Willie’s First Managerial Campaign Includes Playoff Push
By Joe McDonald
Meaningful games will be played at Shea Stadium this September and manager Willie Randolph is looking forward to it.
“Even though I am not playing, I feel that I am.” Randolph said. “I don’t think the lack of my experience means I can not do anything. I just can get them to be ready to play. As a coach, it’s part of my job to do what I am doing right now. It’s exciting and I feel good being in this position getting my team to where it can go.
“I can’t imagine it any other way, so this is nice.”
The manager’s team is a half game out of the Wild Card and for the first time since the post September 11 run in 2001, the Mets have a legitimate shot for a postseason play.
Randolph likes his team’s chances.
“I think our overall pitching depth and our starting rotation is a plus,” the manager explained. “And our aggressiveness and our speed, which we bring to the table everyday, is an element of the game that can take us a long way. With our overall speed, if we can play well and play right, we can do a lot of things on the base pads.
“Those are just a few things, but we have to do a better job in batting and a better job at catching the ball. That’s our overall goal.”
Even though Randolph has never been in this position before as a manager, he is able to bring his vast championship experience from his years as a player and coach across town with the Yankees.
Randolph is able to use that in managing the Mets and he knows who actually wins games.
“I can give my knowledge and my experience, but when all is said and done, [the team] has to do it,” he said. “If I feel the time is right to interject something into someone, then I will do that. The bottom-line is the team has to respond and get the job done on the field.”
Randolph has maid his mark this season for his laid back, but stern style. He knows the season is a marathon and has to stay even to keep his ship on course. “I know players are watching me all the time and I know they are going to play off my emotions,” the manager said.
He also knows what it takes to win in September. “You can’t sustain everything a whole year,” Randolph said. “The idea is to get enough rest and take care of your body. The bottom line is concentrating on the smaller details of the game. You can’t make mistakes; you have to let mistakes happen in the beginning of the year.”
The Mets face a make or break 10 game road trip this week with visits in Florida, Atlanta and toped off with a four game series against the National League leading St. Louis Cardinals. It will be a test for the manager in his pursuit of post-season play.
“We have to win ballgames and move on,” Randolph said. “If you take care of your business then everything else will fall into place.”
And he expects the trip to be a success. “I am spoiled, but it’s not about me doing anything,” he said. “They can build off my experiences for the future.” His past may propel the Mets into their first post season birth in five years.