That's Debatable with Rob Neyer

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Welcome to The Show! On Tuesday, ESPN.com MLB Insider Rob Neyer will drop by at noon ET for another installment of "That's Debatable," a weekly feature in which we break down a hot topic you have suggested.

Tuesday's topic, courtesy of Michael from New Orleans:
Is Willie Randolph to blame for the Mets' problems this season, or is he a scapegoat for underperforming players and bad decisions by the front office?

As this drama played out over the past month, the discussion has matured to include the front office and ownership. But owners don't fire themselves, and they rarely fire general managers, either. Particularly in the middle of a season that's not yet lost. So the manager got the axe, finally. Dividing responsibility in these matters is problematic, of course, but here are a few things to consider before our discussion today:

THE CASE AGAINST WILLIE RANDOLPH

Perhaps the Mets simply haven't recovered from their historic collapse last September. They had a seven-game lead on September 13, but lost 12 of their last 17 and six of their last seven, falling one game short in the final standings. Afterward, everyone said all the right things, but the Mets this spring have played like a team with a serious hangover. Willie Randolph obviously doesn't have much control over the roster, but when you see a listless, mistake-prone team it's hard to not wonder if the manager's getting everything possible out of that roster. And is the roster really so deficient? We know the Mets have the National League's highest payroll, and before this season all the numbers suggested the Mets would win 90-some games.

THE CASE FOR WILLIE RANDOLPH

Randolph's .544 career winning percentage is better than Tony La Russa's. In 2005, Randolph's first season managing the Mets, they jumped from 71 wins to 83; in his second season, the Mets won 97 games. Even last year they won 88 games despite a patchwork pitching rotation. Randolph's been hobbled this season by Carlos Delgado's poor hitting and the front office's utter failure to account for the likelihood that 41-year-old Moises Alou wouldn't be able to stay off the disabled list. What's more, Ryan Church's concussion has essentially left the Mets with just one legitimate major league outfielder (Carlos Beltran) and a bunch of Triple-A quality fill-ins. It's hard to imagine any manager winning with Fernando Tatis and Damion Easley in the outfield.

THE VERDICT

Of course Randolph's a scapegoat. Pitching coach Rick Peterson and first-base coach Tom Nieto are scapegoats, too. When a franchise jettisons the manager and his coaches, the message is loud and clear: "Blame them, not us." Is that fair? It rarely is. One thing I've noticed over the years, though: When a team wins, the manager generally gets a great deal of credit. More to the point, while the Mets' losing record might not be -- almost certainly is not -- strictly Randolph's fault, it's fairly obvious that something had to change. Willie Randolph might be a fine manager, but he does not seem to be the right manager for this team, right now. Maybe this team isn't good enough to win, no matter who's calling the shots in the dugout. But there's only one way to find out.


Every week, we'll give you the topic and then we'll have one of our writers stopping by to debate the issue with you. To suggest a topic for "That's Debatable," go here. Or check out the full archive.

Neyer Archive: Chats | Columns

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