2) New York Mets exacerbated the third base headache with Lenny Randle
Lenny Randle was a former first round selection of the Washington Senators (the modern franchise that became the Texas Rangers) and was a two-sport standout for Arizona State University. Randle was a gifted athlete who could play multiple positions in both the infield and out in the outfield.
Randle had a breakout season in 1974, hitting .302 with 26 stolen bases and 65 runs scored, basically as a super utility player under the tutelage of then manager, Billy Martin. When Frank Lucchesi replaced Martin as manager during the ’75 season, Randle’s playing time diminished and his production suffered.
During spring training 1977, Lucchesi let it be known that Bump Wills, the son of the great Maury Wills, was taking Randle’s spot as the team’s second baseman. When Randle approached the manager to inquire about his status, Lucchesi allegedly used some provocative language and Randle took a swing. Apparently he took more swings than he took in batting practice because he put Lucchesi in the hospital. He was charged with assault and suspended.
Uncharacteristically, the Mets, who despised troublemakers and anyone who refused to “toe the line,” traded for Randle while he was suspended. The Rangers pawned their headache off on the Mets. And with another Mets future third baseman, Roy Staiger, turning out to be another in a line of duds, Randle was installed as the Mets starting third sacker and leadoff hitter.
Randle would have a pretty good season, hitting .304 with a .383 on base percentage while stealing a team record 33 bases. But while he was an offensive spark, he was defensive dud. He made 18 errors at third base and didn’t get to a lot of other balls he should have reached. He was also a bit of a clown, and allegedly did some things that upset management.
However, still, the Mets believed his offensive proficiency outweighed his defensive deficiency. So they went to the well one more time in 1978. For the umpteenth time, Mets management misjudged their third base decision. Randle’s did not enjoy the success he had in ’77, dropping to a .233 average and 14 stolen bases. That made his defensive miscues unbearable, and unwatchable. And his cooky attitude was no longer tolerated. And he was given his release as the Mets were breaking camp in 1979.