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fare-thee-well-willie-and-bill | June | 2008 Articles

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Fare Ye Well, Willie and Bill

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It was a bad day to be named William. Bill Bavasi was fired yesteday, and Willie Randolph was fired overnight, after the buzz surrounding their inevitabile ousters reached a deafening pitch. Both deserved it: Bavasi's list of accomplishments merited the ax long before this, and the Mets' 2007 collapse will live in infamy as long as baseball is played. His team quit on him, and stayed quit this season. They are not the first baseball executives to be laid off this year: that honor would go to Wayne Krivsky, who in my opinion was unfairly cut. The problem is timing. Bill and Willie ought to have been fired months ago; in Bill's case, years ago (as David Cameron of the U.S.S. Mariner painstakingly points out). Willie should have been fired after the collapse, not halfway into the season, 3 weeks after the Memorial Day feel-good powwow, at 3 AM in the morning. Bill should at least have been fired in the offseason, before he had a chance to gut their farm system yet again, giving away the crown jewels so that Erik Bedard could learn firsthand how frustrating it is to have Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson as the core of your offense. Both franchises have very recent memories of success. The Mariners set the all-time AL wins record back in 2001, when Ichiro was a fresh face and Sweet Lou Piniella and "Stand Pat" Gillick were in the clubhouse and front office, respectably. Sweet Lou is now in first place in the NL Central with the Cubs, Pat is in first place in the East with the Phillies, and the Mariners are in last with a general manager who put them there. The Mets were seconds away from the World Series only two years ago -- one they might well have won, facing the snakebit Tigers -- but that all seems like ancient history these days. In short, both organizations handled this extremely badly. The Mets will be managed by bench coach Jerry Manuel, and the Mariners will be G.M.'ed by Lee Pelekoudas with a search starting immediately. (On the other hand, anyone think Lee Pelekoudas is a guy Peter Angelos would be happy to trade with? Yes, I'm saying there aren't nearly enough baseball Hellenics.) Jack McKeon notwithstanding, midseason replacements generally don't do well. There are really only two reasons to fire someone in the middle of the year, considering that it sends a message that the season is already all but over:
  • To placate the fans, and
  • To paraphrase Harry Burns, when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life without somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
I'm personally sorry to see Willie and Bill go, because they've been helping us out all year: Bavasi with Jorge Campillo (and Rafael Soriano before that), and Randolph by keeping the Mets just one step behind our sluggish pace, to help keep at least a little hope alive for our own chances. So what does this mean for us now? I think we can safely assume we won't be doing any deals with the Mariners any time soon; they'll probably give the new guy strict instructions not to allow himself to get hosed by anyone at least until they can figure who they can pay to run their team further into the ground. I'm much more wary of writing off the Mets, just because they still have the personnel to make a run, even if not the confidence or seeming wherewithal. Like Willie Randolph, Jerry Manuel is a stoic former major league second baseman who has had some success as a manager and was ultimately pushed out when that success didn't particularly increase. He was in Chicago, which is another major market, so he'll understand the pressure, but he isn't a rah-rah guy, so he won't be particularly satisfying to people looking for a tempermental change -- Jerry was so low-key, he was replaced by Ozzie Guillen, a diametric opposite in public persona. New Yorkers like a manager who wins, but they love a manager who has personality: Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel, Billy Martin, Bobby Valentine. Jerry doesn't show emotion, and that's the one thing this team has lacked all year. So I doubt the firing will make much difference in the clubhouse. Of course, any team with Beltran, Wright, and Reyes has the ability to score a few runs, and Santana, Maine, and Perez will pitch a few absolute gems. So we shouldn't take our eyes off them. Let's keep kicking them while they're down and see if we can get a little less daylight between us and the Phillies.

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