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October 11, 2006

Willie Randolph

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Game One (Postponed)

Q. I heard on the radio coming in that Cliff was in the lineup tonight. Can you talk about the conversation you had with him and how he assured you he could play tonight?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, it's playoff time, man, you know. You want to play; the guy wants to play, man. He said he felt pretty good. And I was happy to hear that.
You know, he's been sore in his Achilles tendon, everybody knows that. It's just a matter of him feeling comfortable enough of tolerating discomfort enough to go out and help us win without obviously being injurious to the club in any way. He said he felt pretty good, and I was happy to hear that.

Q. Do you think that the wet field would change your decision with Cliff?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: The weather? Like I said, it's playoff time, man. There's no time to rest and worry about things like that. You've got to win ballgames, and if it's the regular season, maybe not. Hopefully he can stay under control and hit all the dry spots and make a couple catches for us.
But like I said, man, this is the only game in town, you know, and you want to be a part of it, I would think. I would be, anyway. So happy to have him out there, and I think he'll be fine. Again, we don't think it's anything that will, God forbid, hurt him. It's really just a matter of dealing with some of the discomfort, and Cliff feeling like he can go out there and not hurt the ballclub. In his mind, he wants to not be a hindrance to what we need to do, and I said yesterday, he's one of my big boys and I'd like him to be out there with us so we can get this first win under our belt.

Q. When Cliff got injured on Saturday night, did you anticipate him coming back this quickly, or were you foreseeing him possibly being out until much later in this series or perhaps if you got to the World Series?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: I didn't have any thought at all. I mean, Cliff's been hampered off and on by this injury all year, and, you know, when it first happened, I just thought maybe he just tweaked it or whatever. When it happened, I didn't think, oh my God, he's out or he's hurt himself. You know, just thought, okay, give it some treatment, let it calm down and he'll be ready to go.
He's had all of the tests and all of the MRIs and all that stuff and everything looks good. It's just a matter of him feeling comfortable enough to go out there and do what he wants to do or do something close to helping us win. So I didn't put any timetable on it. I didn't lose any sleep over it. Just, okay, let it calm down, and we had a couple of days off to let it calm down and he says he's ready to go.

Q. Can you talk about what you learned from John Maine pitching the first game of the other series, and how did he emerge over the course of the season as other pitchers were vying for those spots in the rotation?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, you know, John, every time he takes a ball since he's been here, he's proven a lot to me really. Just that he's stepping up to the challenge of this opportunity. I mean, John has always had pretty good stuff. I remember watching him a little bit when he was with Baltimore, and he's just proven to me and the staff that he wants this opportunity and he's going to take advantage of it.
So the more he pitches, the more you like what you see. He's getting better and better at harnessing a lot of his energy and his stuff, because I think that's a big part of it, not just physically, but mentally being able to get through tough spots and trusting himself and just being tough. You know, so any time you go out there and you get through that and you prove to yourself, to the staff, that you can gather yourself and get through it, that's good for the staff to see and that bodes well for him.
He's challenged himself and I've challenged him personally and he's been there for me. So, you know, he's got to the point now where I feel very confident in giving him the ball.

Q. I'm just wondering, do you and Rick talk about weather scenarios in terms of your pitching staff? Do you look at the weather today and think, what if we don't play, do we push back, do we skip, does that ever enter your mind? I just wonder what your philosophy is on that.
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Well, at this point in time, really, when you get down to it, obviously there's going to be some rain tonight and, you know, we don't know how that's going to play out. But you don't want certain guys to have to stop and start. That's what most guys, veteran guys, a guy like Tommy, you would probably notice it more than any other time.
No, we're not going to change or deviate too much from what we do. I'm not going to flip it around because there's going to be the threat of rain. It's set up the way it is and we just hope we can get the game in without any types of delays. We wouldn't go into it thinking it's going to rain tonight and we should skip this guy and put that guy in. You never know if it's going to blow through, and it might not be a point at all.

Q. A question about the tournament itself. It used to be the World Series was just two teams, that was it, that was the post-season and then they added one round and then added another. Would you like to see baseball go all the way like the NBA and have four rounds with seven-game series and a lot of teams and maybe cut the season a little bit shorter?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: I'm an old school kind of guy and I would like them to kind of break it down a little bit. The wild card, even though it's been good in some cases for baseball, different cities have a chance to sneak in and do well, I'd kind of like to see them eliminate that.
I think the Divisional Series is pretty good as far as having two divisions. But I think the wild card kind of gets in the way a little bit. I don't think it's totally fair to the teams that have been the best team all year and you have a team in a wild card situation, gets hot and jumps in there and takes the whole thing, but that's the way it is right now.

Q. So you want just two rounds, not three or four?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Two rounds. But it's okay the way it is. I'm not making a big deal about it. Just my thoughts.

Q. Do you think it's kind of ironic that the Mets are playing and the Yankees aren't?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: It's not really ironic. I mean, that's just the way it goes sometimes. The Yankees, they have been there a lot of years, of course, but can't win them all, I guess, right? So we like where we are right now, and it's nice to be the only game in town and Met fans have -- you know, they have taken a lot of hits over the years, and this is our time to enjoy this opportunity.
So it's not really ironic. You've been around the game a long time. You know that happens that way sometimes. It's our time. "Our Team, Our Time," is that how the slogan goes? That's catchy. (Laughter.)

Q. Could you give us your commentary about being called an American-like team?

Q. Being an American-like team.
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Is that what they say about my team? Well, I think everyone could kind of identify with our ballclub. We have all different types of nationalities, races and, you know, just a fun group of youth and some veterans.
So I don't know if I actually heard that, but that's a nice way to put us. We have a fun group of guys and I think that if you don't really know our team and you watch us, I think that people around the country would kind of embrace our ballclub and like the way we play. So I can see that being a label put on us, so, yeah, we're All-Americans, most of us anyway.

Q. I meant to say American League-like team.
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Oh, American League-like team. (Laughter.) I was going to say.

Q. Well, you are an American-like team, but an American League-like team?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: That was a curve. That was a drop, an old-fashioned drop. (Laughing).
Well, we do come at you offensively similar to what you might see in the American League. Our offense is deep and even though we don't have the DH and our eighth hitter is not always the best hitter of course, you know, we come at you that way; the speed, the aggressiveness, the way we're just clicking on all cylinders, we can give you the impression that we're nine-deep. And our pitchers swing the bat pretty good. Trachsel hit a home run for us, and Tommy is good with the bat. We like the fact that we have that type of attack and when we do get to the World Series, we can match up well with a lot of those teams.

Q. You saw Eckstein play in the American League, too. I wonder, is he the kind of player that does things that you appreciate because of the way you played?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Who are we talking about?

Q. David Eckstein.
WILLIE RANDOLPH: Yeah, I love David Eckstein. He's a solid player, just gets the most out of his ability. I mean, he's not the most talented, but he'll fight you. He'll try to beat you. I admired watching him play over with the Angels for years, and he's just one of those tough competitors that, you know, defensively if you don't make a play, he does a lot of things to beat you and I admire that in a player who is not big in stature but comes big and plays big a lot of times.

Q. Have you spoken with Beltrán today and is he okay and what he wants to do?
WILLIE RANDOLPH: He had a nice workout yesterday. I spoke to him yesterday and he didn't say anything about anything physically being wrong with him outside of the bumps and bruises we all have. I didn't talk to him today but I do report to my trainers every day and they didn't mention anything to me about any problems so he's okay.

End of FastScripts...

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