Without Willie

Could Tony Bernazard have been any more clear about how he felt about Willie Randolph? Do we need any more evidence of his questionable character and lack of professionalism?

In the Daily News, John Harper spoke with Bernazard about the resurgence of Carlos Delgado, and Tony B just couldn’t leave Randolph — or his own ego — out of the conversation.

“The other thing,” said Bernazard, “is that maybe it has something to do with the new people running the team.”

He didn’t refer specifically to either Randolph or Jerry Manuel, but with that one sentence, Bernazard may as well have declared:

“See? We were right.”

Bernazard still won’t say so publicly, but it’s clear in conversation with him about the state of the ballclub that he felt Randolph had to go, perhaps felt more strongly about the need for a change than anyone in the organization.

And even though the Mets can never defend GM Omar Minaya’s clumsy, insensitive handling of the firing, you can’t argue these days with the idea that indeed the front office was right.

The last sentence, by Harper, is incredulous and typically short sighted. The front office wasn’t “right” about Randolph being the wrong manager — they had no choice but to remove him as long as Tony Bernazard was going to repeatedly undermine his authority and bad-mouth him to anyone who would listen — be it players, coaches, journalists, team officials, or Jeff Wilpon.

Imagine trying to manage a group of 25 men, and a middle manager from another department is constantly hanging around the cubes of your workers, and whispering bad things about you to them. For example, telling your receptionist that in a closed door meeting with the higher ups, you questioned her phone manners? You think your group would be working at optimum efficiency with that sort of thing going on?

More gems from this article:

… the Manuel Mets barely resemble the Randolph Mets.

Bernazard feels it’s no coincidence. Although he avoided specific discussion of Randolph, his praise of Manuel seemed to be a commentary on the old manager as well.

“You have to have the pulse of the team,” Bernazard said. “You have to be prepared and you have to communicate with your players. Jerry does all of that.”

and, in regard to whether Delgado’s comeback had to do with the managerial change:

“Delgado is such a student of the game,” said Bernazard. “If you’re running a good game, he knows. When you’re running a bad game, he knows.”

Tony Bernazard made it crystal clear that there wasn’t enough room in town for both he and Randolph. His pitbull tenacity in pushing Randolph out had no boundaries nor ethics, and in the end he comes out smelling like a rose because on the surface, it looks like Jerry Manuel is a genius and Willie Randolph an idiot. In truth, the tense dark cloud that surrounded the team in Willie’s last 8-12 months was a calculated and despicable manipulation by Bernazard, designed to dispose of Randolph. Hopefully, Bernazard gets a GM job on the West Coast this offseason, as has been rumored — because who knows who he’ll turn on next.

But who cares, right? Because the Mets are winning and that’s all that matters. Why am I being so negative?

Well, when a situation makes me sick to my stomach, the easiest way to soothe my tummy is to let it out by blogging about it. I’m still rooting for the Mets, still love that they’re winning, and am happy with Jerry Manuel in charge. But all this behind-the-scenes drama centered around a guy who has ZERO qualifications for his position and an equal amount of professionalism, yet gains more power with every Mets win, cannot get swept under the rug.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 September 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm
    I understand the professionalism angle — however, what’s Bernazard saying that really isn’t true?

    Personally, I firmly believe that the ill-will harbored between Tony Bernazard and Willie Randolph — was something that happened from the get-go.

    As someone put into a position which oversees player development — Bernazard likely could’ve foreseen a “Yankee-mentality” infiltrating his Minor League system.

    If there’s one thing we all knew 100% without a doubt, it’s that Willie placed very little trust in his “babies” — even the bonafide All-Star prospects. And at that rate, we never would’ve seen much of the minor leaguers being developed and pushed through the system.

    That’s what I see, anyway — and it’s my own conspiracy theory. Don’t take that as gospel, but look at it from a standpoint of: “What if it were your job?”

    To me, that would make some sense…..and would definitely have me resenting the man in charge of it all. To date, Manuel has played the Minor Leaguers that Bernazard has pushed through the system….and to be truthful, he’s not afraid to play the “baptism by fire” card….entrusting certain youngsters into meaningful spots in the order.

    And that’s part of the reason why we’ve heard little to nothing more about Bernazard since WR’s firing. Willie didn’t even think twice about giving certain rookies a chance — let alone meaningful opportunities.

    As far as the “playing hungry” factor…..I fully endorse the theory that some of these guys fell further into the doghouse (under WR), than being out and roaming free as rabid dobermans (what we now see with JM).

    We’ll see what happens down the stretch…..but with the way they were playing back in June — we would’ve all killed for this. No one can knock their effort right now…..they look like they actually care about what’s going on, and that really couldn’t be said last year — judging by their downright sloppy play — leading into the inconsistency we saw almost all year leading up to the firing.

    Manuel’s done a heckuva job — not only with the media, but with his players. It’s clear that they’ve been committed to playing well under his watch.

  2. joe September 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm
    Well …. it wasn’t “Bernazard’s system” until this year. He was an “assistant to the GM” before this past winter, so not sure about Willie affecting things with his “Yankee mentality”. And if there was such a mentality, I’d be happy to have it in the Mets system … the Yanks are doing a pretty damn good job producing prospects, both for themselves and for trade bait.

    Everyone brings up Willie hatin’ on the kids — including yours truly — but we forget about Carlos Gomez and Lastings Milledge being given opps, and we forget that it was Willie who gave jobs to Aaron Heilman, Juan Padilla, John Maine, and Victor Diaz. I’m starting to see, looking back, why he stopped giving the opps to the youngins — because the Mets brass made it clear they wanted to “win now”, per Omar Minaya’s recent statements about bringing in vets. So Willie was merely following what the company asked him to do.

    I’m not happy with Willie being the scapegoat — that’s what galls me the most. Bernazard’s influence kept Randolph from performing his best as a manager, and in turn, the team suffered.

    Maybe the problem was that Willie didn’t have enough chutzpah to tell Bernazard to take a hike, and to stand up for himself with the front office.

    In any case, because of Bernazard’s affect on the team, it’s hard for me to really believe whether Manuel is that good a manager of people, or was he simply in the right place at the right time. I think with all the back-stabbing and tension going on with Willie and Bernazard butting heads, this team could have done just as well under almost anyone — so long as Willie was removed from the situation.

  3. Micalpalyn September 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Comment by Mingo

    2008-09-04 15:01:39
    And I disagree with you.
    The Mets were near the bottom of the league in scoring most of the first half. If you recall, during the first half one of the concerns we had with this team was the lack of offensive consistency. Now we are scoring runs and it has catapulted us to second in the league in runs.

    Before July 2nd (our 85th game) we were averaging 4.68 runs per game, since then we are averaging 5.36 runs per game, a good .68 runs per game difference. And since this time our record has been 38-18 a .679 winning pct. Prior to that it was 41-43 a .488 winning pct.

    Conversely at this same point we had given up 4.74 runs per game. Since then we have given up 3.71 runs per game, almost a whole run different.

    In essence, since then we have gained 1.71 runs per game over the team that we were at that point.

  4. joe September 4, 2008 at 10:51 pm
    Mic, are you “Mingo” over there?

    Anyway, in response to that comment … the difference between the Mets offense before and after July 2nd was the emergence of Carlos Delgado and the ridiculous July performance by Fernando Tatis. Everything else has been exactly the same, including the offensive strategy. Despite the constant fawning and back slapping by the SNY announcers every time the Mets steal a base or hit and run, there has been absolutely no difference in on-field strategy from Randolph to Manuel, and everyone else on the offense has played more or less to their expectations / performed to their mean. Beltran picked up a bit, and that can be directly attributed to having Delgado hitting behind him. I made the point of Delgado’s importance to the team’s success back in February. He was, is, and will be the key to everything.

    That said, are you suggesting that Manuel taught Delgado and Tatis how to hit?

    In truth, Delgado started finding himself in the three weeks prior to Willie’s firing. In fact, his numbers start looking better IMMEDIATELY after Randolph sat his fat lazy butt on the bench on May 27th. He’s been a different player ever since that afternoon of picking splinters. Had Jerry Manuel been manager that day, we’d be hearing about how it was a miraculous motivational move. Since Willie did it, it’s forgotten and passed off as inconsequential.

    Meanwhile, Tatis was given his opportunities by Randolph, and had a good May, bad June. Under Manuel, he had an unbelievable July and a lackluster August. If it was Manuel that made him hit so well in July, can we blame Manuel for Tatis’ .244 August and 500-point drop in OPS?

    And before you say Dan Murphy, there is no evidence that Willie would have refused to play him — though I do admit he might have held something against him since he’s Tony B’s “boy”. In the end, Murphy would have played, just as Mike Jacobs did in ’05 — mainly because Willie, like Manuel, would have had no other options.

    BTW what is it you disagree about?

  5. Walnutz15 September 5, 2008 at 7:07 am
    My stance from Opening Day was always “This team thinks it’s a lot better than it really is” — and that seemed to be the attitude under their previous manager. Hence, the lack of a sense of urgency…..and prolonged, maddeningly inconsistent play.

    The Mets under Randolph were on a path to No Man’s Land….to the point where I was even under the impression that a rough summer was ahead of us.

    Whether or not we can pinpoint Manuel being the “reason” for the turn-around is another story altogether – and while I don’t think he’s the sole reason for a Met turnaround, it’s pretty evident that he’s been a big part of it.

    Fact of the matter is: nobody knows how the Mets would’ve responded to any other managerial choice. We can say that this could’ve happened under any other manager – but from the looks of it, I’m not so sure about that. Manuel had been around this team, and the personalities in the clubhouse for a while. He knew how to/hot NOT to deal with certain players….

    And it’s clear that a large majority of them have responded to Manuel’s style — and demeanor. Saying anything else would just be going out of one’s way to diminish the job Manuel’s done thusfar.

    The Mets absolutely, 100% without a doubt, needed to make the change…..and it’s pretty evident that certain Met players enjoyed Manuel’s tenure as bench coach.

    2006 excluded — It’s not often that we’d see Carlos Delgado going giddy out on a baseball diamond – or being pleasant with the media (he’d become quite snippy with them)……now we’re seeing him whooping it up with his manager?

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that it wasn’t going to get any better between Willie and some of his key players – and that’s a definite no-no. It seems pretty cut-and-dry that Willie’s relationships with more than a handful of players had been strained…..and this was clearly holding back the ballclub.

    For all the “championship pedigree” — and “NY Mentality” — it seems that Manuel does a much better job of actually relating to his players than Mr. NY Baseball (WR). And the results have shown that the 2 parties (Team and Manager) have been on the same page…..it doesn’t seem so tense anymore.

    Winning ballgames changes everything.

    P.S. – Does anyone honestly think that Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans, Argenis Reyes, et al would ever have been played in the 2-hole by Willie Randolph? – Cuz I sure don’t.

    I looked for every reason to defend Willie…..because fact of the matter was: I wanted to like him. But really, when all was said and done…….he deserved a large majority of what he got in the end. Especially for having the audacity to say that the fans started coming out of the woodwork because he became manager.

    Good riddance.

  6. joe September 5, 2008 at 10:54 am
    Willie needed to go: agreed.

    Jerry Manuel better with media: agreed.

    Winning changes everything: agreed.

    It doesn’t seem so tense anymore: agreed — because Tony Bernazard is no longer undermining the manager and creating the tension.

    Responding to Manuel’s style: not sure what that means. Manuel’s style as far as what? His in-game style is identical to WR. I don’t have any idea what either Manuel’s nor Randolph’s “style” was off the field, so can’t comment. I think it’s more the fact that there’s no longer a power struggle and lack of tension above them. That I knew about and can comment on.

    2006 excluded — what might have changed? After 2006 was when Tony B gained more power. It’s not a coincidence that relationships between WR and the players started to sour at the same time.

    Evans / Argenis / Murphy in the 2-hole: agreed. And with good reason re: Evans and Argenis, who have OBPs under .300. Murphy would have gotten the D-Wright rookie treatment. So what? Luis Castillo is a good #2, as is Ryan Church. I really wouldn’t have minded seeing Murphy’s bat in an RBI position such as 6 or 7.

    My stance is less about Willie vs. Jerry and more about Tony B. This Mets team — going back to ’06 — was built to be run on autopilot, so I’m not going to argue which manager was better, as either of them, left alone, would have been able to lead them to the postseason. Willie wasn’t left alone, Jerry is.

  7. Walnutz15 September 5, 2008 at 11:10 am
    Manuel’s style?

    Well — let’s just take it from the top.

    1. He doesn’t play things down to the media — or ignore when things are not kosher.
    2. He doesn’t scoffingly laugh off criticism, as if he’s above it.
    3. He directly tackles his players sometimes — instead of the extreme tip-toeing on eggshells that Randolph did — and I think that’s good to a certain extent. Players need arse-kickings sometimes, and he’s not afraid to give ’em, perticularly calling out certain bullpen arms, citing that he may turn to other options if they don’t perform.

    At times, he utilizes the media as a motivational tactic….which may one day backfire on him, but for now — it’s the kind of thing that should drive this team. He knows how to go about it — whereas, every quote from WR to the media became a disaster.

    In fact, every aspect of the club right now seems to be a stark contrast to Willie’s: these are “my guys” — I’m “confident” — “this loss is no worse than any other loss” — “the champagne will taste that much sweeter”….all that crap.

    To go the same route as my previous posts — Manuel’s done a nice job thusfar.

    If he doesn’t like what he sees, then he sits you down (read: Damion Easley in favor of Luis Castillo) — whereas, Randolph would keep trotting out the same veteran day-after-day, regardless of the negative result.

    Overall, I like Manuel’s approach — not only with his players, but in the media as well.

    He’s done more than I would’ve expected to this point — and that’s what I mean when I refer to managerial “style”.

    Willie stuck to a dinosaur approach — even after one of the worst debacles Major League Baseball’s ever witnessed. Of course, someone was going to take him down — it should’ve been done last year.

  8. joe September 5, 2008 at 11:50 am
    No argument with you re: the media contrast. There is no doubt whatsoever that WR was AWFUL in dealing with the NY media, and was a big problem for him. Except for the final days, when he knew he was gone and let it all hang out … at that point he may still not have been “good” with the press, but at least more entertaining.

    No argument that Willie should have been gone after the collapse.

    Again, the sitting down / playing of vets through tough spells was part Willie, part company line. The Mets front office ABSOLUTELY had influence over Randolph playing Delgado and Castillo regardless of performance because of the big contracts. It was only after the Mets were spiraling downward that the Wilpons and etc., told Jerry he could play/sit as he saw fit. Again, this is not me guessing, but knowing some inside scoop. Willie was a LOT more open to playing young kids and having guys compete than anyone will ever know — but he was a company man. Go back to Omar’s comments about bringing in veteran guys to win — that was the organizational philosophy, to play vets. That’s why I said this team was built for autopilot. Willie was expected to execute a plan built for him.

  9. RockStar78 September 5, 2008 at 12:28 pm
    I always got the sense that Willie was simply too overconfident, downplaying everything that was negative and never making a big deal out of anything positive. When the Phillies came to town for those final 3 games in September, I remember him downplaying that too (think they had a 6.5 game lead at that point). I thought that mentality just filtered down to the players, and the sense of entitlement and overconfidence morphed into laziness and the lackadaisical play and mental mistakes. Tony B undermining Willie didn’t help, but I still believe that after cakewalking in 2006 and obtaining the entitlement, Willie wasn’t able to notice that and effectively adapt and make changes. And this year, having Willie around was just a constant reminder of the collapse, and I don’t think it helped that he just pretended like it never happened. Omar made a mistake in not firing him after game 162 last year. If the Mets can make the playoffs, that mistake can be erased.
  10. joe September 5, 2008 at 12:56 pm
    RockStar, good points. As mentioned I agree that if the Mets were going to fire Willie, it should have happened immediately after the 2007 season.

    Actually, good points from everyone, even though I’ve challenged some of the points. It’s these more controversial issues that make this blog so much fun. I mean, what would be the point if we all agreed on everything?

  11. Micalpalyn September 5, 2008 at 1:52 pm
    Good job with the blog Joe. That last cooment captures it.

    Remember I posted here for the first time on the Planet Willie post. i’d like to re-visit that post but then again we have all moved on….except Tony B.

    One point: alot of 2006 was attributed to Manny acta. Also willie with no experience was surrounded by manuel, acta and Sandy alomar. yet we have seen Manuel distance himself from willie…..I wonder if the division that was WELL documented in the clubhouse (last yr) was also evident in the managerial staff, and even between Omar and his assistants.

    No I’m not “mingo”.

  12. joe September 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    if nothing else, a classic photoshop job by yours truly.

    As for what happened behind the scenes, this is all we need to consider:

    1. Tony B.’s consistent and unprofessional self-aggrandizing, and his inability to take his foot off the gas pedal of the bus he continues to run over Willie Randolph. I mean really, move on. (I’m not moving on until Bernazard does, btw).

    2. The fact that the Mets had a silence clause as part of his firing. Yes it’s standard, but it’s really weird, isn’t it, how quickly the Mets swept that clause under the rug and how Willie hasn’t said peep? Makes one wonder how much was really going on.

    BTW I’m torn re: the idea of using the media as a channel of motivating players — I think it depends on the person. Willie did that once in a while and it backfired — for example he once commented to the media that Delgado could “get dirty” once in a while, or in other words, hustle a bit on defense. A few weeks after Randolph’s dismissal, after a game in which he made a nice diving play, Delgado took a shot at that comment by saying “yeah, I got dirty on that one”.

    And of course we can’t forget the public flogging Willie gave (in my mind, unjustly) to Jose Reyes last year — Reyes was awful for the remainder of the year.

  13. Micalpalyn September 5, 2008 at 3:54 pm
    OK I took the bait:

    Also the above DOES NOT mention the interviews with Jerry after he took over in which he answered questions about the ‘collapse’. in short he made it clear he would not have managed as Willie had.

    Oh and i disagree on several other areas. note how he has handled the BP. i like how he basically said Kunz would be saving games then immediately had feliciano in for a 9th inning save.

  14. joe September 5, 2008 at 4:26 pm
    Mic, I forgot about some of those interviews. Also swept under the rug were the meetings Bernazard was having on the field with Manuel immediately before Willie was fired. The media loves to say Willie was paranoid, but in truth, he had every reason to be concerned. Going back to the real-world example, imagine if you were the manager of a department, and you saw another middle manager whispering to your assistant outside your office door — at a time when you were getting heat from the higher-ups about your job?

    Mic do you agree or disagree with me or with Manuel’s initial promises? Manuel’s “handling” of the BP was essentially the same as Willie — use the “hot hand”, and keep running him out there constantly until he fails. Also Manuel made a HUGE deal of how he was going to keep his regulars rested, but didn’t give Wright a rest until two months later, and Reyes kept going until early August.

  15. Micalpalyn September 5, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    he has a faster hook than WR. In BW absence he used several combos until he settled on his present model of Figs/stokes (6th/7th), Joe smith & Felciano 8th and Ayala in the 9th. Willie would have run one person (heilman) until we were on a 1-10 streak.

    Isuzu has said Reyes and Wright are too important to get ‘periodic’ rest. Reyes has no sub. And whenever Manuel says it is time to to give DW a day off he goes on a tear.

    anyway. see Metsblog & Crasnick. Manuel has not only ‘settled’ the Mets the way Pinella did the Cubs but has them looking like tittle contenders…i for one am satisfied.

  16. joe September 5, 2008 at 10:38 pm
    Yes, Manuel’s quick hook is maddening. He puts a guy on the mound and removes him immediately after giving up a hit. So basically he’s telling his relief corps: you must be perfect. And there isn’t much sense in using 7 or 8 pitchers in a game, particularly since the bullpen is already exhausted. “All hands on deck” has been the theme since day one. Insanity.

    I’m not talking about Isuzu, I’m talking about Manuel and HIS proclamations, many of which were bogus. He’s had all kinds of great ideas that never took hold.

    I saw Crasnick’s garbage. Manuel as manager of the year is laughable, but I can see all the Mets fans jumping on board, particularly with the SNY team gushing about every tiny move he makes. I’m waiting for Keith to cheer the next time Manuel farts. “That was a fantastic fart, Ron — silent but deadly… Yeah Keith, the team has really done a great job with their gastric functions ever since Manuel took over, which is directly related to the tension-free clubhouse Jerry has fostered.”

    Here’s my question: if the Mets were ahead of the Phils right now by two games with Willie at the helm, NOT ONE PERSON would be considering Willie as a candidate for mgr of the year. In fact, he would be criticized for not having a 10-game lead and running away with the division. Why? Because the Mets, on paper, had the best team in the NL East. So why should Manuel be credited with getting the players to do what they were “supposed to do” ? Double standard is what I see.

  17. themetsblog September 6, 2008 at 5:22 pm
    So… the front office was right?

    Is this the same front office that paid for an independent study to determine that firing a manager mid-season simply doesn’t work? If you take both sides of the issue, you can always claim credit. Just like Omar is doing with his “youth movement.”

  18. joe September 6, 2008 at 6:19 pm
    TMB, I believe you are mistaken, re: the youth movement. You see, Tony Bernazard is the genius and engineer behind the Mets’ youth movement. Just ask him.

    And yes, this is the same Tony Bernazard who in the past years was “instrumental” in the free-agent signings of Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner, and Scott Schoeneweis, among others.

    Oh, hey, both sides again there, eh?