By Mike Steffanos
If former Mets' Genereal Manager Steve Phillips had his way, he would have traded away not one but both of the young cornerstones of this franchise.
Last July, Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun offered up this piece of information:
In late July of 2002 the Blue Jays were nearing the end of the line with outfielder Jose Cruz Jr.
Cruz owned a .227 batting average at the break with 13 homers and 45 RBIs.
Finally, they found someone with interest in Cruz.
The New York Mets said they would take Cruz, offering a minor-leaguer playing his first full season at class-A.
Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi decided against taking the minor-leaguer for Cruz...
The Jays held on to Cruz, who finished the 2002 season with a .245 average, 18 homers and 70 RBIs. After the season the Jays decided not to tender Cruz a contract and he signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants.
That class-A kid? ... You may have seen him at Tuesday's all-star game -- and on a hundred or so highlight clips -- as he grew up to be all-star third baseman David Wright.
Just in case you think this was some sort of aberration on Phillips' part, check out this item from Joel Sherman in today's New York Post:
If you think the Roberto Alomar trade was a disaster for the Mets, you should know it could have been worse. Far, far worse.
An official who was involved in the discussions that led to that Dec. 11, 2001 deal said that one of the players the Mets made available to Cleveland was a Low-A shortstop named Jose Reyes. The official said the Indians liked Reyes, but simply did not have enough information from their South Atlantic League scouts to make an 18-year-old with just two pro seasons the key player in the deal rather than Alex Escobar.
The Mets dodged more than one bullet while Steve Phillips was the GM of this club. Thank God he has taken his "skills" over to ESPN, where he can criticize the moves of real baseball men. Phillips gets credit from some for presiding over the club when they drafted Wright and Reyes, but this latest information underscores the absolute low regard Phillips had for young talent. The best thing that Phillips did for the Mets was making enough dumb moves to get himself fired before he could do real, lasting damage to the team. Jeez, what a dope...
Another call to dump a player
In the Daily News, Bill Madden weighs in on the Duaner Sanchez situation:
... even if this little tempest in the otherwise business-like Mets camp has been put to rest, it has raised serious questions about Sanchez and whether he is worth keeping around once the separated shoulder he suffered in that taxi-cab accident last July is finally rehabilitated. It was, after all, supposed to be pretty much healed and pitching-ready by the time spring training commenced. That was what Randolph and Minaya expected - and they had every right to be dismayed at the sight of Sanchez arriving in camp some 15 pounds overweight.
... When will Sanchez be ready? Before Guillermo Mota's 50-game suspension is up? It doesn't matter. Whenever he is ready, the Mets should just get rid of him. The big picture - the work ethic and professionalism Randolph has instilled here - is what really matters.
As Madden documents in this story, Sanchez has a pattern of behavior in his career of liking the nightlife and showing up late. It's fairly obvious that he lacks the self-motivation that drives the really great players. I won't gloss over the fact that Sanchez frustrated the team with the lack of effort he put into his rehabilitation. Perhaps it is even in the long term best interests of the team to eventually trade Sanchez. What doesn't make sense is for the team to "just get rid of him."
As I mentioned many times this winter when the media was pushing the club to take whatever it could get for Lastings Milledge, good organizations resist the urge to deal ballplayers when their value is low. Even after Sanchez proves that he can retire major league batters it's hard to imagine he could command anything close to equal value in a deal. If Sanchez had demonstrated that he was a bad person and clubhouse cancer, than I would agree with Madden. It's not like Sanchez has been a constant source of controversy since coming over last year. It seems to me that Willie Randolph and the veteran leadership of this ballclub have taken the proper approach with Duaner Sanchez.
Remember over the winter when we repeatedly read that Milledge would never fit into the Mets clubhouse, and that the club's insistence that they still believed in Lastings was just posturing? That talk has died down, and I'm pretty sure this latest controversy will, too. Randolph does a good job of managing people, and he understands that you have to push different buttons with all of your ballplayers. The Mets recognized that Sanchez' attitude had started to become a problem and dealt with it quickly and decisively. If Omar and Willie believe that the situation has been resolved, I trust their judgment. I'm 48 years old, and fairly "old school" in my attitudes, but this makes no sense to me. The "dump Sanchez" movement might play well to the Chris Russos of the world, but it's not in the best interests of this ballclub.