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Baseball: Dark-of-night axing of Randolph disgraceful

By Ray McNulty
Scripps Howard News
The shameful way in which the dim bulbs that run the New York Mets botched the firing of Willie Randolph reminded me of the old joke about space travel to the sun.
You know the one.
About going at night so the astronauts don’t burn up? Well, apparently, the gutless losers in the Mets’ front office figured they could avoid the scorching media heat if they dumped their manager in the middle of the Southern California night.
Why else would they send Randolph to the West Coast, allow him to manage the Mets to a series-opening victory over the American League West-leading Los Angeles Angels and conduct his usual post-game interviews, only to hand him a pink slip when he returned to the team’s hotel? Why else would Mets general manager Omar Minaya, the architect of this miserable mess, and his slithering henchman, assistant GM Tony Bernazard, deliberately wait until the team was 3,000 miles and three time zones from home to make a move that could’ve been made last weekend at Shea?
Why else would the announcement of Randolph’s dismissal not be released until minutes after midnight in California ó in the wee hours of Tuesday morning in the East ó long after the New York papers had gone to press? Cruelty? Spite? Insensitivity? Or was it nothing more than the usual incompetence we’ve seen from the Mets brass since 2002, when principal owner Fred Wilpon, an otherwise brilliant businessman, made the disastrous decision to name his obviously overmatched son, Jeff, the team’s chief operating officer?
Clearly, the decision to ax the manager wasn’t made Monday, before or after the Mets had won for the third time in four games. So don’t buy any of that baloney Minaya was trying to sell Tuesday at the ballpark in Anaheim, where he met with reporters.
Randolph’s fate had been decided days earlier, maybe weeks ago, perhaps as far back as last month, when he was summoned by the Wilpons for a lengthy chat after telling a New Jersey newspaper that the team-owned sports network casts him in a negative light and that his race is a factor in the criticism he receives.
The Mets needed to change something, if they hope to salvage their final summer at Shea. They had compiled a 40-47 record since Sept. 12.
So Minaya had every right to fire the manager.
But to do it like this? After winning the opener of a West Coast trip? And announce it via e-mail at 12:14 a.m. Pacific time, offering no comment until the next afternoon?
Fact is, there was no reason to drag Randolph across the continent, then fire him. No good reason.
No reason, really, other than to avoid taking a hit in the headlines in the Tuesday morning tabloids.
And it might’ve worked.
Except for one thing: They forgot about the Internet.
They forgot that we live in a world with a 24-hour news cycle. Oops.
They also forgot that Randolph is a class act who deserved better ó and that the New York media would mercilessly rip them for the shabby way they fired him.
You know what that tells us? The bozos running the Mets these days aren’t very bright.
They thought they could do this in the dark, in the middle of the night, and not get burned.
Just like going to the sun.
What a joke.

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