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The Pretend GM Speaks

Mike SteffanosSaturday, March 3, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

I've been a Mets fan since 1969. There have been some good times and a whole lot more lean times. Steve Phillips' tenure as Mets General Manager offered a sampling of both.

When Steve replaced Joe McIlvaine in 1997 he was taking over a club that had fallen hard since their late 1980s heyday, but was in the process of bouncing back in Bobby Valentine's first year at the helm. That's important to take note of, because I've seen Phillips receive unwarranted credit for bringing the club back to respectability that more properly belongs to Valentine.

Steve Phillips loved to make deals, and it seemed that players were always coming and going under his watch. He gets some credit for building the club that made the playoffs in both 1999 and 2000, but he also has to take some blame for the rapid decline of the club in 2001 and 2002. He managed to outlast Valentine in New York by a few months before being replaced by Jim Duquette in June of 2003. I thought it was a telling reminder of Phillips' time in control that when the Mets decided to tear it all down that June there were very few worthwhile players in system that were ready to be brought up. 20-year-old Jose Reyes was the best of them.

After GM by committee failed in 2004, Omar Minaya was hired and brought with him both a flair for immediately upgrading the team and a vision for the future -- which is something that's been lacking here for a long time. Meanwhile, Bobby Valentine, a true baseball man, went to Japan and had success as a manager there. Steve Phillips, on the other hand, was hired by ESPN, which occasionally allows him to pretend to be the savvy baseball executive that he truly never was. Sometimes he even gets to criticize real baseball men like Omar Minaya. You have to appreciate the irony.

Some Mets fans are angry with Phillips for confidently asserting the Mets starting pitching will fail them en route to a third-place finish in the NL East. As for me, I can only be grateful that he is in Bristol, CT rather than Flushing, NY. How does that old saying go? Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't even teach get jobs on television. Hasta la vista, Steve.

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 (8)

The most important reason why Omar was able to be good at it is because he had someone who not only told him to do it, but he will also pay for it.

Lets not forget that was the time that FW was getting his own network system going. And he needed a winner to make that work. Especially since the Yanks network was his competition.

Well said Mike. We should all be relieved, no matter what outcome 2007 holds for our Mets, that Steve Phillips was not at the helm this most dangerous of offseasons. Rest assured if he were, we would have almost certainly invested 130 million dollars into Barry Zito, with Mike Pelfrey and Lastings Milledge both impressing in White Sox camp while Freddy Garcia put on the orange and blue. Who knows what else Steve would have done?

This is not to say that the Phillies, Braves and Marlins are not good. Quite the contrary. I respect their teams and expect a great deal of competition this year. But to criticize Minaya for showing some restraint during an offseason that played out like a GMs gone wild video (over $628 million spent on pitching) is plain stupid. We may not have acquired a big name, but quite frankly, I am much happier with and much more confident in the young talent Minaya protected from the storm of bad baseball decisions this winter.

I wonder what Phillips will say when all of these now insanely wealthy pitchers, from Zito to Meche, pitch exactly as they have for the past 3 years - a smidge above mediocre. Maybe it's not fair to put Zito quite in that category, but I think the Giants may do just that when come mid-season he has amassed 7 wins and $9 million in salary for a team fighting for 3rd place in the NL West.

I think Phillips is not bad on espn... just keep him away from Shea.. Omar is great and Im happy hes on the team...

ESPN is increasingly unwatchable for me. Too much schtick is like dumping a bottle of dressing on a salad, bottle of ketchup on a burger, etc. If my enjoyment of baseball hinges on the "enhancement" provided by some clown who loudly exaggerates Hispanic names like some 3rd-rate comedian doing a poor man's Ricky Ricardo impersonation, I need to pick another sport to get excited about.

Do they do the same with players from Korea or Japan? Nope. Give me any local channel's sports guy over those ESPN knuckleheads any day. The MLB channel can't get here fast enough.

fredsaid - Sorry, but if your premise is that Phillips could have been a great GM if he had some more money, I'm not with you. They were spending pretty good when Phillips was GM.
Salman - I was thinking the same thing about the best prospects being somewhere else if Phillips was still here.
Bean - I don't mind him on ESPN that much, either. I just get shivers when I imagine him still running the Mets.
geezer - compared to FOX, ESPN is at least tolerable.


You bring up some sour memories. But just to add to the debate;
1. SP was hired because Joe Mc REFUSED to trade Lance johnson, Mark Clark and ? for Mel Rojas, Turk and Brian McRae. Joe was right. Mel and McRae derailed the Mets while LJ and clark vaulted the cubs into contention.
2. Yes SP took credit, but I think he did alot of good. Note as we bring Omar into the discussion, that HE was SP's right hand UNTIL going to Montreal. WHEN Omar left, SP proceeded to make a number of the disatrous acquisition that contributed to his downfall. Please correct me if I miss something, but in 2002 Omar left to GM the Expos, who were supposed to be in their last season before contraction. The move was heralded by media experts including Gammons who lauded Omar much as he does Epstein. Mike, we have seen extensive analysis of SP's trades but in retrospect, how much does Omar deserve credit for the Pizza trade, the Al Leiter & denis cook trade, the signing of Orel Hershiser, The trade for mike Hampton? It is magnified now that post Omar we saw the Kazmir trade (not SP), the ultra disastrous 2002 trades (SP's last), in which Thomson was acquired for Payton, (payton hit .400 the rest of the season-thomson lost every game), and Jason Bay for Steve Reed- a trade contrary to Omar's MO.

Ed - Phillips did do some good as GM, but I do give Valentine much more credit than Phillips for turning the club around. Bobby V could be a difficult guy to work with, but he could make a team believe in itself -- at least until he eventually wears out his welcome.

I do believe if Steve was a real baseball guy he would be back in the game trying to prove the Mets were wrong to fire him. Instead he is on tv taking shots at them.

Mike- I was a Phillips fan. And I disliked BV's ego. But in retrospect I did give SP too much credit...

On BV's side, I remember Kevin Appier (who pitched very well late in 2001), give credit to BV who said the Mets were still in it and not to pack it in. By what he said, it appeared BV had his head in the game and the big picture.

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