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.