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It's Time for Someone to Be an Adult

Mike SteffanosFriday, June 27, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Being a true leader demands the ability to make truly tough decisions. Often the right decision is not the popular one.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has taken a lot of heat in the local papers for electing to go with young players this season. At least until the season started, Omar Minaya received a lot of praise for making the deal for Johan Santana.

It's turned around a bit now. The Mets can't seem to sustain a run that lasts longer than a few games. The best bet right now is that neither team is more likely than not to make the playoffs this season, but it's hard to find anyone with an unbiased opinion who doesn't believe the Yankees farm system puts them in much more solid position to compete for titles going forward after 2008.

While the Mets have some prospects, it's hard to see how Omar Minaya has improved things down on the farm. Their talent evaluation is still being questioned, he's traded away most of the young prospects who have a chance to contribute significantly at the major league level, and a slavish adherence to the commissioner's slotting guidelines -- admittedly not Minaya's decision -- has worked against efforts to restock.

While spending money to sign older free agents and trading away talent, Minaya has always insisted that the long-term goal was a productive farm system. Given the current MLB economy that allows small market teams to hold onto their best young players longer, and the success of teams like the Red Sox and Diamondbacks, this really seems to be the only way for any club -- no matter how much revenue is available -- to compete going forward.

For the most part I have been a supporter of Omar Minaya in this space. However, I think it's time to put or shut up. Minaya needs to prove that he can build the player pipeline that will allow the Mets to be a successful franchise for more than a year or two at a time.

This means the ability to make tough evaluations of whether people that you personally like are the best man or woman for the job they are doing. It means making the choice to avoid the splashy deal that everyone is calling for because you recognize it's not in the best interest of the team. It means sometimes taking a gamble on young talent rather than always going with the proven veteran.

The Mets seem, yet again, to be sliding down a familiar path where they try to sustain moderate success by ignoring the future. As has happened in the past, these moves seem more fueled by desperation than wisdom.

When Minaya was hired after the 2004 season the Mets were in a familiar place as laughingstocks of baseball. He gets a lot of credit from this writer for turning it around. However, it's time for Omar to prove that he is more than the right guy for 2005. Steve Phillips did some good things for a while, too, but ultimately was the wrong guy for the long-term. Minaya is starting to remind me of Phillips in his last years.

Whatever can be said about the Wilpons, there is little doubt that they sincerely want to win. Sadly, though, they don't seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Omar's style as a GM seems rooted in the 1990s when quality free agents were plentiful, as were teams looking to dump salaries. I have serious doubts as the whether he can be the architect of the sort of productive scouting and development system demanded by the current reality.

Someone has to be an adult here. Minaya is a nice guy and a real hometown success story, but if he isn't the right GM to win with going forward he should be shown the door. I personally hope that he can deliver on his promises to build a top system, even as every day I believe him a little less.

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 (3)

I agree, you have stated this before and the Mets truly need to invest in their minor league system. They need to begin with putting together a good scouting program. Follow that up with a player development plan, hiring the right the right personel to teach fundamental baseball. I would say add a strength & conditioning program, and an outreach program for young & foreign players advising them on Major League life and living in the U.S.. I think this would provide an outstanding foundation to building a consistent line of MLB ready players, not just prospects that could help the "Big" club and keep the club contending year after year.

Is it not amazing how many GM's have some but not all of the necessary strengths to bring home a winner? I'm thinking of Terry Ryan, whose ability to develop players could cause me to drool with envy if I was the drooling type. But Ryan, for all that ability hasn't seemed to recognize the importance of a batter getting on base; too, the Twins have usually had a chronic shortage of power sources. Of course the Twinks got fleeced by the Devil Rays last winter in that big deal. And yet I think of Ryan as a near-great General Manager, keeping his team in the running despite those suffocating, ever-present spending constraints.

It's a tough job, entailing many disparate talents if it is to be done well. Most of us don't have such a collection of talents.

L.J. - I guess I hit this theme so hard because I really believe in it, and I really think I'm starting to see the Mets head in the wrong direction.
dd - True. I'd take a real player development right now, though, and live with his shortcomings.

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