By Mike Steffanos
I've been busy with these bullpen previews (Guillermo Mota coming later tonight), and for the most part I've stayed away from commenting on news items, but I found Jon Heyman's NL report card for SI.com interesting. As I'm sure you already know from reading some of the other blogs, Heyman assigned Omar Minaya a "D" grade for the off-season:
They improved the offense with the signing of accomplished professional hitter Moises Alou and helped a bullpen that's going to get its work with the pickups of Ambiorix Burgos and Scott Schoeneweis and, yes, the re-signing of a presumably unjuiced Guillermo Mota. However, they have held so tightly to their money (they were outbid by $51 million for Zito) and prospects that they appear likely to start the season with a rotation of very old and very young.
The problem we have here is that the increased scrutiny of MLB's off-season has created this viewpoint of teams somehow winning and losing the winter. Should I have been happier if the Mets had outbid San Francisco if the Zito contract had proven to be an albatross for the next seven years? Should the Mets have traded their high-ceiling prospects for average pitchers? Perhaps Omar Minaya has is trying to do what he can to win this year without sacrificing the future -- something the Mets have tragically done over and over for more than 15 years. Maybe that doesn't get high grades from sportswriters, but it does from me.
Meanwhile, the Cubs get an A- from Heyman for an off-season that not only guarantees them nothing for 2007, but likely ensures some bad days down the road. The Cardinals have serious rotation questions for 2007, but somehow they earn a B. San Francisco gets a B- because they opened the vault for Zito, I guess.
I'm not making fun of Jon Heyman here. I often don't agree with him, going back to his time with Newsday, but I enjoy reading him. I have an issue with this whole trend to evaluate off-seasons based on the thought that any improvement is desirable no matter what the cost. Omar has taken his lumps lately. Ken Rosenthal is good for one a week, and Buster Olney has taken a few potshots. It's a tough time to be a GM.
Here's a scenario: say that Omar had done what he has been criticized for not doing. If he opened up the vault for Zito and traded away top prospects for a guy like Joe Blanton, and those prospects blossomed while the Mets faltered. (A) Do Rosenthal and Olney write a column about how wrong they were when they were pushing for these moves, or (B) do they kill Omar for making the moves? I'm thinking "B" myself. It's a lot easier to be a writer than a major league GM.
I think Omar has done the right thing, and I'm comfortable with it. If everything goes great and the young guys step up to lead this rotation this year that doesn't make him any smarter, and if it goes bad with the starting pitching that doesn't make him dumber. Like a good poker player, he took the hand he was dealt this winter and made the most of it. Agree or disagree with it -- that's the fun of being a fan.
I'm a little nervous heading into the season, I admit, but I'm also looking forward to it -- which is why I've spent quite a few hours writing these pitching previews. I can't wait to see how it all plays out. There may not be much in the way of "sure things" heading into the year, but there is a ton of talent. I think back to 2004 when there was so little here, and I appreciate the contrast. Any time you have talent you have a chance to do something, and not just in 2007 but beyond.
Fantasy Camp Blog
Life-long Mets fan Eric Brown will be attending the Mets Fantasy Camp in Port St. Lucie that begins Friday. He will be blogging the experience at New York Mets Fantasy Camp - Return to Mecca. Check it out.