Monday, October 4, 2010

The Team, The Time, The Failure

Omar Minaya's reign in New York was not an unequivocal failure.

He traded mediocre talent for Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado.

He got all-stars Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, and Billy Wagner to come to the 2nd team in New York, after predecessor Jim Duquette's big successes were a well-past-his-prime Tom Glavine and the return of Roger Cedeno.

He helped transform the faces of the Mets from the traded-for Mike Piazza and Al Leiter to the home-grown David Wright and Jose Reyes.

He found cheap free agents and bargain basement trades who went on to success in Flushing, like Omir Santos, R.A. Dickey, and Angel Pagan.

He drafted top young players Ike Davis, Jon Niese, and Mike Pelfrey*, while signing international free agent prospects Fernando Martinez and Jenrry Mejia.

*Fun Fact #26- Niese, Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell,, and Josh Thole all came from Minaya's first Mets draft class. 2006 featured Daniel Murphy, Joe Smith, and Tobi Stoner. 2007 starred Eddie Kunz, Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, and prospect Robert Carson. 2008 had Davis, and top prospects Reese Havens, Brad Holt, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mark Cohoon, and Kyle Allen. The past 2 years have yet to blossom into well known prospects, but 2009 did feature a guy with the first name ZeErika.

And he got the Mets to the playoffs. Actually to within a curveball from the World Series. Had Wainwright missed for ball 4, the Mets could have won game 7, and likely would have beat the ice cold Detroit Tigers for their first World Series in 20 years, and their 3rd in team history. Willie Randolph would still be the Mets' manager, Omar Minaya would still be GM, and John Maine and Ollie Perez would be hailed as postseason heroes, and be overpaid for the next 4 years for their performances in the 2006 postseason.

But only one of those things occurred. Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran. The Cardinals won the World Series. A year and a half later Willie Randolph was fired. And now Omar Minaya has been fired as well. Partially because Maine and Perez were in fact still hailed as postseason heroes, and were overpaid for the next 4 years for their performances in the 2006 postseason.

Actually, that isn't totally true either. Oliver Perez will actually be overpaid for 5 years when all is said and done.

Omar was fired for 2007, when the team led the NL East by 7 games with 17 to play, and suffered one of the worst collapses in MLB history, letting the Phillies clinch the division after Glavine got bombed by the Marlins on the last day of the season.

Omar was fired for 2008, when the team struggled to begin the season, rebounded to take first place in September, and then collapsed. Omar was fired for causing drama while making a move everyone wanted and expected, when he fired Willie Randolph and a couple of coaches at 3AM after a win in Los Angeles.

Omar was fired for 2009, when he failed to build enough depth for the Mets to continue competing when starter after starter went down from injuries. Nobody expected them to compete once the entire rotation and lineup were on the DL, but losing Brian Schneider or Tim Redding or Ryan Church should not cause a team to fall out of the race. Omar was fired for whatever actually took place with Tony Bernazard, and more so how Omar handled the Bernazard press conference and resulting Adam Rubin situation.

And Omar was fired for 2010, when the team showed the flaws of each of the years before it. The collapsing, after the pre-All Star Break surge. The lack of depth, as one by one Beltran, Reyes, Santana, Murphy, Maine, Perez, and Jason Bay went down with injuries.

Omar's reign as GM of the Mets was not the worst in Mets history. They were above .500 in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, and only a few games below in 2010.

But while other GMs were attempting to make their teams more flexible and more athletic, Omar was giving multi-year deals to Fernando Tatis, and Alex Cora, and Marlon Anderson, and 47 year old Julio Franco. While other teams were getting younger, Omar was signing Gary Sheffield, and Moises Alou, and Shawn Green, and both Livan and Orlando Hernandez.

Omar brought "meaningful games in September." He created "the NEW Mets." And in 2006, it was "the team, the time, the place." But by this season, the "NEW" Mets were much like the Mets from right before Omar signed on. They were playing meaningless games in an empty stadium, with a GM and Manager who already knew their tenures were over.

Omar's tenure was not an unequivocal failure. But it was a failure nevertheless.

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