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The story swirling around the Mets is about Willie Randolph. I just filed this based on our briefing with Randolph a little over an hour ago. This will be the backdrop Mets Chat Room.
DENVER _ It wasnâ€™t supposed to be this way.
Two months into the season, the Mets, wounded from last Septemberâ€™s collapse, vowed they would be a focused, inspired team this year.
Carlos Beltran called them the team to beat, and heâ€™s been right, they are the team everybody is beating.
“The worst is only over if we start playing better baseball,â€™â€™ manager Willie Randolph said of being swept by the Braves. “Losing three games is bad enough. Losing four games in a row is a hind-kicking.â€™â€™
Randolph wouldnâ€™t comment on his meeting next week with owner Fred Wilpon and his son, chief operating officer, Jeff, nor would he say he was disappointed his apology hasnâ€™t been publicly acknowledged.
“Iâ€™m still here,â€™â€™ Randolph said, then added, the only penicillin needed for the Mets to get well is winning.
So, with general manager Omar Minaya en route from New York and his players defending him in the clubhouse, Randolph speaks of perseverance.
“This is one of those tough spots of the year where you’ve got to fight through it and not overreact and keep fighting to get back,â€™â€™ Randolph said.“We’ve just been really inconsistent, so we’ve got to turn that around in Colorado.â€™â€™
Not once did Randolph speak of winning to save his job, which has been a hot-button topic since he trampled the sensitivities of ownership this week when he suggested criticism of him was racially motivated, and then said the clubâ€™s cable network, SNY, delighted in showing him in a negative light.
The Mets are more in front on the issue of race than most professional sports entities _ they will have a Jackie Robinson Rotunda to highlight their $800 million ballpark _ and that had to sting the Wilpons.
Minaya has not spoken out for Randolph this week, and a phone call from him to the manager “on behalf of the Wilpons,â€™â€™ as said by a club spokesman, doesnâ€™t carry much support weight.
Minaya, who missed the carnage of the Atlanta series, will be in Denver, perhaps to prep Randolph on his meeting with the Wilpons next week.
“Omar is the GM,â€™â€™ Randolph said about whether he reads anything into the visit. “He comes and goes as he pleases. â€¦ I donâ€™t read anything in that.â€™â€™
Itâ€™s easy to tell when a manager loses his team. You hear it in the whispers, but that hasnâ€™t been the case with Randolph.
“The problem isn’t in there,â€™â€™ said David Wright, nodding toward Randolphâ€™s office.
“Weâ€™re professionals. Weâ€™re getting paid a lot of money. We shouldnâ€™t need a manager to motivate us. As players, we need to take that responsibility.â€™â€™
Wright noticed anguish Thursday he didnâ€™t see in the first three games of the series. He sensed hurt and embarrassment among his teammates.
“I refuse to believe that,â€™â€™ was Wrightâ€™s response when asked if he considered .500 might be as good as gets for the Mets this year. “I think we have too much talent. We are too good a team to be average and mediocre.
“We donâ€™t want Willie to be fired. But, we want to win to win. Weâ€™re not thinking of winning to save Willieâ€™s job.
“Guys were hurt. Guys were upset. We got embarrassed in Atlanta.â€™â€™
And, fair or not, if the Mets are embarrassed here, then Randolph gets the blame. It doesnâ€™t matter that he hasnâ€™t thrown a pitch; hasnâ€™t swung a bat; he didnâ€™t assemble the roster.
“Iâ€™m the manager,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “Fair or not, thatâ€™s the way it is.â€™â€™
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