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A Quiet Nod to Omar

Mike SteffanosFriday, December 29, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Two years ago, Omar Minaya seemed to attract equal parts kudos and criticism in an offseason that brought Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to Shea Stadium. While he received credit in some quarters for landing the two top free agents of the winter when none of the experts gave the Mets a shot at either going into the negotiations, Minaya was also criticized for the perception that he was impatient and impulsive and would overpay for any player he sought.

Then last year he landed Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca from the Marlins' fire sale and signed Billy Wagner to a huge contract. Again there is praise in some quarters, and again some criticism for being an impetuous spendthrift with the perception that he overpaid in money or talent for all.

This offseason there was consensus that the Mets needed to shore up their rotation by landing Barry Zito, no matter what it took. While Minaya and company insisted that they wouldn't overpay beyond the internal value they placed on the young southpaw, the pundits all insisted this was a ploy to hold the price down. But when the Mets did indeed allow Zito to chase the crazy money elsewhere, now you get the perception from the local media that Minaya and the Mets "lost" this offseason, as if only a willingness to be outspend the Giants for Zito qualified as a success. As for me, I defer to frequent commenter "dd" who voiced my feelings quite well in a comment he left yesterday:

... at that price I am also glad the Mets let Barry Zito get away. I know that it's clearly been a seller's market for baseball talent this winter, particularly for pitching. I simply believe that it makes no sense to follow that trend beyond the point of reasonable return to capital.

I guess we're going to see it every few years: the economy has a few years of sustained growth, baseball somehow doesn't shoot itself in the foot with a strike or a scandal, with the result of numerous teams with a lot of money to invest in their immediate future. And every time it happens, it's as if someone just gave a teenager a platinum card; the spending is wild, erratic, and mostly nonproductive. No one seems to remember that money spent today will come out of future revenues.

Why it matters is simple: spending all that money foolishly limits a team's ability to maneuver in the future. It can stick a franchise with a collection of aging nonproductive players with no recourse but to play out the string with them. There is a perfect example in Colorado, now just coming out of the self-inflicted dive created by the contracts handed out to Denny Neagle, Mike Hampton, Larry Walker and Todd Helton. Good players, all; only the two pitchers went south almost at once, Larry Walker averaged 462 at bats over the course of his five year, $50+ million deal (Cliff Floyd averaged 471 PA's in his Mets years), and even Helton's talents showed serious decline as he passed the 30 year mark. Now, finally, the Rockies are showing signs of life; but it's the kids who are leading the way, not any of those guys.

Not for my Mets. When the market goes crazy, sane people stay away. My respect for Omar grows daily.

What I will never understand is how the owners go along with the feeding frenzy. These owners didn't get into the position of being owners by being stupid; yet we see evidence of stupidity nearly everywhere we look this winter. I am happy that the Mets are an exception.

We'll leave the Giants fans to decide whether such a large commitment to a number two starter is ultimately worth it, and wish Zito and the San Francisco faithful well. I don't need to see him fall on his face to justify my team's decision to pass on the southpaw.

Some of you reading these words are despondent that the Mets are likely heading into the season as underdogs in the National League and even the division. You may even subscribe to the theory that that Mets were losers this winter. As for me, I'm not afraid of my team coming up short in 2007 if it makes them better equipped to improve going forward.

Whether he gets credit for it or not, I feel pretty good that my team has a GM who won't sacrifice the future for a little better chance of winning now. I've seen a million quick fixes or signings that seemed to have more to do with p.r. than the long-term success of the team. I'm not inclined to trust Mets GMs after being burned so many times, so it is often with quite a bit of surprise I find myself feeling more and more comfortable with Omar Minaya every day.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm as competitive as anyone, and it will bother me if the Mets take a step back this year due to such a young and unproven starting rotation. Despite all of the practice I've had as I approach four decades of following this team, losing still sucks big-time. But if it gives this club the best chances of being a winner going forward, I'll suck it up and be an adult. And I wouldn't bet against this team finding a way to win with what they have now.

In any case, you only have to look at the other team in town to understand that spending the most money and chasing the big names may get you a lot of offseason back pages, but it doesn't win you championships.

So take your lumps, Omar, as so many who couldn't build a winner in fantasy baseball take shots at you for what you didn't do this winter. Their disapproval will be loudly played out on talk radio shows and in tabloid columns. Don't mistake this racket for a consensus among the faithful. As I've said many times here, the people that don't boo make a lot less noise than the people that do. I'm grateful we have a General Manager who cares more about winning than getting pats on the back.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (6)

The only reason people think the 2007 rotation will be a disaster compared to the 2006 version is because there was no Zito available last year. People are looking at what could have been, not what actually is...

Zito is not an option going into 2007, but Maine, Pelfrey, Humber, Perez, and even Dave Williams weren't realistic options going into 2006. There was no upside to speak of last year, but that was fine because there was no Zito to be had either. Upside is a word that's been foreign to Met pitching for almost a decade...

Kudos to both you and dd. On Metsblog too was the comments by Omar that a longterm deal past 5 yrs was never an option. That really rang true to me. Of all pitchers EVER to sign a longterm deal past 5 yrs I can recall NO-ONE ever panning out. As was pointed out Hampton, Neagle, Kevin Brown come to mind and all were disasters. Some other noteworthy albatrosses include Dreifort, Chan Ho Park, Brad Penny, Kevin Millwood. I think only Greg Maddux has earned his FA pay.

I cannot agree more with Omar on this one.

well said, mike, and i completely agree with you, as i'm sure you know by now...i will take it one step further and say that i would not like to see omar trade any of our young arms to get a mediocre pitcher this year...lets wait it out and maybe even get the "right" zambrano next year - i'm never a fan of mortgaging the future...lets give guys some time to develop and you never know what happens around the july 31st trade deadline when teams see where they are and things really start to shake out...the young arms should be hungry and eager to learn from peterson and i'm willing to take my chances with them - more so than with a 7 year contract for a pitcher who i don't even consider to be an ace...the game isn't played on paper in the offseason - its played on the field where the size of the contract and the big names often mean very little...and ya know what - for all we know zito couldn't have handled the ny spotlight and pressure...one last small point - not signing zito takes a lot of pressure off of us to win it all and i prefer it that way...happy new year!!!

Before F/As, the best team won with thier home grown and maybe a trade now and then.The way the money is going up and up, I can see more smart and patient teams winning with home grown stars. I also agree with you and tip my hat to the "o Man" for standing his ground. I know a trade may come I just hope we don't give away to much. I trust our GM to do the right thing.

Bren - I think the rotation will be better than many expect, too.
Ed - It's funny to hear so much criticism for Omar for "letting Zito slip away." The people who are the most negative would be the first to find fault if the Mets had signed Z to a 7 year deal and he got hurt.
Joyce - Amen, and Happy New Year to you, too.
Rev - You know the Mets didn't sign any free agents during the 80s. A lot of people forget George Foster came over in a trade.


Joyce; The Cubs wont let Zambrano walk, above Metsblog already have put Johan Santana out there, let me dare say Pelfrey and Milledge for santana...shades of Frankie V.

I for one think Carp, Humber, F-Mart, and possibly Gomez are 'untouchable'. The only reason I'd dangle Milledge is the fact Gomez and fmart are right behind him and C-beltran in front. ditto Pelfrey. With Deolis-Devaney-Humber as depth i am not opposed to dealing Pelfrey for a quality arm such as Santana.

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