Willie Randolph is now entrenched in his position, entering his third season as the manager of the Mets. On a recent Spring Training morning, Randolph sat down with MLB.com and spoke about a variety of issues surrounding his team as the 2007 season draws near.
MLB.com: The Mets almost certainly will be the oldest team in the game, and age carries questions with it. What is your sense of that?
Randolph: With our team now and last year, too ... age was a good thing. It's really good to have a solid veteran core, because over the long grind of the season, you stay away from the learning curve. I like young talent. I love to have the young colts out there. And we have had some in my time here. But with our veterans, I trust what they know. I know they won't overreact or panic. They set a good example for the kids we do have.
MLB.com: As a player with the high-profile and successful Yankees teams, you often remained in the shadows of others. Now you have a prominent role with another successful team. What is the difference in the sense of pride you have in the two circumstances?
Randolph: I think it's a deeper, more emotional pride I feel now. When we beat the Dodgers [in the 2006 National League Division Series], it was one of the biggest thrills of my life. I spend so much time thinking about the game now and preparing. When you play, you take BP and play, and no matter who you are, you're just one of 25 or one of nine.
MLB.com: Do you consider yourself a bold manager?
Randolph: I don't know exactly what bold means in this situation. I'm not afraid to do what needs to be done. I like to think we play aggressively. I like the way we play. Does that make me bold? I don't know.
MLB.com: It looks like the staff has made a special effort to make Lastings Milledge and Oliver Perez feel comfortable and confident. Is that an accurate read?
Randolph: It's a positive staff. And everyone on the team. ... we support each other. I think our staff tries to pump everyone up. Maybe some of the coaches spent some extra time with Lastings and Ollie. But I don't know that it was to pump them up. Sandy [Alomar] has been working with Lastings, and Rick [Peterson] is always with the pitchers. But they're always talking technique.
But it's good if they're making Lastings feel comfortable. He had a tough time last year. I thought it was a little unfair, because he's a good kid.
MLB.com: He's made a real and noticeable effort to change. He's worked on his weaknesses and clearly been more involved with his teammates. Is there any thought you have about rewarding him with a place on the roster -- if only until you need a fifth starter?
Randolph: Not just for that. We'd have to see a way that he could help us win games.
MLB.com: Do you feel as good about the team today as you did a year ago?
Randolph: Are you talking about results?
MLB.com: No, just the feel of it.
Randolph: Each year is different. I might feel good but in a different way because this is a different group. You can't judge the feeling because the players are different. No Pedro [Martinez]. I think we're quieter. That can change the feel, but does that mean we won't be as good a team?
MLB.com: If you do bat David Wright second, will it be an all-year thing? And how will you handle the order on days when Moises Alou doesn't play? Does Wright move back?
Randolph: I'm not thinking about bouncing him around. And we have other guys we cold drop down in the order on days when [Alou] is off.
MLB.com: What's your sense of Jose Reyes at this point? He looks special on the field right now.
Randolph: I won't be surprised if he does a lot of great things and wows everybody this year. He's prepared to put up a big season for us.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.