Keith: Latin Players Reason for Willie Randolph’s Firing

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?

Keith’s answer:

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.

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. mic June 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm
    Did not DW turn it up too, Pelfrey for sure did a 180, and D. Murphy became a spark plug.

    And what’s mex’s background?

  2. Wendy June 10, 2009 at 3:19 pm
    Wright may have turned it up more due to the fact that he was finally rested when Manuel took over as manager. Randolph talked about resting him but never did, there is a difference between that and not giving it your all as appeared to be the case with some of the other players. Pelfrey did not flourish under Rick Peterson, but seems to have responded since the coaching changes. As far as Murph, he was a rookie who had to learn his way in the Majors, once Wright took him under his wing, he was fine.
  3. wally June 10, 2009 at 3:50 pm
    Wendy, actually Manuel promised that all of his “core” players would get “regularly rested”, but that never happened (Reyes, Wright, Delgado, and Beltran played 159+ games each).

    And for the record, Pelfrey and Delgado began their turnaround while Willie was still manager. Check the game logs, people.

  4. Wendy June 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm
    Wally, yes i realize that never happened, just that Reyes, Beltran and Delgado missed at least one or two games under Randolphs managerial reign for one reason or another.

    I was paying attention and don’t appreciate being treated like i’m ignorant.

    Beltran missed two starts because of a stiff neck and flu like symptoms but made 9th inning pinch hit appearances, so that does not mean that he necessarily played those games. I remember Reyes missing 2 games in April with a leg strain. I’m not playing semantics or anything, just a clarification.

  5. Wendy June 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm
    Wright played both hurt and intense under Randolph, which is something the latin players didn’t do, he didn’t change his attitude. Delgado and Pelfrey started turning things around under Randolph yes, but in Delgado’s case, i’m not totally convinced it was just his “injuries healing up” that caused the change. He had that monster day at Yankee stadium and was on a tear after that, that was the last weekend in June after Manuel had already taken over.
  6. wally June 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm
    Delgado hit a shade under .300 in the 15 games prior to Randolph’s dismissal, boosting his average 20 points in the process. But maybe you’re right, and Keith’s right — since he didn’t hit for much power until after Manuel took over.

    The latins must love Manuel, since he lets them dog it all the time.

  7. Wendy June 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm
    yes definitely, he has made it extremely obvious who his “pets” are and if you are not one, you are kicked to the curb and the pets are allowed to dog it endlessly.
  8. I.M. Forme June 11, 2009 at 1:27 pm
    Nice catch. It’s no secret that Keith thinks today’s players are soft. I do remember stories that pointed the finger at certain players for Willie’s fate.
  9. […] later, you find no less than Keith Hernandez accusing the Mets’ Latino faction of conspiring to get Willie Randolph canned. There’s a vast and fetid history of this, and it has never been more than a lot of racist […]