Following a decade with Joe Girardi at the helm, the New York Yankees will move into 2018 with a new manager. One name being bandied about among the many is Willie Randolph. In this space, BronxPinstripes.com takes a look at Randolph back in pinstripes.
In his lone major-league managerial stint, Randolph guided the crosstown New York Mets back to respectability in 2005 with a winning record of 83-79. The ensuing season saw Randolph’s Mets finish tied with the Yankees for the best record in baseball at 97-65. Leading the Mets to the NLCS in 2006 and their first National League East title since 1988, only the Florida Marlins’ Girardi edged out Randolph for NL Manager of the Year honors. Randolph’s 2006 squad came within a game of reaching the Fall Classic. The 2007 campaign saw another winning mark of 88-74, but a late-season collapse caused his team to miss the postseason before the advent of the second Wild Card team. Although he was fired after a 34-35 start in 2008, he was vindicated by yet another late-season collapse, followed by six consecutive seasons of dysfunction and irrelevance by the Mets. His overall ledger was 302-253, a .544 winning percentage.
With a plaque in Monument Park, the former second baseman is beloved by Yankees fans. On Dec. 11, 1975, he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Ken Brett and Dock Ellis for Doc Medich. As a player with the Yankees, Randolph spent 13 seasons in pinstripes, winning two World Series titles (1977, 1978) and four pennants. Randolph made five All-Star teams in the Bronx and earned the 1980 silver slugger award. Randolph and Ron Guidry were co-captains of the Bronx Bombers from 1986-1988.
Randolph’s Yankee coaching career spanned 11 years (1994-2004), during the Buck Showalter and Joe Torre eras. He was the third base coach from 1994 to 2003 and bench coach in 2004. During those years, Randolph helped the Yankees win four more titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. He nearly returned as third base coach in 2015 but was passed over for Joe Espada.
Randolph is very competitive. He’s 63 and looks like he’s going on 33. He has experience managing a team on the rise and you can tell he’s hungry for another managing opportunity. In a 2005 New York Times article by Lee Jenkins, during his time with the Mets, Randolph was unafraid to go with his gut when it came to the bullpen. Much like Girardi, Randolph saw the value in losing the battle to win the war, resting his veteran players early in the season so they would be fresh down the stretch. He was also media savvy, addressing his players before announcing changes in the lineup or rotation, including one such lineup order swap with a red-hot Cliff Floyd and a struggling Mike Piazza in 2005. Randolph proved flexible on deviating from the “Yankee way,” allowing players to play music in the clubhouse following victories.
Randolph is a proven winner as a manager, coach, and player. He knows what New York and the Yankees are all about and the organization is familiar with him as well. Managing, winning as a manager in New York, and handling the New York media are all positives. Randolph was part of the most recent Yankee dynasty, knows what it means to wear pinstripes and is removed enough from the Girardi staff and era. Following Girardi, the team could use a common sense manager who goes with his gut rather than a binder, willing to adjust and adapt to his players and different situations. Plus, Yankee fans love him!
While I chalk up his exodus from the Mets as a byproduct of their dysfunction, one does wonder after a mostly successful stint why he hasn’t been offered another opportunity? Randolph does provide pinstripe pride and continuity but looking from the perspective of ownership, will they want an older “old school” guy who relies on his gut more than the numbers or isn’t afraid to lay down the law with potentially sensitive young players? If they passed on a similar skipper like Don Mattingly in 2008, would they turn to Randolph in 2018?