SPORTS DOCTOR- Overblown? Is MLB racist-- is Willie right?

There's something rotten in the state of baseball.

This Tuesday, Mets' manager Willie Randolph graced the cover of the NY Post, the NY Daily News, and the Village Voice. Rather than bemoaning Joe Torre's success with the Dodgers, New York and the baseball-loving world have given Joe Girardi a pass and put Randolph's head on a pike.

The Mets and the Yankees have both lost 26 games, but the backlash doesn't involve the Steinbrenners. Sunday's NY Times dismissed the Mets' win over the Rockies while claiming "signs of hope" in the Yankees' camp. One can't help but notice a distinct– well, stench.

The stench to which I'm referring doesn't involve the subway or the Bronx Zoo. Preference for one pinstriped-team is expected, but let's call a spade a spade. Just one thing separates the Mets from the Yankees. As sure as I'm an "Injun," Willie Randolph is a black. He knows it, Mets GM Omar Minaya knows it, Reggie Jackson knows it, the Times knows it, you know it, and I know it.

Just don't say it. 

When Willie Randolph wondered whether racism played a part in his becoming a pariah, the media pounced. When asked if black managers were held to different standards than whites, the specter of Donovan McNabb loomed large. Whatever Randolph's answer, he would be skewered. 

"I don't know how to put my finger on it, but there's something there," he said.

Diplomatic answer or not, it's the kiss of death for Willie Randolph.

Race: who wants to hear about it? Even Frank DeFord, always ready with a shoulder to lean on, calls racial issues "overblown." White or black, it only matters if you win, so quit crying and do your job. 

A black man is running for President, a black man is governor of New York, a black woman owns half the country, a black man sits on the Supreme Court, and black men even play in the NHL. Black is equal, black is fine, black is nothing special.

The day of black men's crying "foul" is over. Hispanics are taking the brunt of racism in this country, aren't they? One of the few Latinos in the NHL grew up in Alaska, for crying out loud.

If anyone called Bill Richardson "boy," more than an apology would be in order. If Salma Hayek, a naturalized citizen, were criticized for identifying herself as Mexican, the ACLU would have a field day.

No one would tell Ozzie Guillen he ought to be "ashamed of himself" if he claimed racism exists in professional sports.

Willie Randolph has become the poster boy for bad managing. The Mariners have lost 34 games, but how many baseball fans know the name John McLaren? God bless the Tigers, Jim Leyland isn't drawn and quartered for a 21-30 record.

In New York, the Mets have never reigned. Forever a bridesmaid, the Mets wax and wane, knowing that even if they win, the Yankees will trump them. If the Mets have talent, the Yankees have more. If the Mets win the division, the Yankees win the series. Even a Yankees' collapse is more dramatic.

There are just two black skippers in MLB: Dusty Baker and Willie Randolph. Cincinnati is in last place in the NL Central, with a 23-28 record, but Dusty's mouth is too occupied with his lollipops to talk about race. Poor Willie stands very, very alone.

With so many bad managers to criticize, with Girardi's bungling steerage to crucify, what makes Willie Randolph such easy prey? In a sea of ineptitude, what on God's green earth could make the Mets so special?

If Willie Randolph's being black is the thing separating him from the fray, perhaps there's some validity in his claim. 

Don't tell anyone.