Posted by: mdegeorge | October 4, 2010

No more Omar! Minaya regime in Queens ends with a whimper

It didn’t take long after a second consecutive sub-.500 season for the Mets to perform a long overdue house cleaning, parting ways with general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel.

Any way you cut it, the six-year marriage between Minaya and the Mets, a union that was supposed to bear bountiful fruits but instead was kept on life support through a variety of couples therapy sessions to maintain appearances in the community, goes down as one of the most epic disappointments in recent memory.

Minaya rode into Flushing flying high, the apple of the baseball world’s eye getting his big break in the Big Apple. The first ever Hispanic GM, he orchestrated a brief renaissance in Montreal that almost kept the Expos north of the border. He entered Queens after the controversial, though prolific, tenure of Steve Phillips, the epitome of optimism in the team’s future.

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Six years later, he leaves behind a team nearly as ravaged as owner Fred Wilpon’s bank account thanks to Bernie Madoff.

The .520 winning percentage (506-466) softens the blow of the true pain inflicted by the Minaya regime. The Mets turned in double the number of fourth-place finishes as they did division titles. Their recorded two of the most disastrous meltdowns in baseball history, blowing a 7-game advantage with 17 to play in 2007 and a three-and-a-half game edge in the final two weeks of 2008.

Their only division title came in 2006, leading to an NLCS highlighted by the most amazingly meaningless catch in baseball history in a series where they were undone by journeyman Jeff Suppan and the exploits of the light-hitting Yadier Molina and So Taguchi.

Minaya’s time in the Big Apple will be forever associated with the bowed heads of disconsolate Mets’ fans in the final weeks of the two dark Septembers. But a part of the legacy of the first Hispanic GM in Major League Baseball history—at least to this juncture in his still young career—is defined by his nationality more than anyone could have expected.

Minaya showed time and time again a propensity, almost a compulsion, to acquire Latin players. Of the nine highest paid players on the Mets’ ledger at the time of Minaya’s departure, six are Latino (and one of the other three is Gary Matthews, Jr., who’s still owed money though his career was caput before he arrived in Flushing.)

Of those Latino players, all but one (Jose Reyes) were acquired by Minaya. The only non-Latino mainstay of the Minaya era, David Wright, was a product of an underwhelming farm system that under Minaya’s watch has done little beyond generating average talent used to dupe other teams in trades (still waiting on that Lastings Milledge breakout season, aren’t we?)

The numbers bear it out. Of the 48 Opening Day starters for Minaya’s Mets (position players only), 24 were of Latin descent. That’s the highest percentage of any team over that time and over twice the league average (24.1 percent).

Look at the common thread behind the many disastrous moves orchestrated by Minaya:

– In 2002, Minaya spearheaded a deal the ramifications of which set the Expos/Nationals back for years and were only being realized after he was firmly ensconced in the backward facing cockpit of the Mets. At the trade deadline, Minaya pulled off what he thought was a significant coup: Cy Young caliber (and not yet fat) Bartolo Colon for four mid-level prospects. Six months later, after a productive 10-win half season north of the border, Colon was flipped to the White Sox for Rocky Biddle, John Liefer, and Orlando Hernandez (at age 56 on the downside of his halcyon Yankee days).  The end result of those prospects in the Colon deal? Well they turned into Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips, accumulating just six All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, and one Cy Young before any of them were 32.

– Another doozie came with the acquisition of the irreplaceable Einar Diaz for a 6-foot-10 former Princeton basketball player. You may know him as former Cy Young candidate Chris Young.

– Minaya’s first major coup at the helm of the Mets came in December of 2005 when he induced Pedro Martinez to put pen to paper on a four year, $51 million deal in a publicity storm that can only be compared to a Roman emperor putting on a month’s worth of gladiatorial contests upon his arrival to the Eternal City. The Mets’ payoff: a 32-23 record behind a faltering fastball and equally impotent shtick with far more bluster than bit, plus all that “Who’s your daddy?” and midget crap.

– His next signing: Carlos Beltran, who managed to have the world enamored over eight good weeks (arguably the most profitable eight weeks by any person or group this side of the sacking of Jerusalem). His decaying knees and diminishing power has become a fiscal ball-and-chain, costing the club over $40 million for 145 games over the last two seasons. They’re also on the hook for $20 million next season.

– Then there’s Oliver Perez, who parlayed 25 wins across 2007 and 2008 into a three year, $36 million deal. Since, he’s flourished with more stints in the minors (five) than Major league wins (3), plus a $12 million price tag in 2011.

– And finally, in one last defiant act borne out of machismo just as much as baseball sense, the Mets brought in Francisco Rodriguez for the bargain price of $37 million over three years. The deal has so far yielded 60 saves, seven wins, eight losses, one arrest, three misdemeanors, and one extremely uncertain future that may feature a voided contract (especially now that his buddy Omar isn’t their to watch his back.

Notice a common thread between all these lousy investments? To be clear, Minaya’s flaw isn’t that he’s targeting a sub-par group of players (there are countless players who would attest to the quality of the Latin American baseball machine) or that he’s unfairly overinflating the value of his countrymen. His flaw is zeroing in disproportionately on Latino players at the expense of any other possibilities.

Minaya’s only 51 years old—fairly young for an executive—and he’ll be back in the front office as a consultant just about as soon as he’d like. His fans can only hope than when he climbs the ladder to another position of power, as he inevitably will, that he does so with a bit more discretion that exercised in his past endeavors.

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Responses

  1. No more Omar! Minaya regime in Queens ends with a whimper…

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