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Queens Chronicle

Willie Is Safe — For Now

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Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2008 12:00 am

You couldn’t blame Mets owner Fred Wilpon for interrupting his Memorial Day holiday to hold a meeting with his beleaguered manager, Willie Randolph. Wilpon showed great restraint in not firing Randolph right after the Mets’ historic collapse last September and he cannot be happy with what he has seen on the field this season. The euphoria that came after the Mets took two straight from the Yankees in that abbreviated weekend series in the Bronx two weeks ago quickly dissipated as the Mets rolled over and played dead in Atlanta losing four games to the Braves and then dropping two out of three in Denver to the Rockies.

Mets General Manager Omar Minaya told the press a day before Randolph’s meeting with Wilpon that the purpose of it was not to fire him but rather to clear the air about a pair of controversial remarks that the Mets manager made the week before. Randolph told Bergen Record sports columnist Ian O’Connor that he felt that he was being judged harsher because he was an African-American, and that he also thought that the Mets cable arm, SportsNet New York, enjoyed criticizing him. The Wilpon family has a majority stake in SNY so Randolph’s comments were intemperate to say the least.

Wilpon decided to give Randolph a pass for now. The fact that he has two more years to run on a very lucrative contract, coupled with a lack of an heir apparent to take over the Mets skipper position, clearly works in his favor. Mets management is hoping that the players will be so embarrassed at having put their manager in such a position of public humiliation that they will finally play up to their potential. That is probably wishful thinking at best. If Jose Reyes decides to stop playing his Ipod in the clubhouse that appears to be surgically attached to his right ear in order to properly concentrate on pre-game business then that will send a message to other players on the team. It will also help if he stops getting picked off base in crucial situations.

All the best to former Mets catching great Mike Piazza who officially announced his retirement last week after deciding to turn down a pair of offers from Major League teams to serve in a backup role this past spring. I have always been impressed with how Piazza conducted himself both on the field and off. He was never comfortable signing autographs not because he did not care about the fans but because he never saw his job as more important than anyone else’s. He is also one of the brightest people I have ever met as he can hold a conversation with you on a wide array of topics ranging from politics, economics, tax laws and foreign affairs to lighter subjects as pop culture and travel.

High gas prices are adversely affecting baseball teams just as they are you and me. Yankees travel secretary Ben Tuliebitz told me that the fees charged by charter buses to chauffeur the team to airports and hotels from visiting ballparks have skyrocketed as has the cost of car services for team executives. “Luckily I negotiated contracts for all of our charter air needs last winter,” Ben told me with a grin.

Fuel is certainly vital to auto racing and it is a credit to the Indy Racing League that all of the cars, such as the one driven by 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, are required to use only 100 percent ethanol instead of traditional gasoline. Indy race teams are affected however by petroleum costs when they travel from one racing locale to another since there is a lot of equipment that has to be transported.

Welcome to the discussion.