Wednesday, June 18, 2008


For those of us of a certain age, the “early morning hours of June 17th” will always mean one thing and one thing only, those glorious pre dawn hours in 1972, when five bungling burglars were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Complex, in Washington, D.C., setting into motion the complex series of events, that, two years later, would force the resignation of President Richard Nixon. There may come a time, when a political scandal is not labeled with the obligatory suffix of “-gate”--Obama’s unfortunate comment about the “bitter” white working class was labeled “bittergate”—but it has not yet happened.

But now, the early morning hours of June 17th has a new meaning. For it was in at 3:14 AM, on June 17th after the conclusion of a game when the New York Mets were playing in Los Angeles, that the general manager of the Mets issued a press release announcing that the Mets’ manager, Willie Randolph, had been fired. This will, unfortunately, probably not lead to the resignation of another president, but it has caused quite a stir in sport circles in New York City. The burden of the argument has concerned not the fact of his firing---Randolph presided over the catastrophic collapse of the Mets last September, and the Mets have been a very mediocre club the first 60 games of this season---but how it was done, at the beginning of a road trip, after Randolph had just flown out to California, by press release, like a thief in the night, has been roundly criticized.

Well, I have always liked Willie Randolph, though I am basically a Yankee fan, and Randolph’s pedigree as a former stalwart Yankee player and coach Randolph was one reason he was always seen by some Mets fan as an interloper and carpetbagger (and his race would become an issue as well, but that is another story.) While I think Randolph was shabbily treated, I do have some sympathy with management as well. It is never easy to fire people. You fire people too early and you didn’t give them enough time to work out; you fire them too late and everyone asks, “what took you so long?” There’s no such thing as a “right time.”

And baseball owners, as in the case of Mr. Fred Wilpon, the owner of the Mets, are getting increasingly eccentric and capricious, interfering with baseball operations, and exercising arbitrary power because they can. Wilpon’s passive/aggressive campaign against Randolph makes one yearn for the open confrontations of a George Steinbrenner. At the same time, there is something, what can one say, refreshing about the ease with which the Mets fired Randolph, a press release in the middle of the night, and you’re gone. Compare this to the struggle it took to get Richard Nixon to vacate his ill-gotten office.

Perhaps there is something politics can learn from baseball. What about a system in which we do not elect a president, but every four years elect a “national owner” or a “supervisor.” The supervisor would not be able to directly exercise executive power, but has the power to hire and fire the president and the cabinet. Everyone would serve at the pleasure of the supervisor. (This would essentially be our current system with an appointed rather than an elected president.) The point is, a president would never fire himself or herself. The supervisor would have real power, and there would be laid back supervisors, and those who more resemble George Steinbrenner . But the main job would be evaluate how good a job the president was doing, and if the supervisor didn’t like the result, he or she could change presidents every six months, or keep one person in office for the duration of his or her term .

Okay, Montsequieu this is not, and maybe this is getting a bit far away from the Mets. But I’d like to think that if George W. Bush ever managed a baseball team the way he has managed this country, he would have been fired a long time ago, along with the rest of his coaching staff. If Willie Randolph had been president of the United States, he never would have invaded Iraq.

No comments: