Many of the New York Mets might have gone to sleep last night thinking their season was getting turned around. Those same players woke up to find out it wasn’t happening quickly enough to save their manager’s job.
Just getting over the shock of Randolph’s overnight firing, the Mets take the field with former bench coach Jerry Manuel leading the team in a game against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
Randolph being let go might not come as a huge surprise considering it’s been rumored for quite a while, though the timing may have been. It came at 12:15 a.m. PDT, just about two hours after the series opener in Los Angeles and well after most Mets fans on the East Coast turned in for the night.
“I’m really stunned by it,” Randolph said as he left the team hotel shortly before noon. “I was surprised by it.”
It also followed New York’s second straight win - 9-6 over the Angels - and fourth in six games after a five-game losing streak. However, it left the Mets (34-35) still a game under .500 and 6 1/2 games out of first place for a team expected to contend for the NL East title after blowing a division championship last season with a stunning collapse.
Reached by phone nearly three hours after Monday’s game, Mets utility man Marlon Anderson said he didn’t know Randolph had been fired and he didn’t want to comment until he heard the news from a member of the team.
“Not tonight,” Anderson said.
On Friday, a report surfaced that management was on the cusp of firing him if the team continued to struggle. Apparently winning three of four games since that report was not enough to satisfy Mets brass.
“I honestly don’t think we go out there thinking, well, I’ve got to make sure we win this game so Willie can keep his job, because that’s out of our control,” Mets closer Billy Wagner said after recording his 15th save in Monday’s win. “I think we’re all out there just trying to do our job.”
Taking over for Randolph on an interim basis, Manuel managed the Chicago White Sox from 1998-2003 and won AL Manager of the Year in 2000 after guiding them to the league’s best record.
Randolph’s firing was not the only one announced very early Tuesday morning, with pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto also being cut loose. Replacing them will be Ken Oberkfell, the club’s manager at Triple-A New Orleans, and Dan Warthen, pitching coach for New Orleans.
It would be hard to imagine Warthen needing to do much to help ace Johan Santana (7-4, 2.85 ERA), who unlike many other Mets has lived up to expectations and can’t be blamed at all for Randolph’s firing.
Santana goes to the mound Tuesday and has been brilliant lately, posting a 0.87 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 20 2-3 innings over his last three starts despite going just 1-1. He was outstanding again Thursday, striking out 10 and allowing three hits in seven shutout innings, but the bullpen squandered his effort in a 5-4, 10-inning loss to Arizona.
“I felt good. I’ve been doing my job. I was hitting the corners and using all my pitches,” Santana said. “But at the end, the bottom line is, we didn’t win. When you’re on the bench, there’s not much you can do about it.”
The two-time Cy Young Award winner is 2-3 with a 4.05 ERA in 10 games - eight starts - against the Angels, but he hasn’t faced them since July 16, 2005, while with Minnesota.
New York’s ace will face the Angels’ top starter in John Lackey (3-1, 1.83).
Lackey has been outstanding recently, going 2-0 with a 1.61 ERA over his last three starts - all wins for Los Angeles (42-29). He outpitched Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir last Wednesday, allowing two runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings of a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay.
“The only way you’re going to beat good pitching is with good pitching,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the team’s official Web site.
Lackey will have to contend with hot-hitting Carlos Beltran, who is 12-for-30 (.400) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last seven games.
The Mets center fielder went 2-for-5 with two solo shots while serving as the designated hitter Monday, but he is 0-for-6 against Lackey.