I can never remember when most historical events occurred. Dates just never stuck with me. For all I know, we landed on the moon in 1776, the B.C./A.D. change-over happened in 1977, and Abe Vigoda was born in 1492. It’s not that I found the concept of dates to be insignificant. My brain just isn’t wired to store this type of information.
But I do remember July 30th, 2004. I was in my old boss’ apartment in Manhattan, looking after the family’s dog while they were on vacation (I didn’t do it to suck up, kiddies. This was just the awesomest dog ever and a great apartment to boot). Left without a computer (I didn’t want to use theirs), I had to resort to ESPN News, wanting to know the deals that were being made before the deadline struck. Turned out, it was not a good day.
As Met fans will recall, at that moment in time, the team was a full seven games behind the division leading Braves and 7.5 games behind the Padres for the Wild Card spot. With two months left in the regular season, it was fairly clear to any man with a brain that it would not be the year for the Metsies. However, Jim Duquette was not that man.
At the deadline, the Mets GM traded top prospects Scott Kazmir, Justin Huber, and Matt Peterson plus third baseman Ty Wigginton and pitcher Jose Diaz in two separate deals that landed them Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano, Jeff Keppinger, and Barolome Fortunato to set the team up for an improbable (literally) playoff run. Electrified by this crop of additions, the 2004 Mets finished the year 20 games under .500. Success.
Which brings us back to today. By comparison, the 2009 version of the Mets are actually in worse shape. After losing Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, John Maine, Oliver Perez and J.J. Putz to injuries (most of them for a lengthy period of time), the team is now a full ten games back of the divisional lead and 7.5 games back in the Wild Card. Baseball Prospectus gives the Mets a less than 3% chance at making the playoffs. Looks bad. Very bad.
And yet, here’s what GM Omar Minaya said yesterday:
“Right now we do not envision [being a seller],” Minaya said. “If we’re 6 ½ [back] in the wild card with a couple of teams in front of us, we are still kind of trying to find out how we can improve this team, if we can improve it through trades.”
Both Rob Neyer and Dave Cameron have already written responses to this statement, basically calling Omar delusional. But I actually think that Minaya knows very well the season’s done. He just can’t admit it to the public. And to be fair, the man actually has nothing to sell in terms of on-field talent.
I’m guessing that this comment was more about the need to sell tickets in this, the inaugural year of Citi Field. The fans feel like they were promised far more from this team and management is not yet ready to admit that they have not done their part. So Minaya is looking for possible ways to keep the public interested in a town where “being out of contention” basically means that you’re forgotten. And now that I’ve had some time to digest the Francoeur-Church deal, I’m actually wondering if the trade was nothing more than one of those ploys (because hey, there’s no other logic to it). Which is actually very worrisome. Worse still, I wonder if Omar’s just hanging on for dear life at the moment.
When General Managers fear for their jobs, they make mistakes. Horrible, horrible, mistakes. The long term health of the franchise gets put on the back burner to strengthen the team just enough in the short term to create a mirage of progress. Jim Duquette did just that in 2004 and left the team with a barren farm system and two league average pitchers (Benson and Zambrano) who would combine for just over 400 innings pitched in a Mets uniform over the next two seasons. And I’m concerned that history could repeat itself.
It’s true that just this past week, Minaya supposedly received a voice of support from team COO Jeff Wilpon. But I don’t think that’s worth very much. And the very fact that he even needs such a thing isn’t exactly positive.
For the first time in several years, the Mets’ farm system is on the upswing. Among the group of Brad Holt, Reese Havens, Jennry Mejia, Jonathon Niese, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Dillon Gee, and Wilmer Flores, there’s probably a few decent future Major Leaguers there. And if there’s anything that I wish the Mets would learn as an organization, it’s the importance of talented players who are cost controlled. Just because you have a big payroll doesn’t mean that you can fill every position with free agents. Do the math. You can’t. And until we get to the point where talented young players get paid what they’re worth, you’re just a dim-wit if you don’t take advantage of this.
I do not believe that Omar Minaya is cut out for this gig. He’s given way too many years to way too many veteran free agents on the downside of their careers. He has signed a plethora of has-beens and never-weres to big league contracts and considered it “depth” (a ton of nothing is still nothing). And in case you haven’t heard, the front office is a mess, from Tony Bernazard suddenly becoming a hosuehold name to questions regarding the aptitude of the team medical staff, there’s a lot of problems here. And I just wish that the Mets would cut the cord now before he goes and does irreperable damage to the team’s future.