Ex-Yankees coach replaces fired Howe

NEW YORK -- Willie Randolph was hired Wednesday night by the New York Mets, taking over as manager of a troubled team trying to compete with its crosstown rival for success, free agents and fans.

A six-time All-Star who was a coach with the New York Yankees for the past 11 years, Randolph replaces Art Howe, who was fired at the end of the season. The Mets called a 2 p.m. Thursday news conference to introduce Randolph at Shea Stadium.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Randolph will receive a three-year contract worth a little more than $1.5 million.

Randolph met earlier Wednesday with new general manager Omar Minaya, who also had second interviews with the other finalists, Texas hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and former Houston and Anaheim manager Terry Collins.

Randolph was a standout second baseman who spent 13 seasons with the Yankees, serving as co-captain and winning World Series titles as a player in 1977 and 1978, plus four more as a coach. He also played for Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Oakland and Milwaukee before finishing his career with the Mets in 1992.

He said last month he had interviewed unsuccessfully in the past for 11 or 12 managerial openings.

"I thought it was very beneficial to have this second round," Minaya said late in the afternoon, before the deal was finalized. "It gives me a better feel for the decision I have to make."

At that time, he wouldn't say who the front-runner was, but his description of what he wanted fit Randolph perfectly.

"I'm looking for a person, a manager, that's going to have good work ethics, going to communicate with the players, communicate with the front office on a daily basis," Minaya said. "I'm looking for a manager that's going to be able to delegate to the staff. I'm looking for a manager that's going to interact with the community."

Minaya's new manager will have a year-round job, talking frequently with the minor-league staff and farm director and visiting instructional and winter leagues during the offseason. The 50-year-old Randolph moved to bench coach under Joe Torre last season after 10 years coaching third base for the Yankees.

"I'm looking for a guy at the end of the day that has leadership qualities," Minaya said.

Randolph was nearly hired by Cincinnati after the 2000 season but withdrew from consideration after the Reds offered a relatively short contract at a below-market salary.

He becomes the fourth black manager in the major leagues, criticized by some for a lack of blacks in management positions, and the first ever in New York. The others currently managing are the Chicago Cubs' Dusty Baker, Frank Robinson of the Expos and
Pittsburgh's Lloyd McClendon.

Coming off consecutive last-place finishes, the Mets had a promising first half in 2004 before completely collapsing after the All-Star break. They finished fourth in the NL East at 71-91, and Howe was fired halfway through a four-year contract.

The other manager's opening in the major leagues was also filled Wednesday, with the Philadelphia Phillies set to hire former Cleveland skipper Charlie Manuel.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.