No sentiment was more prevalent in Angel Stadium's visiting clubhouse on Tuesday than that one. The Mets insisted that they could have saved Randolph's job, if only they had played better. If only, if only, if only.
"I think all year we've underachieved," third baseman David Wright said. "I think all year we haven't played up to our potential. Now is that the manager's fault? I don't think so."
"It's up to us," reliever Scott Schoeneweis said. "It's always been up to us. I think anyone that can look at themselves in the mirror and is a man's man would say the same thing. This team, the way that we've been playing was not Willie's fault. It was our fault. And it's been our fault the whole time."
Not that they aren't looking forward to this new era of baseball. Wright, Wagner, Schoeneweis -- they all are. But the Mets do know that nearly everything in this most recent era could have transpired differently.
Wagner, for one, said that dismissing the manager just won't solve the problem.
"I don't think that Willie had anything to do with us losing, not playing well," Wagner said. "He's putting out the best players, and when you don't get the job done, then it falls on the manager, which is unfortunate."
It falls on the players, too, but as general manager Omar Minaya noted earlier on Tuesday, he can't replace a full roster of players. Dismissing the manager and two coaches, Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto, was the greatest -- and, more importantly, the quickest -- overhaul he could achieve.
So Randolph took the fall, regardless of whether that was warranted.
"It's not anything easy for any of us to see and watch," Pedro Martinez said. "We're all employees, and we hate to see these things happen."
Yet Martinez, among others, saw the benefit of this long-anticipated dismissal. No longer will the Mets have to face daily questions regarding the managerial situation, and no longer will they come to the park uncertain as to just who their leader might be.
The Mets will instead come to work knowing that Jerry Manuel will be their manager, for now and through the end of the season.
"In some ways, now we know where we're stepping," Martinez said. "Hopefully, this will work for good for the team, but at the same time, it's sad for us to see good human beings without a job. But as far as the team, I think now everybody can concentrate on the same thing and just start pushing forward. I'm pretty sure Willie will find a way to get another job, and we just have to continue on. This is the ugly side of what we do."
So now, finally, the Mets can concentrate on the prettier side of baseball. The pitching, the hitting, the ability to relax in the clubhouse with a manager's name firmly affixed to the office door. That name is Jerry Manuel now, rather than Willie Randolph, and some players are indeed upset at the change. But most are simply upset at themselves.
"I've been a truly big Willie Randolph fan from the time that he's gotten here," Wright said. "I think that the fingers should be pointed at each other in this clubhouse. Willie took the fall, took a lot of the blame for that. But we, as players, need to elevate our level, and go out there and find a way to get it done."