GM Minaya decides to keep Randolph as manager

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Willie Randolph sported a new,
clean-shaven look as he walked past rows of empty lockers in New
York's clubhouse.

"It's not a good time to be recognized in this town," he
joked. "Hoping to slip by and dodge a few daggers."

Randolph dodged one Tuesday, two days after his team completed
an enormous collapse. General manager Omar Minaya announced
Randolph will be back with the club next year, ending speculation
that he might be fired despite getting a contract extension before
this season.

"I do believe that Willie is going to continue to work hard,"
Minaya said. "I do believe that Willie's passion for winning is

New York went 5-12 down the stretch, squandering its big lead in
the NL East and missing the playoffs entirely. The Mets became the
first major league team that failed to finish in first place after
owning a lead of seven games or more with 17 remaining. New York,
which had that margin on Sept. 12, also matched the largest lead
blown in September.

"It just hurts right now," Randolph said. "It's been tough
sleeping the last couple of nights, trying to come to grips with
what's happened."

The Mets were tied for first with the Phillies heading into the
final three games of the season, and Randolph remained confident
that his club would pull it out. New York lost 7-4 to Florida on
Friday night, falling one back of Philadelphia, but bounced back
with a 13-0 victory Saturday to move into a tie again.

Yet that was all washed away with an 8-1 loss Sunday that
included Florida's seven-run first inning against Tom Glavine, and
10 runners left on base by the Mets.

"I've always been associated with winning and it hurts deep
down inside, it really hurts to be associated with this type of
collapse," Randolph said. "That's not why we play the game and
there's no way in the world that I thought we'd be in this position
right now talking about this."

Randolph, who grew up in Brooklyn, replaced Art Howe as New
York's manager in 2004. The Mets went 83-79 the following year and
97-65 last season, matching the Yankees for the best record in the
major leagues. They lost to St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL
Championship Series.

Randolph agreed to a contract extension in January and had the
Mets primed to go back to the postseason before their September
swoon. New York was outscored 115-98 during its final 17 games and
left 141 runners on base, an average of 8.3 per game.

"We didn't pitch at times," Randolph said. "Obviously, we
didn't hit. We didn't take advantage of our opportunities and we
should have. There's no acceptable reason why when you get a chance
to close people out you don't. That's something that we'll kind of
have to deal with and live with."

Randolph has faced waves of criticism in the wake of the
monumental tailspin, everything from accusations of a lack of
passion to his poor handling of youngsters Jose Reyes and
Lastings Milledge. The immensely talented Reyes failed to run out grounders
on at least two occasions this season and Milledge has drawn the
ire of opposing teams for his on-field antics.

The 53-year-old manager, who won two World Series titles as a
player with the Yankees and four more as a coach, said some of the
team's younger players just need to mature some. He also defended
his style.

"My passion, my will to win, you guys have no idea what's
inside of me and where I come from," Randolph said. "I'm a New
Yorker. I'm passionate. I feel what these people feel and I live
and die for this team, every day."

While Randolph kept his job, his coaching staff could look a lot
different next year. Neither the manager nor Minaya offered any

"We are going to evaluate everything," Minaya said.

That process was already in progress while clubhouse attendants
packed up bats, gloves and shirts in a mostly empty locker room
Tuesday. Equipment manager Charlie Samuels barked out instructions
as his dog, Ernie, slept on a couch.

Shawn Green was carefully cleaning up his locker when he heard
Randolph was coming back.

"It's a good thing to keep the stability because even though we
obviously blew it the last few weeks it doesn't take away from the
fact that there's a good thing here," he said.

RHP John Maine was expected to see a doctor about his sore
hip, which he said bothered him for much of the year. ... Minaya
said he wasn't able to comment on an ESPN.com report that reliever
Scott Schoeneweis received six shipments of steroids in 2003 and
2004 while with the Chicago White Sox because he didn't know enough
about it yet. Schoeneweis, who survived testicular cancer, told the
Daily News he had never received shipments from Florida or even
heard of Signature Pharmacy. "We're going to look into it," Rich
Levin, a spokesman for the commissioner's office, said. "I'm sure
Rob will call him in at some point." Rob Manfred is baseball's
executive vice president for labor relations.