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Tuesday, October 2, 2007
GM Minaya decides to keep Randolph as manager

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Willie Randolph sported a new, clean-shaven look as he walked past rows of empty lockers in New York's clubhouse.

"It's not a good time to be recognized in this town," he joked. "Hoping to slip by and dodge a few daggers."

Randolph dodged one Tuesday, two days after his team completed an enormous collapse. General manager Omar Minaya announced Randolph will be back with the club next year, ending speculation that he might be fired despite getting a contract extension before this season.

"I do believe that Willie is going to continue to work hard," Minaya said. "I do believe that Willie's passion for winning is there."

New York went 5-12 down the stretch, squandering its big lead in the NL East and missing the playoffs entirely. The Mets became the first major league team that failed to finish in first place after owning a lead of seven games or more with 17 remaining. New York, which had that margin on Sept. 12, also matched the largest lead blown in September.

"It just hurts right now," Randolph said. "It's been tough sleeping the last couple of nights, trying to come to grips with what's happened."

The Mets were tied for first with the Phillies heading into the final three games of the season, and Randolph remained confident that his club would pull it out. New York lost 7-4 to Florida on Friday night, falling one back of Philadelphia, but bounced back with a 13-0 victory Saturday to move into a tie again.

Yet that was all washed away with an 8-1 loss Sunday that included Florida's seven-run first inning against Tom Glavine, and 10 runners left on base by the Mets.

Wasting Away

The largest leads held in September by teams that did not finish in first place in their league (or in their division, 1969 and later), as compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau. Date of largest lead is listed:

Date Team Lead
Sept. 12, 2007 Mets 7
Sept. 1, 1938 Pirates 7
Sept. 6, 1934 Giants 7
Sept. 4, 1995 Angels
Sept. 20, 1964 Phillies
Sept. 8, 1951 Dodgers

"I've always been associated with winning and it hurts deep down inside, it really hurts to be associated with this type of collapse," Randolph said. "That's not why we play the game and there's no way in the world that I thought we'd be in this position right now talking about this."

Randolph, who grew up in Brooklyn, replaced Art Howe as New York's manager in 2004. The Mets went 83-79 the following year and 97-65 last season, matching the Yankees for the best record in the major leagues. They lost to St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Randolph agreed to a contract extension in January and had the Mets primed to go back to the postseason before their September swoon. New York was outscored 115-98 during its final 17 games and left 141 runners on base, an average of 8.3 per game.

"We didn't pitch at times," Randolph said. "Obviously, we didn't hit. We didn't take advantage of our opportunities and we should have. There's no acceptable reason why when you get a chance to close people out you don't. That's something that we'll kind of have to deal with and live with."

Randolph has faced waves of criticism in the wake of the monumental tailspin, everything from accusations of a lack of passion to his poor handling of youngsters Jose Reyes and Lastings Milledge. The immensely talented Reyes failed to run out grounders on at least two occasions this season and Milledge has drawn the ire of opposing teams for his on-field antics.

The 53-year-old manager, who won two World Series titles as a player with the Yankees and four more as a coach, said some of the team's younger players just need to mature some. He also defended his style.

"My passion, my will to win, you guys have no idea what's inside of me and where I come from," Randolph said. "I'm a New Yorker. I'm passionate. I feel what these people feel and I live and die for this team, every day."

While Randolph kept his job, his coaching staff could look a lot different next year. Neither the manager nor Minaya offered any assurances.

"We are going to evaluate everything," Minaya said.

That process was already in progress while clubhouse attendants packed up bats, gloves and shirts in a mostly empty locker room Tuesday. Equipment manager Charlie Samuels barked out instructions as his dog, Ernie, slept on a couch.

Shawn Green was carefully cleaning up his locker when he heard Randolph was coming back.

"It's a good thing to keep the stability because even though we obviously blew it the last few weeks it doesn't take away from the fact that there's a good thing here," he said.

RHP John Maine was expected to see a doctor about his sore hip, which he said bothered him for much of the year. ... Minaya said he wasn't able to comment on an report that reliever Scott Schoeneweis received six shipments of steroids in 2003 and 2004 while with the Chicago White Sox because he didn't know enough about it yet. Schoeneweis, who survived testicular cancer, told the Daily News he had never received shipments from Florida or even heard of Signature Pharmacy. "We're going to look into it," Rich Levin, a spokesman for the commissioner's office, said. "I'm sure Rob will call him in at some point." Rob Manfred is baseball's executive vice president for labor relations.