Gutsy Mr. Metsie

In three days with the Mets, Randolph appeared to confer mostly with people who came to visit him first: Minaya, pitching coach Rick Peterson, bench coach Jerry Manual, owner Fred Wilpon and public relations head Jay Horwitz.

If anything, during the series in Florida, it was Minaya, the general manager, who spent a lot of time mixing with the team. After the Mets’ win against the Marlins in the final game of the four-game series, Minaya had conversations with Moises Alou, Carlos Delgado, Oliver Perez and Aaron Sele.

Shortly afterward, he walked by rookie reliever Joe Smith.

“What are you focusing on?” asked Minaya, in mid-conversation already.

“Keeping the ball down,” said Smith, a little sheepishly.

“O.K., well, have faith, baby!” said Minaya, as Smith smiled.

At the same time, the players seem to adore Randolph’s hands-off style.

“We’re professionals, we know what it takes,” said David Wright. “We know what’s on the line. I think we can motivate ourselves. We don’t need somebody screaming and yelling at us.”

“You hear so much about the cliché in baseball staying on an even keel,” said Glavine. “That’s what happens with a guy like Willie, who has been through the battles and knows what it’s like and stays on an even keel as a manager. That helps promote that kind of feeling in here where there’s no panic.”

“I like it when Willie visits the mound,” said John Maine. “He kind of gets what a competitor I am and he knows what to say when he’s out there.”

Wayne Coffey, a Daily News reporter who is co-authoring Randolph’s autobiography, to be released through HarperCollins next year, said there’s a lot more to Randolph than what he looks like to reporters and fans.

“There’s all this ranting that he looks so placid and emotionally detached in the dugout,” said Coffey. “Just because you don’t see him emoting and showing passion doesn’t mean it’s not there. What I’ve noticed is that he does a lot of his best work behind the scenes.”

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MESSAGES a manager sends by the way he deals with his players can’t be overstated. During the season, players have no life outside the clubhouse, and like anyone else working at a job, their motivation depends to no small extent on their morale.

As it has been described many times, the Mets are, if not a big, happy family, at least a diverse coalition of ethnic cliques that work and play well together.