Willie Randolph spent the better part of the previous decade working under Joe Torre, and most of his baseball career as a New York Yankee. Maybe that’s why he isn’t exactly looking forward to this year’s first installment of the annual Subway Series.
“I’ve never been a big fan of interleague play,” the Mets’ first-year manager said. “I think it’s run its course.”
The capacity crowd at Shea Stadium probably won’t share Randolph’s opinion, especially with the Mets carrying a better record than their crosstown rivals into the series opener.
Randolph, the Yankees’ third-base coach from 1994-2003 and Torre’s bench coach last year, finally got his first managerial job this past winter, hoping to rejuvenate a Mets franchise that hasn’t seen the playoffs since losing the 2000 World Series to the Yankees.
Thus far, he’s lived up to expectations as the Mets will enter the Subway Series with a better mark than the Yankees for the first time since the second series of the 2000 campaign.
But Randolph insists he’s more concerned with the seven games the Mets will play against NL East rivals Atlanta and Florida after the Yankees leave Shea.
“I’m more interested in next week,” Randolph said, “because it’s more important to what we’re trying to do in the long haul. Playing the Yankees is important because we want to win as many games as we can—against everyone. But I’m not feeling the emotions that you might think.”
Randolph may have developed his distaste for interleague play from Torre, who has always downplayed the importance of beating the Mets, the team he began his managerial career with in 1977—the year Randolph helped the Yankees win the first of consecutive World Series as an All-Star second baseman.
“I’ve been involved with this team since the day I got the job. I don’t think about the Yankees too much anymore,” Randolph said. “I know they’re part of my history. But that doesn’t matter this weekend.”
“I’m still going to try to beat his brains out, but I can’t hate Willie Randolph,” he said. “I sat here with him for nine years, and I’m so happy for him. He’s a good man.”
The Mets enter the series off a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, while the Yankees had a season-high 10-game winning streak stopped with Wednesday’s 7-6 loss in Seattle, dropping them one game back of the Mets in the standings.
Longtime Yankee nemesis Pedro Martinez was originally slated to start the opener, but had to take a cortisone shot for a bothersome hip this week, and will be pushed back to Sunday’s series finale.
The Yankees lead the all-time series 26-16, not including their 4-1 win in the 2000 World Series.