Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Feel Like Elisabeth Hasselbeck Defending George W. Bush

On the morning talk show, The View, four to five very opinionated and educated women sit around a coffee table and share their perspectives on not only current events, but their own political and social views.

None of these women stand out more than perhaps Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the young former Survivor contestant and known George W. Bush and staunch right-wing party supporter. While on one hand, we can admire her for her unwavering support and her beliefs, on the flip side she can come across as somewhat uneducated and not willing to accept other’s points-of-views.

Now, most of my colleagues and faculty at Flushing University know me to be, well, opinionated to say the very least. My unabashed and unashamed admiration for Oliver Perez. My somewhat dislike of Willie Randolph. My understanding and defense of Omar Minaya.

In 2006, my support of Omar Minaya made me – and several others, no doubt – look like Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius. In 2005, Minaya made several moves that not only strengthened the team, but altered them from cellar dwellars to competitors in just one year. Now, some have argued that the reason for this was due to the emergence of players who were already on the payroll, in Jose Reyes and David Wright. We cannot discount Minaya’s changing the landscape of the team by signing one of the best pitchers in baseball, Pedro Martinez, but also capturing who was perceived to be the “crown jewel” of that season’s free agent class, Carlos Beltran.

But in 2006, Minaya’s moves took the cake. Trading for Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, who were both key contributors to the Mets’ playoff run that season, and also trading for low cost, high-return outfielder Xavier Nady (who in turn, became 2007 pitching ace, Oliver Perez)…and not to mention netting the “other” 2007 ace starter John Maine by trading away Kris and Anna Benson…what would Minaya do next to solidify the team’s chances of not only making the World Series, but winning it as well?

Um… Not much of anything really. And lately, talk surrounding potential Met moves are making Omar Minaya tougher to defend than ever.

Some may argue today, that after the Mets disastrous collapse in 2007, in hindsight, Omar Minaya’s moves or non-moves really impacted the team last season. But I argue that, well, if we all had 20 / 20 hindsight, maybe he wouldn’t have traded away starting pitcher Brian Bannister (legit rookie of the year candidate for the Royals) for young middle reliever Ambiorix Burgos (out with injury for…well, a long time). In an argument with someone, I may say, we can’t really judge this move yet. In a few years when Burgos returns, he may be dominant. And Bannister may hit the wall. We don’t know. But in year one, the move did not look good.

What about the letting go of Chadwick Bradford, by refusing to give him the extra year that Baltimore guaranteed? Well, at the time, I understood it, as I’m sure many others did. Not only was Bradford perceived as an injury risk, the Mets didn’t believe they would need the extra arms in the ‘pen. They would surely get innings-eaters from signing either Dice-K or Barry Zito. Of course, we know what happened there, for better or for worse. Dice-K’s team won a World Series (though he didn’t figure much into it) but Zito was barely a .500 pitcher for the Giants. I call it a draw.

But extending the contracts of Guillermo Mota who was an admitted performance enhancement drug user, signing Scott Schoeneweis to a multi-year contract, essentially the same contract that was NOT given to Bradford…well, again, this is 20 / 20 hindsight. And we have no idea how those two relievers will figure into the plans of the Mets for 2008.

Although I understood the Moises Alou signing last season, but wasn’t too enthused about exercising his option to bring him back, I can’t exactly knock the move of bringing him back.

One thing Mets fans like to point to are unproven rumors that Omar turned down a straight-up trade for Danny Haren with Lastings Milledge – well, to me it seemed a bit far-fetched. A.) Why wouldn’t he make that trade? B.) Why would Billy Beane come out and say on radio that he and Omar Minaya never spoke? Maybe because they (gasp!) hadn’t? Shudder the thought. In any case, I will defend Omar on that one till I am blue in the face. That trade was never ever ever ever EVER on the table. Got it? I am willing to bet my left kidney on that one. And Beane basically came right out and called Minaya an idiot in Moneyball years ago. I doubt they are doing business together any time soon.

But I would say that Omar Minaya has even his most optimistic supporters have had a tough time defending his moves or non-moves thus far, in response to the 2007 disaster. All of this doubt stems from the non-signing of catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Now, Torrealba is coming off handling National League champion Colorado Rockies’ pitching staff, is 29 years old, but is a bit offensively challenged to say the least (okay, defensively too). And the idea of $5 million per for a three-year contract to be a platoon character with Ramon Castro…this made the Mets fan base collectively say, “Huh?”

So now we all know that the Torrealba deal has been all but cut at the knees. Yorvit will not be a Met in 2008…but neither will fan-favorite Paul LoDuca, free agent who apparently is asking for a three-year deal. Not that the Mets know that for sure – according to LoDuca’s agent, LoDuca was never approached for anything. This leaves the Mets in a potential quandary. If a deal is not met for a catcher soon, as Casey Stengel used to say, there will be a lot more passed balls in 2008.

Perhaps this need would be a non-issue if Minaya and his cronies had protected Jesus Flores in the Rule V draft. When left unprotected, Flores was picked up by the Washington Nationals. The lowly Nationals who have former Met coach-with-an-ax-to-grind Manny Acta leading them, the same Acta who knew of Flores and openly coveted him.

Rumor has it (and not sure The Coop totally buys into it), as a way of keeping the likes of Omar buddy Julio Franco on the roster, Flores was left unprotected. If true, though, what a bunch of crap.

Is it because Minaya has a habit of hiring his “buddies” whether by favor or perceived detriment to the team? Or did Flores simply slip through the cracks? Whatever the case, I hope whoever was responsible for leaving Flores unprotected was fired. But if that someone was Omar, maybe he should have been too.

Now, Omar detractors tend to point to his days as the Montreal Expos GM when he traded the whole team away. I always defend him there. MLB was handling the payroll, they were going to be defunct in a few years, blah blah blah. Yet I’ve had people ask me – but is that any excuse, Coop? Truth is, we weren’t Omar. We can’t judge what his motives were. Plus with Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson on the team, did he truly do that bad of a job?

The other detractors say still, all he knows how to do is spend the Wilpons’ money. That’s true, but we cannot argue that he didn’t significantly improve the team prior to 2006 by trading for Nady, Delgado and LoDuca. He also didn’t do Steve Phillips-esque trades like the potential disasters that could have been had the Pelfrey and Humber deal for overrated middle reliever (repeat after me: MIDDLE RELIEVER!) Chad Cordero or potentially the mid-2006 season for Barry Zito (which was never even close to happening as some would think, I would bet).

The trades that almost were but never will be – Manny, Oswalt – would have significantly improved the team if there was no third party interference. So for those trades that didn’t happen, why is Omar thrown under the bus for stuff that really wasn’t his call? My point is, he makes those trades, he goes down as one of the best GMs in MLB history.

Plus, I usually like to play the Omar didn’t trade Kazmir card. That may not be enough, but it was certainly the catalyst for getting rid of dead weight that existed in the organization. Would the Mets be competitive if not for Omar Minaya?

Does it sound like I’m flip-flopping yet? Well, this is exactly my point on how I feel about Minaya right now. I still feel like the 2007 offseason could be his shining moment. And keep in mind, we are shortly upon Hot Stove season. Anything can happen between now and pitchers and catchers. And also bear in mind, that prior to the 2005 season, Carlos Beltran did not sign with the Mets until January.

But Mets fans and the New York media are an impatient lot. We want things to happen rightnow. Of course, when the Yankees net A-Rod, Posada and have a deal in principle with Mariano, this makes the Mets look even worse by holding their cards so close. Oooh, the Yankees signed all their overpriced free agents that no one else wanted anyway. Big deal.

I have to admit though, I am having a tough time defending Omar Minaya’s moves or lack thereof…Which brings me back to the ladies on The View. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, in defense of another move by our fearless leader (I say that with my eyes rolling in the back of my head), said, “President Bush, you are making it very hard for me to defend you right now!”

Omar Minaya, you make it very hard for Met fans to defend you right now. Unless you pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, you are going to have a lot more detractors next season. More than you can ever imagine. And I can guarantee though, Minaya will be feeling the heat from the hot stove. Big time, especially if he stands pat.


Joe D said...

Coop, I couldn't agree with you more. Omar has lost a lot of his shine in my mind. He needs to come up big this off season because I believe his head is in a noose. If he wants to see CitiFiled he better get something done.

Now I would never kick Elisabeth Hasselbeck out of bed,but definitely no pillow talk afterward. Her views as a Bush apologist make me sick. You really have to be God awful to get me to take Rosie O'Donnell's side on anything. But that's what Elisabeth did. Her mind was a terrible thing to waste in that body.

Coop said...

I sincerely think that Omar does feel the heat, but he is in a unique position - damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. If he can trade a pelf type and a couple scrubs for a joe blanton, I don't think many of us would complain. however, trading away a john maine or oh pea, potential disaster. He knows this. And its not like the rest of the league doesn't know the Mets aren't suffering now. my column tomorrow at FU should be about blockbuster trades that don't exist anymore.

seat 5 said...

I've always been an Omar supporter because he almost single handedly took this team from complete futility to near-instant contender. Sure it's the Wilpons' money, but they had spent it quite poorly before under previous management. Omar changed all of that.

Last year, even with the lack of moves made - along with the trades that shouldn't have been made (in retrospect), Omar got a complete pass because he was King Midas of the baseball world. Everything he touched turned to gold. If he didn't make a deal, it shouldn't have been made. If he did, then he was liable to rob the other GM blind.

And that feeling gave Met fans an unprecedented sense of security in their team and GM. Well now, as one would expect with any GM given enough time, some of those moves have not worked out. The safety blanket is gone. And what we are left with is a very capable GM who is in the first pressure situation of his tenure. Met fans, and moreso NY media members, reach for the panic button. Why not? This is NY.

Well I still have plenty of faith in Minaya. He has always had an uncanny ability to keep a cool head amidst almost insane screams for drastic changes to be made. He realizes he needs a solid young pitcher for this team to move forward. He realizes the pen and catching position need some bolstering. And he realizes he has a limited window of opportunity with Pedro Martinez and Carlos Delgado's abilities.

Let's give him a chance to complete what he started.