NEW YORK -- Willie Randolph holds no grudge against the New York Mets after being fired as the team's manager in the middle of the night in 2008.
Instead, the Milwaukee Brewers bench coach is hoping that his experiences as a first-time manager in New York make him that much more prepared for a second opportunity, should it present itself.
"When I left here I really looked at it as an opportunity to grow, and for me the growth period for me being away a couple of years has been tremendous," Randolph said before the Brewers-Mets game was rained out at Citi Field on Monday night. "I went through some growing pains and all that kind of thing, but that experience was tremendous for me and now I'm just looking forward to hopefully getting another shot."
After his first at shot at managing with the Mets ended unceremoniously, Randolph is working toward getting a second chance to manage a MLB squad. With many managers, including the Mets' Jerry Manuel, on the so-called hot seat, a collection of teams could be looking for new skippers.
"I don't anticipate or have a feeling one way or the other how it's going to work out. But again, I think that I've proven to all the general managers and all the owners out there that I'm looking forward to and want to manage again," Randolph said. "It didn't work out here, but I'm looking forward to hopefully get the opportunity to do it in another place and take everything I've learned and try to apply that somewhere else."
Randolph, who served a member of the Yankees coaching staff for 11 years, managed the Mets from 2005 to the middle of the 2008 season, leading the team to the 2006 National League East crown and coming within one game of the World Series that season. He was fired on June 17, 2008, after the Mets won a 9-6 road game against the Los Angeles Angels. The Mets were 34-35 at the time.
Randolph finished at 302-253 as Mets skipper. His tenure also included the epic 2007 collapse where the team coughed up a seven-game lead to the Philadelphia Phillies down the stretch and missed the playoffs.
He's been the bench coach of the Brewers the past two seasons and said he has learned more of how to trust his instincts and take them into situations dealing with individuals and trying to get the most out of his players. He said the being a bench coach allows him to see the game from a different perspective.
"When you're a bench coach you see a lot more and you get to experience a lot more and get a chance to observe more and observation is important because a lot of the players have changed and the personalities are different," Randolph said. "When you get a chance to manage again, you tweak those things that you might not have seen or known before it could be hopeful."
Randolph admitted that he has still has a soft stop for some of the players in the Mets clubhouse, specifically mentioning David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Mike Pelfrey at different points.
When looking back at his time with Mets, Randolph thought that it went well and outside of not reaching a World Series, he felt he had an "impact" on the team. While the lack of a World Series appearance makes him feel like he didn't get the job done, he admitted that he might have been a victim of his own success after leading the team to such heights in its 2006 campaign.
Of course, since Randolph's departure, the team’s play has declined under Manuel, with a fourth straight October with no postseason ball. There’s a possibility that Manuel, along with general manager Omar Minaya, both could be fired in that scenario. While Minaya was the one who ultimately fired Randolph, his former manager still says the two have a bond and is hoping that things will work out for Minaya.
"Any time this type of stuff is going on around people that you know and like, you’re concerned for them or whatever or you hope that it works out for them because you just never know," Randolph said. "You hear rumors and people talk about things, but you don’t know until the dusk clears, but Omar and I‘ve told him this before. I’ve told him many times that I’m always rooting for him."
While Randolph waits optimistically for a call about a future managerial job, his former third baseman gives him a ringing endorsement. Wright spoke highly about Randolph, saying he taught him good lessons, and hopes to see him back with another team.
"Willie's been great to me and I would highly recommend [him] just as far as what he brings to the table as a former player," Wright said. "I think that I'd like to see him get a second chance somewhere because he’s a very good person and I think I’ll always have that special type of bond just from kind growing up in the game together with him."