In case you missed it, Keith Hernandez was a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show yesterday afternoon, talking baseball and promoting a book he wrote with Matt Silverman called Shea Good Bye: The Untold Inside Story of the Historic 2008 Season.
The entire interview was enjoyable, and I recommend you give it a listen, as Keith spoke honestly on a variety of subjects. Two of them, specifically, caught my attention …
First, Leonard Lopate posed the question of the Mets’ “hunger”, in comparison to the Phillies (Lopate’s questions are in italics):
There are many people who have said the Phillies were just “hungrier” … is that really possible, can a team be “hungrier”? I mean in the end you still have to hit the curveball, don’t you?
I think the Phillies are a much more tenacious team, have a much more tenacious personality than the Mets of last year and two years past. I think the Phillies kind of willed it through — they have a toughness.
This isn’t huge news, knowing Keith’s personality and how he played the game. I imagine the sabermetricians are burning out their calculators right now disproving Keith’s observation by citing the Phillies’ dominance in areas such as OBP, OPS, BABIP, Range Factor, VORP, etc.
Eventually, though, the conversation moved to the two consecutive, late-season collapses by the Mets, and Lopate questioned whether Willie Randolph was to blame …
Was Willie Randolph a bad manager?
No, I’m not saying that. There was a lot of issues in that clubhouse. I know that particularly the core Latin players didn’t like Willie, that was pretty much written and it was true …
And why was that?
I don’t know. I am not in that clubhouse. You know there’s a code of silence in the clubhouse, and things are kept in house. But I do know that a lot of the Latin players — and the key Latin players — did not like Willie. And that’s why they probably felt the move had to be made. Because they weren’t performing. And all of a sudden Jerry Manuel comes in and it’s like someone turned a light switch on. And all of a sudden Delgado is out of his slump and Reyes is playing like heck. So you know, it’s one of those things.
I grew up in an era when we were grunts. And I played for managers I didn’t like — I played for one that I despised. But I’m not gonna go out there and play and pout or let it affect my performance.
Wow. First of all, good for Keith for calling out players who couldn’t motivate themselves due to a dislike for their manager. Millions of us have to deal with hating their boss on an everyday basis, but somehow can still perform their best — it’s called professionalism. And the majority are not collecting 7- or 8-figure paychecks.
Secondly, I personally don’t recall any journalist reporting that Randolph was fired because the Latin players didn’t like him. There was plenty of suspicion, for sure, that the issue might have been part of reason, but most of that was speculation. A few journalists were bold enough to point out that Tony Bernazard regularly undermined Willie via his close relationship with his countrymen, but where was it stated that Randolph was fired because Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, etc. disliked him? (Ironically, Randolph was criticized by some fans and bloggers earlier in his tenure for being too lenient with, and favoring, the latin players … funny how things work out.)
Again, maybe this isn’t huge news, but this is the first time someone with a connection to the Mets publicly stated a reason for Willie’s firing that wasn’t first washed through the Jay Horwitz filter. The timing is fitting, as well, since we’re about a week from the one-year anniversary of Randolph’s firing.
About the Author
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.