Playing the race card in today's society incites multiple emotions. Anger, frustration, agreeance. With Willie Randolph's decision to attribute criticism of his performance as New York Mets manager, he has incited every response imaginable. Randolph's choice to bring race into the conversation, given the sports and social climate, is questionable, however. Even more frustrating is his decision to introduce two prominent black coaches into the mix. What the manager has created is a web of purely misled comments and opinions.
Before addressing Randolph's comments, let us first look at the Mets season up to this point. The Mets are currently sitting on a 22-21 record, a .512 winning percentage. What was believed to be a two team race for the NL East title between the Phillies and Mets now finds Randolph's club in fourth place. Since 2006, a year in which the Mets earned first place in the division and a .599 percentage, decension is the word. The hangover resulting from the now legendary 2007 seasons-end collapse has not worn off, and 2008 has offered little to expedite the process. Performance will always be key in a team and manager's evaluation, which quite possibly explains why Randolph now finds himself in the typical line of New York ire.
In Willie Randolph's soundbite, the manager likens his situation to those of Isiah Thomas and Herman Edwards, two black coaches who found themselves out of favor after less-than-ideal stints in New York. To suggest, as Randolph has seemingly done, that race was a major factor in the criticisms of these two toaches is almost obscene in its ignorance. Although Edwards was able to guide his New York Jets to three playoff runs, sometimes utilizing teams constructed by one Bill Parcells, the coach found himself out of favor after leading his team to a 4-12 record, and a 39-41 record overeall. What stung more than the losing record, however, were the persistent rumors swirling around Edwards' desire to leave his club for greener pastures, which found themselves to be true after an ugly divorce from the Jets. Not much is left to be said in the Isiah Thomas saga, an era that produced dismal performances and an even more scarring lawsuit. And it was Thomas himself who started his own little race scandal, claiming there were differences between white and black men referring to women in a derogatory manner. But anyone who believes Isiah Thomas recevied a raw deal due to his race would do well to give Larry Brown a penny for his thoughts.
What's even more upsetting than the trivial claim is the time in which Randolph chose to make it. America is currently being shown the real face of racism, in a police beating given to two Philadelphia black men. For Willie Randolph to complain about being criticized while people are being kicked and beaten while lying on the ground is tasteless. Randolph has since attempted to retract his statement, claiming he should have thought before he spoke. This writer agrees, but for a different reason. Speaking before thinking does not cause one to express thoughts they do not believe. In Randolph's eyes, his error was speaking publicly. In truth, his error was believing such a ridiculous notion in the first place.
The fact of the matter lies in Willie Randolph's curse; managing a New York team. Perhaps more than any other location, New York sports teams are expected to excel in every single facet of their respective sport. In the New York Mets, Randolph is responsible for one of the most storied franchises in American sports history. Mediocrity simply will not do, a purgatory the Mets currently find themselves situated in. As the face of the franchise, Randolph will always be credited for the showing of his club. It was not so long ago that Randolph found himself in the same situation of Joe Torre, a manager noted for his zen-like calmness. But the tide turns, and it turns quickly. The Mets are not where they were two years ago, nor is Randolph's reputation. If the manager wants to return to favor, his team needs to play like it. Until otherwise, to suggest Randolph's current standing lends itself to anything other than a poor showing is beyond ignorant.