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Rating the Season: GM Omar Minaya (Part 2)

Mike SteffanosMonday, October 10, 2005
By Mike Steffanos


Note: this is Part 2 of a two-part post. For Part 1, please click here.

In our last post we discussed the cost, both visible and hidden, of bringing a Manny Ramirez to Shea. In a way we have probably exceeded the scope of what we were writing about: trying to evaluate Omar Minaya on the 2005 season. My point here is simply that after hearing many interviews with Omar over the course of the season I can not say with any certainty what his true philosophy will be as the General Manager of the New York Mets. Although he is thought of as (and has proclaimed himself) a believer in home-grown talent, he has a track record of chasing big names. Actually, considering what was going on with the Expos while he was GM, he doesn't really have a useful track record at all.

Spend money wisely, Omar...

I am not against the Mets acquiring talent from outside the organization. I do not see the Mets operating as a small market team in the manner of the Twins or the A's. But the Mets aren't the Yankees, either, and have never been successful when they have tried to buy their way to success. They will never have the revenue stream that the Yankees possess, consequently the Mets will never be able to throw more money at their mistakes in the way the Yankees can.

The Mets just can not afford to be wrong very often when they spend big money on players. We've already thrown a lot of money at Beltran and Pedro -- now you're talking another 20 million per for Manny. We're already wondering if Beltran is worth the $17 million per that he's getting. What if Manny realizes that he's a chubby guy moving into his mid-30s and begins his decline?

I just believe that a creative General Manager that has money to spend can find a way to bring in talent to this organization without blowing most of the bankroll on just a handful of players. For $20 million per year I'd like to see us upgrade with more than one guy. I want Omar to be the kind of General Manager that is smarter than Steve Phillips. I want him to be the guy that builds a successful organization for more than just 3 years. I just still have no idea who he truly is.

Please: more than just lip service to developing our kids

There is little doubt that, other than the Yankees, the most successful teams over the long term have farm systems that produce for them. In an interview on WFAN the last week of the season Omar alluded to the need to beef up our own system to compete with the Braves and Phillies in particular. In early September the Mets made a major shakeup to their scouting staff, outright firing some scouts and reassigning others. Although the system has produced Wright, Reyes and a handful of other major leaguers, it is generally conceded among experts that the Mets system is quite thin in talent. Outside of a handful of players like Milledge and Petite their just isn't much there.

Omar can't be held responsible for what has happened before he came here, but he is absolutely responsible for what happens now. When you sign free agents you lose draft picks as compensation; the Mets had no second and third round picks in 2002 (they signed Weathers and Cedeno), 2003 (Floyd and Glavine), and 2005 (Pedro and Beltran). You also spend money that won't be available to sign draft picks.

Case in point -- Why was Jacobs such a shock?

It annoys me when I read something that says basically that Mike Jacobs came out of nowhere this year. He was drafted in 1999 fairly late as a guy who was very promising as a hitter but lacked a position defensively. Like most young guys he had ups and downs, but established himself as a promising hitter with good power, a decent eye and a willingness to go to the opposite field -- pretty much what we've seen.

In 2003 he batted .329 at Binghamton in his first run at AA, with 17 HRs and 81 RBIs in just over 400 ABs. The following year after promotion to AAA Norfolk he sustained a shoulder injury that required surgery and caused him to miss the season. It was the Mets decision to send him back to AA to learn 1B. He certainly didn't have anything left to prove at that level.

My point is that some teams, such as Atlanta, would look at a kid like Jacobs and see an opportunity. They would nurture his eventual success. Why does it seem as if Mike Jacobs eventually is a successful big-leaguer -- and I do realize he still has to prove that -- it will be despite the Mets' player development system that seems to have written him off, not because of it?

I don't know what type of players Lastings Milledge, Brian Bannister and Yusmeiro Petit will become. I don't pretend there aren't trades out there that make sense for us to give up these chips. Trade them wisely though, if you must, because there aren't many in the system.

It will take at least 5 years to build a successful system if Omar and his team do everything right. He won't be getting this grade for a while. Hell, he might not even be here in five years. That's why the easiest thing for a GM to do is to be a Steve Phillips, trading away the farm for proven players. It's easier defend landing a Manny Ramirez, even if he falls on his face, than building something with kids who may or may not become players. The problem is that you never build something that lasts in this manner, which is why the Mets have been so bad so often. I have hopes, based on his own words, that Omar has more courage and vision than those that have gone before him.

The times, they are a-changing

It used to be that when a team like Minnesota developed a Johan Santana, or Milwaukee developed a Ben Sheets, large-market teams could count on the fact that he would be available to them as he approached free-agency. Luxury tax and revenues sharing have enabled teams like the Twins and the Brewers to keep guys like that now. I have to believe that trend will only continue -- possibly with a salary cap down the road.

Even today it's getting harder and harder for contending teams to land a piece of the puzzle as the trade deadline approaches, with so many teams still in contention and so few guys available. Hardly anything happened this year. The few teams willing to part with anything valuable wanted your first-born son in return. Again, since small market teams don't need to engage in fire sales anymore, that trend is likely to continue, also.

It will be vital, even for the large market teams -- yes, even for the Yankees -- to be able to produce their own players, to have young players ready to step in when needed, to provide their own help. Even the Red Sox, formerly the Yankees chief rival in buying a pennant, have quietly built a real farm system that is ready to help as they decide how many expensive free agents they need to re-sign.

It's going to take a different style of management than the Mets have seen before for the Mets to be competitive in the new reality of baseball. Omar will be a huge part of that. If he is what I think and hope that he is -- a man with guts and vision -- he can be the cornerstone of a new day for this organization. If not, he'll be another schmuck that couldn't turn the Mets around. They can team him on ESPN with Steve Phillips while the guy who takes his place is left with the mess. I don't know, maybe it's wishful thinking on my part but I'll bet on Omar.


Next...

A final look back at the season.

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