The Curious Incident of the GM in the Night-Time
Listening to the news in between Beethoven and Brahms on WQXR on the morning of June 16, 2008, my father turned to me and asked, “Did the Mets fire Willie Randolph?”
“No,” I replied. “Why?”
“I could’ve sworn I just heard that they fired Randolph and some coaches,” my dad said.
I checked the team’s website. He hadn’t heard wrong. As disgraceful and nonsensical as it was, Omar Minaya had flown out to Anaheim and, at three in the morning following a 9-6 win, fired Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto – only one day after insisting that the manager’s job was safe, albeit in a dubious, cryptic fashion.
I went through the day feeling sick to my stomach that the franchise I worshipped through thick, thin and 2007 could pull such a pathetic punch and expect to get away with it. Though it’d been Willie who’d been fired, I also felt a gash in my back where Minaya had stabbed the ax. I tried watching the game that night, the Mets’ first under Jerry Manuel, but I left the room after the first inning. Omar Minaya and Tony Bernazard may not have realized how spineless and shameful their actions were, but I sure felt disgusted for them.
I understood why Willie was fired. When things go as wrong as they did, sometimes a change is all you need – and it almost was. But what hurt was waking up that morning to find out how sorely I’d been lied to, even though I knew that “the front office” was an entity who could care less what fans thought.
So now, after a day of letting Jose Reyes’ departure simmer and settle in my gut for 24 hours, I find myself feeling awfully similar to that day when the Mets fired Willie. As a baseball decision, it made more sense to not offer Reyes six years, just as it makes sense to not offer Albert Pujols ten – but what does Jeffrey Loria know about sense? It’s very clear now that Ol’ Crazy Eyes has his heart set on buying a team Steinbrenner-style rather than destroying a team Loria-style. Remember, folks, that this is the guy who fired Joe Girardi after only one season – a season in which he won NL Manager of the Year. He has always demonstrated the temperament and decision-making skills of a spoiled five-year old, and now he’s finally been granted an allowance.
As I mentioned yesterday, what hurt most about Reyes fleeing Flushing for Florida on Sunday night was knowing that the Mets barely even tried to sign him. After insisting all season that keeping Reyes would be far and away the team’s top priority, Sandy Alderson admitted that the team hadn’t even offered the shortstop a contract. This after not trading Reyes midseason because they intended to resign him in the offseason, the Mets weren’t even able to reel in a few top prospects in return. Now, with Loria’s pot of gold seemingly poised to dispense ten years and a Pujillion dollars for King Albert, the Mets might find themselves with a whopping fourth-round pick in return for the most dynamic player in baseball.
What brings more sorrow than anger is knowing that our little boy has grown up and left home knowing that his family didn’t even try to make him stay. Had I known that Terry Collins would end Jose’s Mets career by pinch-running for him after he led off the final game of the season with a bunt single, I’d have gathered the superhuman strength to leap from my second deck seat and tackle Justin Turner on his way to first base. Never mind that the force of my attack would’ve no doubt broken Turner’s spine; Reyes deserved to be saluted by his fans by being pulled off the field from the shortstop position in which he endeared himself to all of us. Especially if we’d known that this was the final moment we’d see Jose Reyes in a Mets uniform, the applause would’ve thundered louder than Jeffrey Loria’s stomach after eating one too many steaks.
But, as it stands, Jose jogged to the dugout as fans booed the move, and Ruben Tejada fittingly didn’t even give us time for a curtain call. And just like that, Reyes was gone.
And so began the Tejada era.