year. So did Reyes and Wright. The Mets had the best regular season in the National League. One problem Randolph had was Pedro Martinez didn’t pitch as well in 2006 as 2005. The other would be he was out for the post season. In addition, Oliver Hernandez another starter wouldn’t be available until the World Series if the Mets made it. Also, Duaner Sanchez one of their best relievers wasn’t available in the post season either. That was three pitcher who expected to pitch a lot key innings. They swept the Dodgers in the first round. They were heavily favorite over the Cardinals, who won just 83 games during the regular season 14 less then the Mets. However, the series ended up being a battle which the Cardinals won. This probably forced Randolph to use Aaron Heilman for a second inning and Yadier Molina hit a 2-run homer off him in the top of the ninth. Molina had a great series on offence and could of easily been named MVP of the series. Another thing in Randolph’s favorite is down 3-1 in the ninth, he had the bases loaded and his best player Carlos Beltran at the plate. Adam Wainwright stuck him out to end the game and give the Cardinals the pennant. However, Mets fans are tough, and they remembered that Randolph didn’t win the playoffs with the better team.
Now 2007 was even worse. They had a 7-game lead with 17 games to play. The lineup was more balanced. Beltran wasn’t as great, but he had hitters all through the lineup except for the catching position with Paul Lo Duca. However, backup catcher Ramon Castro had a good year swinging the bat making up some of the slack. The second place Phillies were coming to town for three games. With a sweep they would be 9.5 games back with 14 to play (The Phillies played and won a game while the Mets had a day off). That would put the Mets in a great position. However, Philadelphia swept the Mets. The Mets had a 7-game road trip. They lost the first two but then won 4 out of 5. That was great winning 4 out of 7 on a road trip. They had a 2.5 game lead. However, Philadelphia was coming off of a 8-2 road trip and had 6 home games.
The Mets lost the first game back home 13-4 and the Phillies didn’t play so they were up two games. The next day was sad. Tom Glavine gave up 6 runs including 4 in the first. Down 10-3 going in the ninth the Mets scored 6 runs and had a man on second with only one out. However, Carlos Delgado their first baseman struck out and Paul La Duca, who singled earlier in the inning flew out to end the game. The good news was the Phillies lost and the Mets were still up 2 games with 5 to go. Another poor pitching effort the next day put the Mets only 1 game up with 4 to go. Pedro Martinez pitched well in a makeup game against the Cardinals the next day, but the Mets didn’t score, and the race was tied.
Florida came to town, and they weren’t a bad team, but the were shooting for 70 wins so they weren’t a good team. The Mets just needed to play well. The Mets got another poor start and a 7-4 loss. Now they were a game back with 2 to go. The Phillies could actually clinch the next day. However, the Mets won 13-0 the next day. John Maine gave up one hit and struck out 14 in 7.2 for a game score 89. He won his 15th game. The Phillies lost. The race was tied. Tom Glavine was starting the last game of the year. Glavine had two bad starts but had pitched well against the Phillies in the start before that. Randolph was thinking that Glavine couldn’t have 3 bad starts in a row. One problem Glavine always had was giving up runs in the first inning. He did it big time in this game. He gave up 7 runs and only got 1 out facing 9 batters. The Mets could only put together 5 hits. The Phillies won.
Although not many specific issues were pointed out, Randolph took the blame for the collapse. His starters didn’t perform well down the stretch. Tom Glavine and Oliver Hernandez were 41 that year. They probably had tired arms. Glavine led the team with 200.1 innings, which isn’t a super amount. His other two starters were 26 and 25. They had some solid relief pitchers. The offense was good, the pitching staff needed some work.
In 2008, the Mets started 34-35 and Randolph was fired. He has never been given another chance. Mets fans would not vote him in the Hall of Fame. It is a harsh judgement to a great ballplayer and a great man. I think Randolph belongs in the Hall of Fame.