Q. Why Is Mr. Met So Sad? A. They Fired Willie Randolph
Here's a hint to the New York Mets: Maybe if you want to not make a big deal out of something, releasing the news at 3:15 am is not the wisest way to go. When the organization announced the firing of Willie Randolph (very early) Tuesday morning, it missed the deadlines for Tuesday's papers. Scorning the tabs just means more coverage, guys. And that coverage is going to be angry. Remember, most of these columnists have been calling for Willie Randolph's head for a while now. So if you're getting taken to task by these same people for such an "Amazin' disgrace," maybe something's wrong.
The Post's front page features one of their classic photo composites, of a frowny-faced Mr. Met with the headline, "MEET THE MESS." Despite your baseball allegiances, looking at this sad mascot makes you want to give him a hug and a bowl of chicken soup. This perfectly sums up how frustrating and ridiculous the past season has been. The Daily News, meanwhile, decides to use a much more aggressive approach, calling the team bigwigs, "COWARDS IN THE NIGHT" and adding "Never in the history of New York baseball has there been a more shameful, indecent firing of a manager."
News baseball columnist Bill Madden argues that the only firing that comes close to this act of cowardice was when George Steinbrenner canned Yogi Berra after 16 games in 1985. Unlike the Randolph axing, "that one was done in broad daylight, in the visiting team clubhouse in Chicago, in front of all the Yankee players, who vented their outrage at Steinbrenner." The Post's Mike Vaccaro takes issue with Mets GM Omar Minaya's insistence that the firing was all his doing:
"If we are to fully believe that Minaya was solely responsible for engineering this fiasco of a managerial ouster, then we have to take it on faith that he would willfully remove one of the buffers keeping his own blue blazer off the firing line.
"And let's be perfectly frank: The more Minaya spent yesterday trying to justify the way this was handled, the fact is it was bungled so badly that whoever was responsible for it ought to be dismissed at once.
"Still want to take ownership of that puppy, O?"
But it's not all "Poor Willie" in the tabloids today. Mets fan Andrea Peyser (who knew?) writes a column noting that Randolph is responsible for digging his own grave, especially after he claimed there was a racial component to all of the scrutiny surrounding his managerial prowess. Peyser (whose photo has a Mets cap superimposed in the print edition) refers to the "entire colorblind game we call baseball." Apparently she subscribes to the "racism is over" theory when it comes to America's Pastime.
The story isn't just in the news and sports sections of the paper. It's even made its way into the features section of the Daily News, which has a piece on tacky firings and a list of celebrities who went "From fired to fabulous!" We learn that Madonna got fired from a Dunkin' Donuts in Times Square for squirting jelly at customers and that Snoop Dogg was axed from a job bagging groceries. There's even a sidebar on what to do if you're ever fired. Also included is a sidebar of movies which featured firings and the "moral" one can take away. For Goodfellas it's that "promotions can backfire" and for Citizen Kane it's that "Some firings shouldn't be a surprise."
Now, if Randolph's firing had happened at a decent hour, out in the open and not in a "news dump," chances are we wouldn't have these breezy features about losing one's job. Instead, the story would have been covered yesterday on the front pages and dissipated into the news cycle. There probably would have been a few "what's up with the Mets now" columns and some speculation of what happens next. Instead, we get a slow-moving train-wreck that will be column fodder for days. It would have been much easier for the Mets to just rip off the bandage and be done with it.