As an assistant Mets GM during the late 1990s, the Dominican-born Minaya proved himself an astute judge of talent, and the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) hired him away in 2002 as their GM.
When the Mets signed Minaya as their GM following the 2004 season, his first free agent signing was of an aging but still talented Pedro Martinez ($53M/four years). In spite of Martinezâ€™ racist past, I welcomed the signing, which gave the Mets the credibility they needed to sign that yearâ€™s top free agent, outfielder Carlos Beltran ($119M/seven years).
Randolph, who is black, had no managerial experience, and the Mets had just endured two years of failure with Art Howe, an experienced, white manager. I wanted them to go after a heavyweight, like Lou Piniella or Dusty Baker.
But Randolph did a great job. In 2005, the Mets had their first winning season, 83-79, since 2001. In 2006, they won the Eastern Division, with a league-best record of 97-65, and came within one inning of going to the World Series. But in 2007, the club had the worst September collapse in baseball history. Minaya announced, with apparent distaste, that Randolph would be back. Before firing Randolph, Minaya tortured him, making his job status day-to-day.
The troubles went back some. In July 2006, reliever Pedro Feliciano publicly called Randolphâ€™s management of the bullpen â€?stupid.â€? Nothing happened to Feliciano, who is still with the Mets.
One year earlier, when Japanese Washington Nationals pitcher Tomo Ohka had publicly disrespected black manager Frank Robinson, he was fined, and traded days later. A general manager may not tolerate any player disrespecting his manager. Similarly, the clubhouse is the managerâ€™s domain, but Minaya would often visit, giving the players mixed signals about whom they had to answer to.
Most Shea Stadium fans were white, and some of the Latin starsâ€”2006 acquisition Carlos Delgado, in particularâ€”would refuse to honor fansâ€™ cheers for curtain calls after home runs. When Minaya acquired Delgado, owner Fred Wilpon had to order him to stand for â€?God Bless America.â€?
For whom was Wilpon building the team?
Randolphâ€™s interim replacement, his bench coach Jerry â€?Fertilizerâ€? Manuel, is black.