ANAHEIM, Calif. — Once he decided to fire Willie Randolph, New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya caught a flight to the West Coast, went to the team hotel and waited to deliver the news in person.
”Eye to eye,“ Minaya said Tuesday. ”It was done quick.“
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Even if it seemed to take forever.
The late-night hit came as chants of ”Fire Willie!“ grew louder at Shea Stadium and on New York's sports-talk radio stations. Yet when Minaya did just that, the news shocked most everyone — fans, media and apparently even Randolph.
”I'm really stunned by it,“ the ex-manager said around noon Tuesday. ”I was surprised by it.“
Bench coach Jerry Manuel, a former AL Manager of the Year for the Chicago White Sox, will manage the Mets for the rest of the year.
Randolph became the first manager in the majors to be fired this season, the move announced via e-mail at 12:14 a.m. PDT Tuesday. He was dismissed with the Mets below .500, still wobbling from last year's colossal collapse.
The tension went on ”far too long,“ Minaya said. ”It was not fair to the team, it was not fair to Willie Randolph, it was not fair to the organization.“
Pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto also were fired.
Minaya said he made the decision Monday — a day after the Mets traveled to California after a doubleheader split at home with Texas — and stressed that it was his alone. He met with Randolph after that night's 9-6 win over the Los Angeles Angels left the Mets at 34-35.
”I think he was resigned to it,“ Minaya said. ”When all is said and done, I think he was relieved.“