Willie Randolph’s Dismissal Was Totally Unfair to Mike Lupica

lupica2.jpgEven coming from a franchise with a long history of bad personnel moves, the Willie Randolph firing really takes the cake. How could the Mets be so disrespectful as to fire their manager after three am eastern time, when I’m sound asleep?

Maybe Willie deserved to go, and maybe he didn’t. I do know one thing for certain: there was no reason to treat me this way.

If the Mets were intent on firing Randolph midseason, they had numerous opportunities to do so before Tuesday. After losing three out of four at home to the lowly Nationals. After being swept in San Diego by an even worse Padres team. Even after the Billy Wagner-assisted losses to the Diamondbacks. Any of these occasions would’ve been better times to hand Willie his pink slip. Preferably before lunch.

But canning him in the wee hours of the morning shows a disgraceful lack of regard for my schedule.

Sure, firing Willie might turn things around. It might be the wake-up call this team has needed so desperately since the collapse of last September. It might ensure more fannies in the seats when CitiField opens next year.

But did the Wilpons ever stop to think about me, having to drive into the Daily News office on two hours’ worth of sleep? No, they had no thought for anyone but themselves. Just like the inconsiderate jackasses who got into a three-car pileup on the Merrick this morning. Stop-and-go traffic from Trumbull all the way to the New England Thruway. Thanks a lot, guys.

If Mets ownership had given a second thought before bringing down the axe on Willie Randolph, maybe they should’ve spared one for their fans, who’ve been forced to suffer one indignity after another in the past year. Now, after Randolph’s ill-time, badly managed firing, the fans have to contend with yet another wound on their collective psyche.

A wound almost as deep as the one on my index finger, which I got while trying to butter an English muffin this morning. I was so tired I didn’t even know I’d cut myself until I saw the blood on my kitchen countertop. It really smarts.

Willie Randolph certainly isn’t blameless for the Mets’ struggles this year. But not enough fire has been directed at general manager Omar Minaya. He constructed a team with too many brittle veterans, one almost guaranteed to break down. He may have gotten Johan Santana, but he decimated the farm system to do so, leaving the team without serviceable backups once the inevitable injuries occurred.

He’s also the person who couldn’t wait until today to fire Willie. What’s the rush? You could’ve done it first thing in the morning California time, which would’ve been around noon back east. That would give me plenty of time to file my column and get back home before Jeopardy starts.

Instead, I have to fix a pot of coffee at four in the morning so I can stay up and wait for the stupid beat writers to call me back with their little tidbits of info from Anaheim. I hate beat writers. Think they’re so tough just ’cause they go in the locker room.

And there’s nothing to watch at four in the morning either, not even on cable. I’d pop in a DVD, but then I’d have to find the right input on the TV. My kids have, like, seven different video game systems. S-Video, HDMI–I don’t even know what those things mean.

Is Fred Wilpon going to explain to me what HDMI stands for?

Now my editor tells me he wants me to fly out to LA and cover the team in person during their hour of turmoil. So I have to cancel a golf game at Bethpage on Sunday. Bethpage! It’s easier to get a table at Momofuku than it is to get a tee time at Bethpage.

Can Fred Wilpon explain to me how I’m supposed to squash other writers’ stories from the West Coast?

This is the kind of royal screwup that can damage fans’ faith in their team. In 1977, I was fresh out of college and working as a typesetter at a small newspaper in upstate New York. It was just after midnight. We’d just finished setting the sports section, and it was ready to go to press, when news came over the wire that the Mets had traded Tom Seaver to the Reds. That move decimated the franchise for years, and they would never truly recover until the mid-1980s.

Mets fans never forgave general manager M. Donald Grant, and the team’s clueless ownership, for trading away their most beloved player. Me, I’ll never forgive Grant for forcing me to reset the entire sports section all over again. And this was back before desktop publishing, you know! I didn’t have Quark or InDesign to help me!

Maybe what this team needs isn’t a new manager, or a new GM, but new ownership. Owners that know what the fans have been through. Owners who won’t throw gasoline on a burning fire.

Owners who won’t make me have to pound Red Bull at 11 in the morning.

For all he’s done for his city, Mike Lupica deserves at least that much.