Randolph keeps job with Mets after meeting with team brass

NEW YORK -- Willie Randolph is still the manager of the New York Mets after a marathon meeting Monday with general manager Omar Minaya, principal owner Fred Wilpon and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, but that doesn't mean the pressure is off.

When asked if he was told he'll definitely manage the Mets for the rest of the season, Randolph said: "No, they didn't say that."

In other words, he probably needs to start winning. That didn't happen in the first game after the meeting. Randolph and the $138 million Mets fell to 23-26 after a 7-3 loss to the NL East-leading Marlins on Monday.

Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran told Newsday that management should say one way or another what Randolph's status is for the remainder of the season.

"I think they should say that and come out with something like that," Beltran said, according to the newspaper, "because it is a distraction. The reality is people say, 'No, that doesn't affect the ballclub,' but it does. It does because you come to the ballpark wondering what's going to happen. It's natural as players, we all think like that.

"At one point, I was in that situation when they were talking every day about me being traded when I was in Kansas City. To me, it was thinking it might be today. Tomorrow might be the day. It's not fun coming wondering like that every day to the ballpark."

Minaya said at a news conference Monday that Randolph has his support.

"Willie has my support. He has the support of our ownership," Minaya said. "Willie's job was never in danger going into this meeting."

After the two-hour session, Minaya said: "There is no limbo period. Willie is the manager."

With few fans remaining at Shea Stadium in the late innings of Monday night's loss, a chant of "Fire Willie!" could clearly be heard.

"It's like being booed," Randolph said. "It's the same thing more or less. They're expressing themselves."

Monday's meeting had been called after Randolph made comments last week that were critical of coverage on the team's flagship television station SNY. He also wondered in a column in The Bergen (N.J.) Record whether negative analysis of his managing was racially motivated. He is the first black manager in New York.

Randolph subsequently apologized for those statements and tried reaching out to ownership with a telephone call. The Wilpons said they'd rather talk face-to-face, Minaya said, so the foursome scheduled a meeting for Memorial Day afternoon.

The manager's contract runs through the 2009 season, but this seven-game homestand could define the season.

Despite a talented roster, the Mets are five games below .500 since June 1 last year. And, of course, they missed the 2007 playoffs following one of the worst late-season collapses in baseball history.

The poor play has led to fans calling for Randolph to be fired, and there was speculation he might be dismissed Monday following a 1-6 trip to Atlanta and Colorado. The Mets have now lost 10 of 14 overall.

"When you don't win in this town and you're expected to win, there's drama that's created," Minaya said. "I think the team responds to Willie. I do."

Several star players acknowledged that Randolph's uncertain status has been a distraction lately, though most reiterated that the club's lackluster play is their responsibility and Randolph doesn't deserve the blame.

"It was nice that Omar and the front office backed him up and hopefully that will settle down some of the distractions and all the speculation," Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado said after the latest loss.

After the news conference ended and batting practice was finished, Randolph met with his players behind closed doors.

"He's still the manager, and we just need to go out onto the field and try to win some games for him," shortstop Jose Reyes said before Monday's game.

Last week, Randolph suggested to a reporter that he is perhaps treated differently in the media than a white manager would be. He soon backed off those statements, but they certainly caught the attention of the Wilpons.

"Ownership was disappointed," Minaya said, "and they're very disappointed in how the team is playing."

Randolph called the meeting "productive" and said he had an opportunity to explain what he was thinking when he made those comments and how the situation transpired.

"Everything went well," the manager said. "Jeff and Fred have always been very supportive with me, and that's the way they came across with me today. I didn't come in thinking that I was going to get fired.

"After we kind of cleared the air, after that it was just about how can we, what can we do as an organization to get back on the right track?" he added.

Jeff Wilpon declined to comment.

"Teams have these meetings," Minaya said. "They've accepted his apology and we move on from there. It's over."

Randolph left the news conference so he could get out to the field while his squad was taking batting practice.

"I've got a ballgame to manage tonight, if we can get to baseball," he said. "I don't enjoy doing this. Obviously, it's something you have to deal with."

Minaya stayed behind to field more questions.

"I think we have championship talent. There's a difference between championship talent and a championship team," the GM said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.