Five years ago, Omar Minaya was on top of the baseball world. He transformed the lowly Mets from lifeless ball club to a team that was one hit away from making the World Series. Today he finds himself on the outside looking in as the playoffs are in full effect. Even after Carlos Beltran took that third called strike to end the 2006 NLCS, the sky seemed to be the limit for Omar and the organization. However, since that play it has been one embarrassing moment after another. That is why so many of the Mets faithful are happy that the Minaya Era, and this season, in particular have come to a merciful end.
It has been apparent for quite some time that this organization has been in need of a fresh start. I have said this franchise has fallen under the “Curse of Willie” for quite some time. I understood that they felt that a change was needed two years ago. However, the way they executed that change seemed to catapult this franchise into an abyss of bad luck or a series of unfortunate circumstances. Whether it has been a rash of crazy injuries (see Ryan Church concussion, Jose Reyes’ hamstring or Beltran’s knee), mayhem in the front office (see Tony Bernazard) or the way Jerry “Machiavelli” Manuel interacted with the troops, it always seemed to be some drama in MetLand.
Now a lot of the above-referenced circumstances were not Minaya’s fault. But when you are in charge of an organization, everybody agrees that the club could have handled all of the above, including the dismissal of one Willie Randolph, much better.
All of that internal off-the-field drama should have been nipped in the bud starting with the Bernazard drama. Many felt that Bernazard turned many of the Latino players against Randolph with the hopes of replacing the embattled skipper with his good friend Manny Acta. By the time Randolph was uncermomously dismissed, Acta had taken the Washington National’s job and Minaya handed the team’s reigns over to Manuel. Now based on some of the sly comments and his facial expressions during his introductory press conference, many felt that Manuel had a hand in Willie’s demise as well. Whether that is true or not, it just reeks of the mayhem that was going on in Flushing over the past five years. One thing is for sure, Manuel should have been sent packing long before the end of this season.
He thought that he was a stand up comic instead of a MLB manager. Some of the comments that came out of his mouth just showed that he was not ready-for-prime-time. He openly questioned player’s injuries even when the medical staff stated that they were not able to play. Members of the media knew that players were being benched before the player in questioned found out. Communication was not his strength and his strategic moves were not that much better. The best thing I have to say about the Manuel Era is that I’m glad that chapter in Mets history is behind us.
That was a sample of the off-the-field issues. What transpired on the field and in the front office would have gotten most GMs and Managers fired two years ago. First, the Mets blew, not one but two, late season division leads that kept them out of the playoffs. Then they followed those collapses with two more disappointing campaigns where they were out of playoff contention by mid August.
With as much talent as they had on their roster, the Mets should have won at least two more Division Titles since 2006. I know injuries played a big part in that, but you saw how the Phillies overcame injuries to several key players and they still won the Division this year because they showed heart and possessed leaders up and down their lineup. Heart and leadership is something that has been lacking in this organization for quite some time.
You can’t tell me that Carlos Delgado did not lie down on Willie Randolph. If there was a leader in that clubhouse, Delgado would have gotten an earful from that individual at a minimum.
Then Omar came up small, very small, over the past three years when it came to free agency. Remember when Minaya first took over the Mets? He seemed to have the “Midas Touch”. He signed Pedro Martinez who breathed life into this dormant franchise. He signed Carlos Brothers, Beltran and Delgado, who both went on to have career years right off the bat. He traded for a relative unknown, John Maine, who went on to win 15 games in his first year with the club. All was well as the Metropolitans made it to the NLCS in Minaya’s third year. Then the bottom fell out.
All of the gems that Minaya brought in, including Maine, burned out. All of the key position players started getting hurt with mysterious injuries. The embattled GM refused to pull the trigger on key free agent signings and then compounded those mistakes with overpaying and re-signed their own free agents that no one else wanted. When the Mets had a chance to sign Orlando Hudson and Derek Lowe last summer, they got cold feet for some reason. By doing so, they allowed the Twins and Braves to swoop in and nab the key free agents. Then to make matters worse, the Mets re-signed Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. Tell me how those moves turned out. The Braves and Twins have been fixtures in the playoffs over the last three years while the Mets have not.
If losing two late season Division Leads was not the beginning of the end, then those two moves were the nail in the coffin for Omar. You can’t put this all on Omar. There are those who are of the opinion that the Wilpon’s, especially Jeff, vetoed some of the moves that Minaya wanted to make, including the Lowe deal. If you were willing to pay Pedro for two years you knew he would not be able to fulfill on his contract, why balk at an extra year on the Lowe deal. It is damn sure better than overpaying for Perez in a move that showed the club’s desperation last off-season. Then the general consensus is that Minaya could not do anything about Bernazard because he was Jeff’s BFF. No matter what way you look at it, Omar did not have total autonomy over the last three years and it showed.
Listen, do not cry for Omar. He is a good baseball man and he will land on his feet. Heck, he might be back with the Mets as a talent evaluator. He knows talent and has a knack for finding gems amongst the ruins. He lost control of the organization and then lost his job as a result of it.