Sunday, November 09, 2008

In Defense of Omar Minaya

Let me cut right to the chase. I know many of you disagree with me on this and that's fine, and that I am also kinda late to chiming in on this, but I just want to give my ringing endorsement for Omar Minaya as our GM for the next four years.

Although I did think it was in poor taste to "leak" out the fact that there was a contract-in-principle when it was increasingly obvious that the Mets would indeed fall short of yet another postseason, and that I don't know if I agreed with giving him an additional three years while he had one more contract year (I would have given him two, with an exercise option for three), I have to say that Mets fans who have spewed venom over this move and his involvement in the "collapse" of 2008 (which I don't call it that -- this year was a collapse of its own right but it was not nearly as devastating or bitter as it was in 2007) seem to forget just how good we have it now.

I think for the most part, Mets fans got incredibly spoiled with the fun run of 2005 and then the over-the-top Captain Red Ass and the Intrepid Mets of 2006, that when times got tough in 2007, we automatically took sides -- you were either pro-Willie/anti-Omar or anti-Willie/prOmar (I just made that up, cute right?). I always hated Willie -- well, hate is a strong word. I didn't MIND Willie, I just didn't think he was the right guy. But like everyone else said at the end of the day, Willie had to trot out what Omar gave him. So those were the two sides of the argument.

Another side that anti-Omars give is that under Steve Phillip's reign, the Mets made the postseason twice. But we all know, looking back, that if the team WERE built to last and were truly championship calibur, we wouldn't have seen and suffered through dead last place teams and the likes of Mo Vaughn and Robbie Alomar. I mean, that team was more motivated to play for Bobby Valentine, with an outfield of underwhelming Timo Perez, Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton. Hello! Bring on the championship flag!

"But Steve Phillips drafted David Wright." Well, there's no denying that. Did you know that he also traded Jason Bay for some scrub we never saw anything from? (Jason Bay, ultimately became rookie of the year). I also believed that had he stayed on, David Wright would have been traded. You do know that there was a strong possibility that DW would have been traded to the Blue Jays for Jose Cruz Jr? Um, yeah.

"Steve Phillips also drafted Jose Reyes." Yeah, know who scouted him and encouraged the signing? I'll give you a hint: His initials are O.M.

Now for the present. A big argument that Mets fans like to give on the anti-Omar side is that we have no farm system. Now, while it has been depleted for trades of the likes of, you know, a dude named Johan Santana, it is not as in shambles as one would think. I'll get to this in a minute, but in typical Mets fashion, two AA-ball players were rushed up when Moises Alou and other injuries hit the Mets and quickly made an impact -- their names were Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy. Murphy could have easily been a strong candidate for Rookie-of-the-Year in 2009 had he been one game over threshold. Nick Evans, while sometimes appearing out-matched against major league hitting, was a suitable replacement for hobbling old-man Alou. know who drafted Murphy? Omar. Same draft that netted bullpen stalwart Joe Smith and Kevin Mulvey (although included in the Santana trade).

One thing the Mets weren't short on were pitching arms. And while the untimely injury with John Maine didn't exactly help things, it was great that every 5th day, Johan Santana was the ace in the hole.

The other ace in the hole? Mike "Big Pelf" Pelfrey -- another Omar draftee in 2005. Another dude was drafted that year as well...future star Jonathon Niese, who helped out when the pitching staff was getting whittled down.

With this influx of young guys though, I have no problem with how the Mets lost this year, considering that a big issue most fans had with aging players who either had ties to Minaya from the Expos or ties to Minaya as a professional (~ahem~ Moises Alou ~ahem~ Julio Franco ~ ahem), this year there was really no choice but TO play he young guys. And that, clearly, anti-O people claim, is directly on the GM's head. Which wouldn't be entirely false. On the other hand though, think about the nightmare Omar had inherited in 2004...Carlos Beltran would have surely signed with the Yankees, the worst trade in Mets history (outside of Seaver's in '77) had just occurred at the trade deadline, there was absolutely no-depth in the organization. Period. We have David Wright, Jose Reyes, and a big fat nothin' else.

Can we really blame Minaya for giving Pedro a contract no one else wanted to give him or "overpaying" for Beltran (which I think we all agree, is probably the BEST investment he made for us, since Beltran is considered almost a "bargain" now), when he did?

I would also like to point out that it took Frank Cashen a good 5 years to build a championship calibur team and 6 years to bring a championship home. The fans who complain that we've taken a step backward since 2006 are not wrong, they are what Jimmy Rollins calls his own fan-base: frontrunners. And I don't care what people think of that.

In fact, after analyzing what Omar Minaya has done for this team, I know that he will make some fuck-ups like other general managers do and we will question some moves. But the good has most certainly outweighed the bad. John Maine. Oh Pea. Johan. Pedro (who I'm disappointed in but I liked the move at the time, since we had NO ONE). Duque (when he was on, he was ON and we traded a "bag of balls" to get him). Beltran. Delgado. Signing Wright and Reyes long term while they were still cheap and young.

There are also the deals that were better left "undone." Like Barry Zito. Can you imagine if he produced the seasons he's had out in San Francisco HERE? Minaya would have been let go in a more demoralizing fashion than Willie was. Also, there was a rumor that Chad Cordero could have been had for a pittance of Aaron Heilman AND Lastings Milledge. Cordero spent 2008 on the DL. Nuff said.

In fact, there are maybe three things I *can* throw Omar under the bus for.

1.) Exercising Moises Alou's option for 2008 - I understood the move in 2007, but were we THAT hard-pressed for OFers? I loved Moises, and never made any bones about it. But it was obvious that it was time to move on after 2007.

2.) Luis Castillo. Um, why? Although people point to him outbidding himself, which is in a sense true, I point to the lack of movement in the 2007 offseason when there were tons of 2Bs available on the open-market. Did he truly think that Andy Hernandy and Argenis Reyes were the way to go? Not to mention that trading Keppinger was completely meaningless. We coulda used his poppy-bat this season, that's for sure.

3.) Leaving young catcher Jesus Flores unprotected in the Rule V draft. Now, Flores was signed as a free agent out of Venezuela in 2001. He was only 21 and finished his first season of A ball when he was unprotected. But I still think that's a lot of crap. Fact is, we knew Paul LoDuca (who was great while he was here) was NOT part of the long-term plans of the team. We also know that catchers DO NOT age well. Flores was young, hit well, and had a future here. Manny Acta and Jim Bowden at D.C. coveted him. But even all this buzz around him Minaya, who didn't draft him (and possibly didn't have preferential treatment towards him), still allowed him to go unprotected to protect the likes of Julio Franco. And guess what? Nationals picked him up. Nationals got us back though - we got Brian Schneider, catcher "extraordinaire" in return for Lastings Milledge. The guy who apparently was the centerpiece in every deal involving Manny Ramirez prior to him being traded to the Dodgers this year. We got Schneider (who sucks) and Ryan Church (who is mediocre at best). YEAH! I can trace all these panic moves to when Minaya left Flores unprotected.

Now, I won't touch the bullpen issues. Joe Smith can stay and the rest can go bye-bye. The fact is, no one knew Billy Wagner would get himself injured for two seasons. And could anyone have predicted that Brad Lidge would have a perfect season for the Phils? Some of the names being thrown around like Brian Fuentes and the like would be good moves I feel. Chad Cordero? I passed on him in 2007 above, but if he only costs "money" now, I could deal with him being a reclamation project.

Admittedly, there is a lot of work that needs to be done this offseason. I am expecting my Sweet Pea to go bye-bye this offseason. I almost say good riddance. I'm sure that Omar & Crew will do their best to keep him in a Mets uniform. But if he wants to go someplace else, it won't matter how much money we throw at him.

As for my "wish list" for the offseason, visit Divas and Dykstraw (where I have not written since SEPTEMBER!) for more details on that.

Many thanks for Joe from Mets Today for digging up info on the draft years!


Joe D. said...

Very well written and right on point too. I think you hit the nail on the head with Omar's three biggest blunders. Of the three, I think signing Alou was unavoidable. I think there would have been some serious backlash by the fans if we had let him walk, only because Moises was the best hitter on the team whenever he was healthy. Plus the option was a huge bargain by today's standards.

Personally, I would have passed for the same reason you cite, age. Sometimes you have to know when to say when.

By far, the Castillo signing stung the most, but that Flores move flew under the radar and I'm glad you picked up on it.

To think we were forced to remove him from the 40MR to make room for Franco was an outrage.

Ironically, Franco was released halfway through the season, making it even more painful.

Anyway, great post!

MetsToday said...

I would argue that the worst move Omar made was signing Carlos Beltran. It was that signing, along with signing Pedro, that instantly transformed the Mets to a "win now" organization.

Strangely enough, the day the Wilpons fired Steve Phillips, their main reason was that Phillips was in "win now" mode, and they wanted to move the organization in a new direction -- modeling the Braves and Twins, who built long-term success through scouting and the draft.

In fact, for those with short memories, the Mets hired Willie Randolph in part to execute that plan -- he had a great reputation for working with young players such as Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano.

Now, without Beltran the Mets don't get to the 2006 NLCS, but the point is that had they stuck to the original plan, the organization as a whole could have been much stronger than it is today. The question is whether Mets fans would have tolerated a few difficult seasons of youngsters playing a year or two before they were ready.

Coop said...

Wow! Metstoday (aka Joe, not JoeD), that's a pretty bold statement (one I don't remember talking to you about - in fact, i think you said something along the lines that Pedro was a great move because it led to so much else. I think that ultimately the Beltran signing was one that HAD to be done, and I don't think it was a bad move, and in a sense it was a great move and cheap because he's such a bargain now. On the other hand, I don't see them as a win now team, even with Beltran. It was Beltran and what was IT. Mets fans can tolerate rebuilding seasons but in this case, Omar needed to do a bold move to inspire confidence in the fan base. Pretty interesting analysis though - but I keep Beltran any day of the week, personally :)

Deb said...

All things considered, I'm not in favor of keeping Omar as the architect of this here disappointing Mess, and oddly enough, Coop, not only because of the negatories you mentioned.

I don't like what I think is Omar's formula. I think it's flawed in that he seems to believe he can always pop in a nice crusty veteran to temporarily fill some hole which is crying out for attention, not just temporary filling. I don't believe he is that committed to developing the farm system as a source for potential future position players for the Mets, which I think is a huge flaw in thinking. I don't believe he is savvy enough or forward thinking enough to face off with the modern-day GMs and other baseeball heads coming into the game today.

But most of all, he has the same attitude that this organization has always had -- maintaining the status quo, the "family" atmosphere, the "competitive" mantra that this organization so dearly loves, and does not place winning a championship, every year, at the top of his list of "Things To Accomplish in 20__." LOL

I don't blame him totally for this; it seems to be the way of the Mets organization. And that's partially driven by the owners, and partially driven by the amount of revenue the team has, and the fact that New York is a huge market. But those things don't stand alone.

But most of all, I blame Omar for the ennui-causing product we have seen on the field for the past several years. Most Mets fans will tell you if you watch the first two innings and the last two innings of any Mets game, you pretty much have it covered, for the team seems to phone it in for the entire middle of the game.

I think the Mets have placed their immediate future in the wrong hands. Of course, with the Wilpons at the helm, Mets fans could and should expect little else.

Michael Leggett said...

A lot blame either Minaya or Randolph, but I feel that Jeffy Wilpon was hamstringing both of them, because Jeffy's more-interested in his new play pen-rumpus room called $iti Field:

Getting Rid of Oliver and Bradford was not a good move. It was as if Jeffy ordered it this way;

Jeffy's like Jim Dolan at MSG, only NOT as entertaining.

Khalid said...

I too think Omar should stay. He's brought us back to being consistently competitive. Also, check out my blog at :-)