BRONX, N.Y. — Before the 2003 ALCS, New York Yankees third base coach Willie Randolph told third baseman, Aaron Boone that he was his “sleeper pick.” By the time that series was finished Boone was a Game 7 hero with a pennant-winning, walk-off homer, and Randolph’s hunch was proven correct.
Fast forward and Boone, who had no prior coaching or managerial experience, essentially secured the manager job prior to the 2018 season. Randolph, 66, on the other hand, is still waiting for a second chance that is looking slimmer by the second. The question is, why?
During his 18-year major-league career, 13 of which were spent in pinstripes, Randolph won two titles and four pennants in the Bronx and another one in Oakland. He was a five-time All-Star with New York and earned another All-Star nod with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Randolph also served as a Yankee co-captain from 1986-88. He had all of the skills and leadership qualities you’d want in a player.
After his distinguished playing career, Randolph moved into the Yankee front office. Then Randolph moved down to the field where he was a third-base coach and bench coach through 2004, part of four World Series title teams and six AL Pennants.
In 2005, he finally saw those coaching dues paid off and was hired as manager by the crosstown New York Mets. During his first three full seasons, Randolph’s Mets posted a winning record. In 2006, the Mets won their first National League East title since 1988 but lost in Game 7 of the NLCS. After an epic collapse in 2007, the Mets blew the division and missed the postseason altogether. Randolph would be unceremoniously jettisoned after 69 (not nice) games in 2008, yet the Mets would still choke again down the stretch under interim skipper Jerry Manuel.
Randolph ended his Mets tenure with a ledger of 302-253 and a .544 winning percentage, which still ranks second behind Davey Johnson in their franchise history.
He was only 53 at the time of the firing and the second Mets collapse more or less vindicated him because, you know, “typical Mets.” The Mets wouldn’t post another winning season until 2015. Yet, Randolph hasn’t gotten much consideration for a manager. He was a bench coach with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2008-10 and a third base coach for Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles in 2011.
It’s pretty perplexing, considering Randolph’s success and connection playing for six teams during his career. It must be equally frustrating for Randolph, as teams continually trend toward younger managers with less experience and some who act as an appendage to the front office. Plus, guys like A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora are right back managing following a year-long (60-games really) suspension, after being involved in sign-stealing cheating scandals.
Randolph’s former Yankee teammate Reggie Jackson, who recently left his advisory role with the organization, voiced his frustration on the lack of minority hires, especially African Americans, in the game. Jackson was grateful to the Steinbrenner family and late-owner George, for allowing him to stay in the game. Conversely, Jackson noted there appears to be a double standard throughout the industry for someone with his outspoken personality getting hired versus disgraced Mets general manager Jared Porter.
“You don’t see other minorities get those kinds of chances,” Jackson told the New York Post.
The Yankees have never hired an African American manager. Yet, the team did make Bob Watson general manager after the 1995 season and he became the first African American GM to win a World Series in 1996.
As for the rest of the baseball industry, it does make one wonder why some guys get a chance or second chances and some don’t. In the case of Randolph, who was vastly underrated as a player, it makes one wonder why he hasn’t been given a second opportunity as a manager.