Randolph wears ring as motivation
Skipper hopes Mets players covet what jewelry represents
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The last time Tom Glavine laid eyes on his 1995 World Series ring, in 2003, it was being tossed in a bag with the other jewelry he had won as a member of the Braves. His son, Mason, was taking the family jewels to school for "Show and Tell" which became "Show, Tell and Return," not that Glavine was particularly worried about it.
Most players aren't so cavalier about their precious stones. Scott Schoeneweis keeps the ring he won with the Angels in 2002 in his office at home but he never wears it. Orlando Hernandez has a choice of four rings -- three Yankees, one White Sox. If he wears one, it's the first he won, with the '98 Yankees.
In the Mets' Spring Training clubhouse, the ring isn't the thing ... not yet. Most fingers are unadorned, though significantly fewer would be if the man in the manager's office shared his bling.
Willie Randolph has World Series championship rings from 1977, '78, '96, '98, '99 and the big one, as he calls it, 2000 -- Yankees over Mets -- and other rings from the pennant-winning seasons of 1976, '81, '90, 2001 and '03. And he has a few more from his All-Star Game appearances as a player and a coach.
"I told Yogi [Berra] I'm going to catch him," Randolph said. "And I will. But I've got a nice collection already. When [my wife] Gretchen lays them out, it's a nice, long row."
One of Randolph's rings -- the one from '77 -- made the trip here from northern New Jersey. The manager carried it on the third finger of his right hand. He wore it Friday for reasons of symbolism -- "The first one I won, and it was 30 years ago," he said. "And 30 was my number."
And he wore it for reasons of motivation. Call it a 24-carrot ring.
Randolph doesn't care if his players notice his relatively modest '77 model, doesn't care whether they admire it, so long as they covet what it represents and, at some point, in the not-too-distant future, win some of their own.
"We're here to win," he said. "The ring says you're a winner."
He doesn't wear any ring too often because "I'm a little careless with my jewelry" and because "what I have are mostly Yankees rings, and I'm manager of the Mets. I want the next one to be a Mets ring."
Toward that objective, Randolph launched his third Mets camp Friday. The first official day of camp is Saturday. But Glavine, Jorge Sosa, sidearming rookie Joe Smith and nine others threw about 30 pitches each off the "six-pack" mounds Friday with Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson, general manager Omar Minaya and owner Fred Wilpon observing. It was official enough.
Wilpon said three months sans the sound of baseball colliding with catcher's mitt had worn on him. Glavine concluded, "It looks pretty real to me."
And little Alvin Jackson, a Met 45 years ago and in a Mets camp for the umpteenth time, said, "Start the season."
Before the season begins, Randolph said, the Mets must complete the purge of the 2006 season and set their sights. He urged his players to turn the page.
Dave Williams, the left-handed pitcher who had designs on a roster spot, wears a neck brace since undergoing surgery on a herniated disc earlier this month. He can look forward only. That's the focus Randolph wants from his players.
"Every year is totally different," he said. "If we do exactly what we did last year, there's no guarantee we'd win again. So the idea is to get over last year -- the good and the bad -- and do what needs to be done, whatever it is, to win again this time.
"You can feed off the success you had; some teams feed off it when they come close and don't win ... like what happened to us. But the idea is to win any way you have to.
"I don't think not winning set us back in any way. But you don't ever know how a season will play out. The Marlins with all that great, young pitching; you don't know how they're going to be. The Phillies are getting better and with that ballpark, how are they going to progress?"
The other teams aside, Randolph knows who will be favored, at least in the NL East. And though he said, "We're not the ones with the biggest bull's-eye on our backs," he welcomes the expectations. "I'd rather have it the way it is," he said.
"We're here to win. When I say win, I mean get into the playoffs. After that, anyone can win. I'm not going to sit and predict a world championship. That's ridiculous. Because last year we thought we should have been in the World Series, and you saw what happened.
"But I want these players every year when we come to Spring Training to feel that, yes, we should be in the playoffs and in the hunt for the world championship."
As Randolph said the words "world championship," he fidgeted with his ring.
"This one will be alright for this year," he said. "I'd like a new one."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.