When the coach gets fired, who is to blame?

Within the last 48 hours, Willie Randolph, the head coach of the New York Mets was fired in the wee hours of the morning.  Omar Minaya, the General Manager (important decision-maker) of the New York Mets made the following comment regarding the firing: “the tension went far too long.  It was not fair to the team, it was not fair to Willie Randolph, and it was not fair to the organization.”  In this situation I can see why they fired Randolph.  You may remember the end of the 2007 season, when the New York Mets lost their last 11 of 17 games, and that was after they were up 7 games on the 2nd place Phillies.  The Phillies caught up to the Mets, and the Mets ended up losing their last game of the season and missed the playoffs.  This was supposedly the 2nd greatest collapse of a Major League Baseball team in the history of the game. 

The firing of Randolph has made me contemplate…  When a professional team begins to play poorly, should the head coach or athletes be the bearer of the blame?  In the case of the Mets during their historic collapse of 2007, what on earth could’ve caused a team to slump like they did?  The Mets were certainly getting paid enough – 4 players made eight-figure salaries while 16 players made seven-figure salaries.  But with a collapse that drastic, could the manager’s method of operation truly be to blame?

Part of me gets frustrated when they decide to fire a coach, rather than blame the players.  Sure, in some situations the coach deserved to get fired.  But in other cases, I can’t help but wonder if the team was to blame.  Even amongst the Mets clubhouse this year, there was alot of tension between two groups of players.  Part of the team was comfortable staying after each game to answer questions to the media, while part of the team chose not to participate, particularly after losses.  Set aside the 2007 collapse, I don’t think this had anything to do with Randolph.  As the Mets are in a New York “high pressure” market, it is possible that the General Manager felt nervous about his own job, and so decided to pull the trigger on three of the Mets coaching staff.  And perhaps it was because the GM was sending a message to the team… 

All this aside, I even wonder how much of an effect a head coach has on a team in the first place.  You have a pitching coach, first base and third base coach, strength and conditioning coach, bench coach, catchers coach, bus coach and the list goes on and on.  Can a head coach REALLY be that influencial on a team?  At one point during the early 80’s, Ted Turner, the owner of the Atlanta Braves, became so upset about his team’s play that he decided to go down and coach the Braves for a game….And they lost.

The jury is still out for this one.  I guess I’d have to be a fly on the wall to know every circumstance behind coaches being fired, but my guess would be that part of the blame should be on the team!   



3 Responses to “When the coach gets fired, who is to blame?”

  1. It’s not even a guess – plenty of blame should lay at the feet of players who are underachieving, lackadaisical, and out-right stealing money. If the players were busting it, hustling and giving their all each night on the field, then the manager has a lot more culpability in the team’s fortunes – does he make the right switches, the right calls, the right motivational moves to get his team’s performance maximized? If not, then sure – ditch him.

    But, and this won’t go well with some folks, saying that a manager has “lost” his players because they’re old, don’t give a rip and have quit trying is a copout. The Mets GM knew that the team he assembled was garbage, and he fired the coach to save his own job and muddle up the facts that the players themselves are busts.

    Of course, a $2 million buyout is a lot easier to stomach financially than about $54 million in buyouts.

  2. if the players are to blame, then ultimately the coach is still to blame as well. if the players are dogging it, that’s a failure of the coaching staff.

    on the other hand, if the players just flat out aren’t good, then it’s the GMs fault.

  3. I actually agree with you some, gavette – if a coach can’t connect with his players, can’t find a way to reach and motivate them, then he does have to share the blame for performance.

    However, all it takes is one or two malcontents to turn a previously good team into an unmanagable one. I think Wille R. in Queens found that out the hard way – like when his closer was the only player left in the locker room to answer questions after yet another listless loss.

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