Say hey, Willie

The Mets give, and the New York media take. The Metropolitans found themselves mired in another drama when manager Willie Randolph was quoted in a newspaper column Monday questioning the role race played in media coverage of him. A day later, he backed off those comments. Yesterday, he apologized. "First of all, I want to apologize to the Mets ownership, SNY [SportsNet New York], and my team for the unnecessary distraction that I created, that I caused the last couple days," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I shouldn't have said what I said. It was a mistake." In the Record of Hackensack (N.J.) on Monday, he was quoted as saying he was held to a different standard in terms of criticism from the media. "Is it racial?" Randolph asked. "Huh? It smells a little bit."

Lest we forget, the Mets blew a seven-game lead to the Phillies last September and, despite bagging the best lefthander in the biz, were slogging along this season at 22-21 entering last night. In the media capital of the world, is there any response to expect other than concentrated scrutiny of the manager?

Pedro's daddy

A day after telling the New York Daily News that he was considering retiring in the near future, Pedro Martinez returned to the Dominican Republic to be with his ailing father, the AP reported. The Mets' pitcher was scheduled to rejoin the team to test his balky hamstring, but when Martinez found out yesterday morning that his father had suffered a setback, he left to be with his family. The 78-year-old Pablo Jaime has brain cancer. On Tuesday, Martinez told the Daily News that he didn't expect his father's condition to improve. Mets spokesman Ethan Wilson said the team did not know how long Martinez would be in the Dominican Republic. It's not far-fetched to suggest that Martinez may never return. When discussing his possible retirement, the three-time Cy Young Award winner lamented the time he had missed with his family. "It's taking a toll on me and my family, my dad's situation," Martinez said Tuesday. "I haven't been there for them."

Piazza's place in history

With Mike Piazza's retirement Tuesday, now is as good a time as any to gauge where the Norristown native ranks among the all-time greats at catcher. Piazza called a decent game and handled some temperamental pitching staffs. Offensively, there are few peers. Here's how he stacks up:

Player   *Games   Hits   HR   RBI   Avg.   

Johnny Bench   1,742   2,048   389   1,376   .267

Yogi Berra   1,699   2,150   358   1,430   .285

Roy Campanella   1,183   1,161   242   856   .276

Mickey Cochrane   1,451   1,652   119   832   .320

Bill Dickey   1,708   1,969   202   1,209   .313

Josh Gibson**   501   607   146   NA   .362

Gabby Hartnett   1,793   1,912   236   1,179   .297

Mike Piazza   1,629   2,127   427   1,335   .308

Ivan Rodriguez***    2,099   2,533   289   1,198   .302

*Games played at catcher. **Negro leagues statistics. ***active (stats through Tuesday).

Ouch

Albert Pujols knocked San Diego pitcher Chris Young and catcher Josh Bard out of the third inning of last night's game against St. Louis. Pujols hit a line drive off his Young's face for a single, breaking the righthander's nose. Later in the inning, Pujols slid trying to score and caught Bard's left leg.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com