Randolph agrees to $5.65 million, three-year deal

Willie Randolph Randolph

NEW YORK -- Willie Randolph was somewhat uncomfortable when he talked about his role in turning around the New York Mets. The manager's boss didn't mince words.

"He changed the culture in the clubhouse from a country club to a work environment," chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Thursday after rewarding Randolph with a new $5.65 million, three-year contract.

Randolph, who led the Mets to their first NL East title since 1988, was set to earn $700,000 this year in the final season of a three-year contract worth $1,875,000. His salary this year will be doubled to $1.4 million, and he will get $2 million next year and $2.25 million in 2009. The Mets have a $2.5 million option for 2010.

"If you're a manager in New York, you should get paid somewhat more than other markets," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.

The Yankees' Joe Torre, Randolph's former boss, has the top salary for a manager at $7.5 million in the final season of a three-year deal that paid him $6.7 million in each of the previous two years.

"This should be about the players and the Mets. Fans should be excited, not be really concerned about my contract, my status," Randolph said. "Respect to me is not dollars and cents, I don't think necessarily. I think the respect is that they feel like I'm the guy to move this organization forward."

After finishing fourth in the NL East at 71-91 under Art Howe 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 the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

Before joining the Mets, Randolph won two World Series titles as a player with the Yankees and four more as a coach. As he spoke in the Mets' midtown television studio, several fans peered in through a window.

"I've tapped into our team and they've tapped somewhat into me," Randolph said. "Listen, we've got a long way to go. But I would have to say that I think we've come together a lot quicker than I thought we would have, and I think that's because I've communicated and shown them the way. Now it's up to us to go all the way."

Randolph, unlike Howe, had the advantage of new additions Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner. Minaya was pleased with the way the manager brought together players from different backgrounds.

"He's going to be around for three years, so you have to learn how to play Willie style," Delgado said.

After spending most of his career with the Yankees, Randolph has made the transition to identifying with the Mets.

"I'll always have a little Yankee blood in me, of course," he said.

Minaya and Randolph both have contracts running through 2009, the year the team is to move into its new ballpark.

"I'm sure we'll do another extension with both of them at some point," Wilpon said.