Almost 40 years to the day after M. Donald Grant engineered the Midnight Massacre, the Mets executed another late night personnel change on this date in 2008. Following a 9-6 win over the Angels in Anaheim that ended well after 12:00 a.m. on the East Coast, general manager Omar Minaya announced that he was relieving manager Willie Randolph of his duties.
Randolph's dismissal certainly could have been timed better. If the club truly felt that liability for the team's then-record collapse the previous September lay with the skipper and not an injury-plagued starting rotation with all the depth of the Aral Sea, then it would have been more appropriate to drop the axe on October 1, 2007. As it was, the front office opted to give the marked Randolph just enough rope in 2008 to lead the Mets on summer West Coast swing (one the team started 3-1 incidentally) across make it across country for a before kicking out the stool from under him.
That's not to say that Willie Randolph was patsy who took the fall for others in the organization. Willie's loyalty to "his guys" cost the Mets a number of games over the course of his managerial tenure and, more troubling, demonstrated an unwillingness to reconsider decisions when evidence dictated some sober second thought would be prudent. For instance, the fallacy that Miguel Cairo was an everyday player or that Jorge Sosa was capable of retiring major league hitters. While Randolph and his inflexible mind may merited a firing, he still should have been spared the indignity of a long, lonely flight home because others couldn't make up their own.
Most frustrating of all is how little things changed after the managerial switch. The team played better under Jerry Manuel at first, but by September it was deja vu all over again, to quote another former Mets skipper. The less said about 2009 and '10 the better. These days, the most fans can hope for is that the champagne will taste sweeter after it's been aged in the cellar for the better part of a decade.
- Mickey Brantley is 52. On June 5, 1999, Steve Phillips picked the former Mariners outfielder turned Mets minor league instructor to replace Tom Robson as the team's hitting coach after the general manager fired half of Bobby Valentine's staff in a pique of rage. How much any one coach can sway results is open to interpretation, but the Mets did finish the year leading the National League in on base percentage (.363) and OPS+ (107).
- Brian Ostrosser, 64, spent a week with the Mets during the summer of 1973. A shortstop by trade, he filled in while regular starter Bud Harrelson recuperated from a fractured breastbone. Ostrosser was an appropriate pick to understudy Buddy, as he was a near clone physically (six foot tall and weighting in at a lean 175 pounds) and statistically (he posted a .230/.354/.297 line for Triple-A Tidewater).
On this date in 2004, GM Jim Duquette took a flyer on Richard Hidalgo, acquiring the disgruntled outfielder from the Houston Astros for pitchers Dave Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths. For the first month after the trade, it appeared that Hidalgo had regained the form that helped him go deep 44 times during the 2000 season. He homered in his ninth at-bat as a Met, then went twice long against Yankees pitching in the nightcap of a Subway Series doubleheader. Two days after that, he started a streak of five consecutive games with a home run, which remains a team record to this day.
Game of Note
Jimmy Breslin wrote that "having Marv Throneberry play for your team is like having Willie Sutton work for your bank." Marvelous Marv likely robbed the Mets of several runs during the team's inaugural season thanks to his near-replacement level play (he was nearly one win worse than some schmo from Triple-A with the glove that year alone), but on June 17, 1962, he cost the team at least one tally with a base running blunder. In first inning of doubleheader with Chicago, Throneberry hit what appeared to be a two-run triple, but Cubs first baseman Ernie Banks noticed Marv failed to touch second during his trip around the diamond and appealed to umpire Dusty Boggess who agreed. Apocryphally, Casey Stengel came out to argue, but Boggess told the Ole Perfessor to save his breath because Throneberry "missed first base, too."
Once play resumed, Charlie Neal promptly hit a ball into the Polo Grounds stands that would have scored Marv had he been on base. In another (likely fictional) embellishment on the story, Stengel followed Neal on his home run trot to make sure he planted a foot squarely on every bag. The Mets would go on to lose the game by a margin of one run.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
The Statue of Liberty completed its trans-Atlantic crossing on this date in 1885, arriving in New York Harbor as a pile of disassembled parts aboard the French steamship Isére. It would take over a year to put the copper lady back together atop her specially-constructed pedestal on Liberty (née Bedloe's) Island, but by October 28, 1888, she was ready for her official debut during a dedication ceremony presided over by then-chief exec Grover Cleveland. The Mets would hold their own public celebration on that day 100 years later: a ticker tape parade down Broadway in honor of the team's World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox. That's a date 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan remembers well, much to the surprise of Cash Cab host Ben Bailey.