The Baltimore Sun

So how important is a manager?

When the Mets dispatched Willie Randolph in mid-June, New York was 34-35, tied for third in the National League East 61/2 games behind archrival Philadelphia, and continuing a slide that started in September with a late-season collapse that cost them the division and a chance at the postseason.

Now, after a 10-game winning streak, the Mets entered last night 52-44 and tied with the Phillies for the divisional lead. Just as impressive has been the turnaround in the Mets' offense. Before Randolph was fired, the Mets were averaging a little more than four runs a game. Since the manager was canned, they've added a whole run per nine innings.

So is a manager worth a run a game? Or are some Mets simply performing the way their salaries indicate they should have been all along?

Is new manager Jerry Manuel - with a looser, more upbeat style - a clubhouse and dugout genius? Or was Randolph simply the victim of bad timing?

Such are the questions that make up the imponderables of the diamond, but the answers are usually dictated by the standings.

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