This Day in Mets History: Willie Randolph fired on the West Coast trip

New York Mets v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
New York Mets v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim / Stephen Dunn/GettyImages

Two hours after beating the Los Angeles Angels 9-6, New York Mets manager Willie Randolph was fired. The timing became a legendary reference point. The early 3:11am decision on June 17, 2008, came as a huge surprise to everyone, especially Randolph. 

Firing a manager on a West Coast road trip is unusual. Doing so after a win for a 34-35 ball club is equally as strange. But there’s more.

This firing took place on the first game of a six-game road trip. The big question was why he was even allowed to hop on the plane. Clearly, the decision had already been made. As much as fans wanted him gone at the time, this wasn’t the way to do it.

Randolph helped to end a dark time in Mets history but also created a new narrative about how they couldn’t get the job done. From 2005-2007, the Mets never had a losing record. Their collapse in 2007, however, put a stain on whether or not Randolph was the right man for the job. There came a time when he wasn’t. Apparently, cutting ties when most of New York was asleep was the best time to make it happen.

The fallout of the Mets firing Willie Randolph on June 17, 2008

Jerry Manuel would take over for the Mets after Randolph and turn the season around in the best of ways. His record as skipper was 55-38. It led to an 89-73 campaign for the Mets. It was, sadly, a single win short of tying the Milwaukee Brewers for the wild card spot. Three games behind the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets came up just short for the second consecutive year.

The fallout of the Randolph firing is something Mets fans still remember, reference, and ponder. Randolph never got another job as a Major League Baseball manager. A 302-253 record for a .544 winning percentage would suggest he should’ve gotten another shot.

He’d get a gig as the bench coach for the Milwaukee Brewers and was later hired by the Baltimore Orioles for the same position alongside a name Mets fans know well today, Buck Showalter. Randolph later became the Orioles’ third base coach, a switch made in the middle of the 2011 season. He left the Orioles after the season and any thought of him managing in MLB again seemed to fade.

Manuel didn’t turn out to be a solution for the Mets. After a valiant effort in 2008, the team went only 70-92 in 2009 then finished 2010 with a 79-83 record. Like most managers, he ended up fired.

It would take seven and a half years after Randolph was fired for the Mets to return to the playoffs. That’s another story for a different day.