Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas
It’s hard to believe that ESPN’s Joe Morgan, who you always think should know better but often doesn’t, could be so clueless about the New York managerial situation. But when Morgan and Jon Miller parachute into town to do a Mets-Yankees game, you just know something stupid will be said about the Mets and/or the Yankees. This past Sunday night (May 17), it was the managerial status of Willie Randolph and Joe Girardi.
It started off innocently enough, when Miller started talking about the notion, talked about for weeks (months?) in New York, that Willie Randolph is in danger of losing his job. Miller also pointed out that, even though the Yankees were doing poorly, nobody was talking about Joe Girardi losing his job.
Here’s what Joe Morgan had to say about that:
“I would question that, Jon. If it’s Willie’s fault on the other side of town, why is it not Girardi’s fault on this side of town? I think you have to look at both of them in the same, you know, way. I mean, the Mets are 1 1/2 games out of first place. The Yankees are in last place. So, I would say you have to look at both of them and use the same microscope.”
Yikes! There’s a lot to say about the above, but the notion that you can look at any two managers exactly the same is absurd. Look at Joe Torre. Because he got his four titles in his first five years as Yankees manager (after what could best be described as a mediocre managerial career before that), he was able to withstand presiding over the greatest collapse in post-season baseball history (2004, up 3-0 v. Boston, lose the series in seven games) and losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and STILL received an offer for 2008 (we can argue all day about whether it was “insulting” or not but that’s irrelevant). Had Torre not had those World Series rings on his fingers, he probably wouldn’t have survived 2004. In fact, it’s safe to say that if 2004-2007 had happened BEFORE his titles, he would never have managed for a long period of time in New York. That’s just the nature of the managerial beast, especially in New York in either league.
But, according to many knowledgeable Met fans, Willie Randolph’s success rate (even with a 2006 playoff appearance) has been rather low. The Mets organization has stepped up big-time and signed players and spent a ton of money and given Willie and the fans a great opportunity for huge success. In 2006, it’s hard to believe that the Mets didn’t make it to the World Series. In 2007, Willie presided over arguably the greatest collapse in the history of the regular season (up seven games with 17 to play) and failed to make the playoffs. This year, before the two-game sweep of the Yankees, the Mets were piddling along at around .500, something nobody expected.
Nobody’s going to accuse Willie of being a brilliant tactician. And he’s been hammered left and right for his perceived lack of outward emotion. He’s starting to lose the media fight (when he tells Mike Francesa and Chris Russo on WFAN that they’re “clueless,” Willie, better than anyone, should know that’s a fight that’s almost impossible to win (although Michael Strahan has won it, certainly against Russo, see HBO’s Costas Now where Strahan embarrassed Russo)). And, for better or worse (probably worse in the eyes of Met fans), Willie was (is?) a Yankee. This part of it is similar to Islander legend Bryan Trottier when he became coach of the New York Rangers. Had Trottier won, everything would have been wonderful. When Trottier lost, he was just another miscast Islander in the eyes of Ranger fans.
What about Joe Girardi, though? Well, Girardi’s very brief managerial resume includes the 2006 NL Manager of the Year. He also has played on Yankee World Series winners, he was Joe Torre’s bench coach and he even announced Yankee games. Even though he’s a Chicago guy, Girardi is, unlike Willie as a “Met guy,” viewed to be a “Yankee guy.” Like it or not, that’s a huge difference.
Other factors in Girardi’s favor for not getting heat yet (although the drums are starting to beat in New York) include the fact that A-Rod and Jorge Posada are on the DL. While A-Rod won the MVP last year (remember the year before when ESPN’s Steve Phillips told us that the Yankees should trade A-Rod?), some knowledgeable Yankee fans thought that Posada was the MVP of the Yankees. Throw in a couple of young Yankee starters who can’t get out of their own way (and that interesting stat that no team has won the pennant in about forever with two rookies in their rotation) and you can see that Girardi has been granted a brief honeymoon period. But that, of course, could come to an end sooner rather than later.
Girardi also has his own managerial issues (hard to believe he would let Mike Mussina pitch to Manny Ramirez with first base open earlier this year) and, again, the honeymoon will be brief in New York for him. But the pressure on Willie is as much (or more) a result of last year’s collapse as it is due to this year’s inconsistent play. This is Willie’s fourth year as manager of the Mets. Met fans think they’re seeing a broken record now. Girardi is only in his first year, but there’s already trouble brewing in the Bronx. For him, we’ll have to wait for the return of A-Rod and Posada and for Brian Cashman to do something about the pitching. But it’s already starting to look like Joe Torre got out in the nick of time. We’ll see.
And as for “Clueless Joe” (Morgan, not Torre), he’ll just have to do a little more research to understand what’s going on before he shows up at a game.