Monday, July 9, 2007

Overrated Omar

Before I begin this article, I must disclose that I am a complete Mets hater. I begrudge them even the slightest modicum of success. My earliest baseball memories involve the Mets dominating the New York baseball landscape from the mid-80s through the early-90s. I am still traumatized by being one of the very few die hard 9 year old Yankees fans on Long Island (all things being equal, LI is Mets country). Perhaps unhealthy, four Yankees championships have done little to satiate my appetite for Mets failure. So there is my bias. Having admitted that, I must also say that I am fairly adept at removing my personal feelings from my critical analysis.

After that unnecessarily long preface, my thesis is this; Omar Minaya is not a particularly good general manager. While this criticism might seem modest by most standards, it is heretical in New York, where every sports writer and Mets' fan has eaten out of Omar's magical hands for the past three seasons.

In 2005, Omar Minaya inherited a Mets franchise that had the most financial resources in the
National League and arguably the most promising tandem of 22 year old players in baseball. Steve Phillips and Jim Duquette bungled the GM job so badly, that an above .500 season in 2005 garnered Omar Minaya with a great deal of undue praise. Spending over $100 million for an 83-79 team in a subpar National League was seen as a smashing success.

Last year, Minaya reputation as the new millenium Branch Rickey was cemented when the Mets finished the season 97-65. They were a very good team and Minaya did a great job, but the Mets were more than a little lucky to finish with such a record. First, the National League was appallingly bad. The gap between the two leagues was greater than I can ever remember, in 2006. Second, the Mets outplayed their expected win total (based upon their runs scored and runs against) by 5 games. Third, the Mets got surprisingly quality seasons out of bunch of guys in their mid-thirties that had not played well in years. Paul LoDuca, Jose Valentin and Darren Oliver and Guillermo Mota who had stunk in the previous several seasons, played well in 2006, and have predictably returned to their previously established level of stink.

This year, the Mets are vastly underperforming expectations. They are only 9 games over .500 and have only outscored their pitiful National League opponents by 23 runs. The Midas touch Minaya seemed to have displayed last year, appears to have evaporated. He has not been able to repeat his 2006 effort of turning scrap heep finds into major contributors.

Minaya's track record is okay. But the New York media will have you believe he is beyond reproach. Being an affable guy, has made him the teflon general manager. Here are some of the debits and credits on his ledger...

Good Moves

1) Trading Kris Benson for Jorge Julio and John Maine- Although I will never believe that Omar thought he was getting a top of the rotation guy in Maine, this has been an unqualified success.

2) Trading Xavier Nady for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez- Both of the afforementioned trades were with bad organizations. However, good GMs should be swindling bad GMs, so kudos to Minaya for that.

Bad Moves

1) Signing Pedro Martinez- Theo Epstein was smart to let Pedro Martinez go. Pedro gave the Mets a great 2005 season, but was mediocre in the half season he played 2006, and still hasn't had his first rehab start this year. For his 4 year $53 million contract to be near worthwhile, Pedro will have to come back in August and dominate the rest of this year and next like it's 1999.

Also, it's absolute malarchy that the Mets had to sign him to change the culture of the team and attract more Latin players. Horse shit. Show me the guy that came to the Mets for less than top dollar and then we can talk.

2) Signing Carlos Beltran- When you spend $119 million on a ballplayer, you are hoping for more than one great season, one terrible season, and an average one. (This is complete hindsight on my part, as I thought it was a great signing at the time.

3) Trading off bullpen depth for nothing- Heath Bell, Royce Ring, Henry Owens, and Matt Lindstrom could all help the team. Instead Omar traded them all for garbage and replaced them with Ambiorix Burgos and Scott Schoeneweis. Schoeneweis is 33, with a career ERA of more than 5.00. Currently in his ninth season, he has only once posted an ERA below 4.18. How did he sign a 3 year deal worth over $10 million? Based on his track record, he should be a non-roster invitee every year.
Even though he already had Wagner and Feliciano, Minaya couldn't resist the siren's song of the southpaw. I'll never understand the fascination managers and GMs have with lefty relievers. They forego rational thoughts like "Can he get anybody out?" and revert to their reptilian, "good" baseball man instincts, which always tell them "Need more lefties!"

4) 2006 and 2007 drafts have been subpar by most accounts. Aside from outfielders, the Mets farm system is pretty barren.
5) Stubbornly insisting on carrying a nearly 49 year old player who hasn't had a 100 hit season in ten years. Wow! I know he is a nice guy, but this is the epitome of one of the Met organizations greatest problems; the idea that you have to smile your way to success in the big leagues. All of his teammates love Franco and LoDuca tickles David Wright's belly when he isn't looking and everybody gets along famously. But if chemistry was a substitute for good baseball players, the Oceans 11 cast would make a 100 win team.


Mookie said...

Disagree wholeheartedly with the Beltran analysis. His contract does not look bad now compared to how salaries have been driven up. If Betran was a free agent coming off last season he would've signed an astronomical contract. That being said, it's troubling that he has not built off last season and his obp is at its lowest point in years, but I am willing to withhold judgment for a while longer.

As for the Pedro signing, it made the Mets relevant again. I know that bordering in intagibles, but as a Met fan I can tell you that Pedro brought a level of excitement to Shea that I hadn't seen since 1999 and some will argue since the Gooden era.

Mookie said...

Plus it's not my money and the Wilpon's opened up the check book so I don't really care what they paid their players unless it limits their ability to go after other players.

Tremont said...

And it does limit their ability to go after other players. To be fair, I still don't mind the Beltran signing. But since Minaya has been judged positively on the results and not the process with other players (Valentin, LoDuca, last year's bullpen, John Maine (to a lesser extent), turnabout is fair play. No?