Now that Mets General Manager Omar Minaya and Manager Jerry Manuel have officially been relieved of their duties, I thought it would be of interest to break down the history of our embattled ex-GM. In this series, the good, the bad and the ugly of Omar's reign of terror will be explored.
I encourage you to read on after the jump and participate and share your memories, as well as correct me where my mind may have slipped up or blocked something out.
Click here to read Part I: From Humble Beginnings (2004-2005 Offseason)
Click here to read Part II: The Quest for Respectability (The 2005 Season)
Click here to read Part III: Putting on the Finishing Touches (The 2005-2006 Offseason)
Click Here to read Part IV: Destiny, Destiny (No Escaping That for Me!) (The 2006 Season)
Part V: Where Do We Go From Here? (The 2007 Offseason)
As we all know, the 2006 Mets season came to a painful end in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series versus the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. Mets fans could not believe that their team of destiny, the team that mauled its way through the National League all season, could actually be defeated by an 83 win Cardinals team that featured the likes of Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan and Anthony Reyes making up 3/4 of the rotation. Unfortunately, the vaunted Mets offense hit a cold spell, the league best bullpen showed some cracks in the armor late in games and just like that, the season was over. As broken-hearted as Mets fans were, though, there was a sort of a calm over the fanbase. This team won 97 games and looked poised for improvement headed into 2007. 2006 seemed to be the beginning of a big run--John Maine had established himself as a young, cheap middle of the rotation pitcher, they had two young OF prospects on the cusp of the majors in Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez and a SP in RH Mike Pelfrey, who's rapid development culminated in a cup of coffee with the big league team in 2006. David Wright and Jose Reyes had breakout seasons and Carlos y Carlos looked as good as ever, with Beltran making an MVP bid and Delgado knocking 38 balls out of the park. And Omar Minaya seemed to be the king of finding the right players on the market for cheap to fill in the gaps. The fans felt that with the correct moves, this was a team that would be in it for the long haul and would win another division crown.
At the beginning of the offseason, the Mets saw a few important players hit free agency. LF Cliff Floyd, RHP Steve Trachsel, side-arming RH Chad Bradford, RH Roberto Hernandez and LH Darren Oliver would all be allowed to seek employment elsewhere and PItchers Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez and Guillermo Mota would hit the market before eventually resigning with the team. El Duque was the first to resign with the team, agreeing to a 2 year contract worth $12 million. The acquisition of El Duque proved to be shrewd up until the playoffs began, as the somewhere between 35-50 year old Hernandez missed the entire postseason after injuring a calf muscle jogging before his first start. While the overall cost of the deal wasn't awful at 6 million per year, the two years were a bit mind boggling for a fragile, older pitcher.
Tom Glavine resigned with the team on a 1 year contract in December after flirting for a little while with his old team, the Atlanta Braves. Then in December, late season bullpen savior Guillermo Mota was resigned by the club to a two year, $5 million contract, despite being suspended for 50 games over a month earlier for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. To bring back Mota after this suspension was brought to light did not sit well with a number of Mets fans and to sign him for two years while coming off of a couple of dreadful seasons (save for August and September of 2006) was certainly a bit of a head scratcher. Minaya's mishandling of the bullpen became a big theme of this offseason and will be discussed more in depth later on.
On November 15th, Minaya made his first of three trades that he completed in the offseason, dealing RH Heath Bell and LH Royce Ring to the San Diego Padres for RH Jon Adkins and OF Ben Johnson. This move was a bit curious but overall was not seen as an impact move at the time. Ring and Bell (how appropriate) had seen a good amount of big league time with the Mets to little success, while Adkins was a non-descript 29 year old reliever. Only Johnson seemed to have some interesting potential, as he was considered to be a toolsy OF who the Padres had soured on. This may have been a case of the proverbial "change of scenery" for all involved and the lesson here is that this type of trade should not be made just for the "change of scenery" reason. At the same time, though, it is good practice to deal bullpen pitchers for everyday players with potential. Just make sure that the guy you deal doesn't become an all-star closer within 2 years.
The second deal of the offseason involved flamethrowing relievers Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens being dealt to the Florida Marlins in exchange for lefty SP prospects Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick. On the surface, this didn't look to be a bad move for the Mets. Lindstrom and Owens were older relievers and were both Rule V eligible and likely to be taken, so the Mets made sure to get something for them. Vargas had big league experience in 2005 and 06 with decent results and Bostick had reached AAA as a 23 year old with decent results. Finally, the third deal came on December 6th and this one was truly confusing. After dealing all of these relievers away, Minaya acquired RH reliever Ambiorix Burgos from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RH starter Brian Bannister. Banny had made the rotation out of ST in 2006 and pitched well enough before an injury sidelined him for most of the season but to deal a decent back end starter for a reliever was confusing, even if Burgos threw hard. What these moves did was completely rob the team of bullpen depth in 2007. Minaya realized that he had a strength to deal from and tried to capitalize on it, which is the right thing to do. However, he went overboard, dealing nearly all of it for marginal players that did nothing for the big league club in 2007 or beyond. Out of all these guys, Burgos appeared in the most games for the Mets with a total of 17, all coming in 2007 before he went under the knife for Tommy John Surgery and then eventually went crazy and was thrown in jail soon after. Johnson appeared in 9 uninspiring games, Vargas appeared in 2 games and Adkins appeared in just 1. Bostick was in the Mets organization the longest of these players, through 2009, but never appeared in a big league game for the team. On the other side, Bell has turned into an all star closer, Ring has bounced around as replacement level LOOGY, Bannister has done a decent job at the back of the Royals rotation and Lindstrom has pitched decently in the pen for the Marlins and Astros.
With the loss of Cliff Floyd to free agency, Omar Minaya went shopping for a LF. On November 21st, the Mets agreed to terms with 40 year old Moises Alou on a 1 year contract with an option for a 2nd season. In a vacuum, Alou was the right handed threat that the lineup needed. In reality, though, Alou was a 40 year old OF who has always been bitten by the injury bug. There was no question Alou could still hit...the question was could he stay on the field? The other question asked by many was "is it wise to give up a first round pick for the Type A free agent Alou?" especially since he was likely to not be offered arbitration by the Giants on December 1st, making him free to sign with a team without having to give SF compensation.
It was undeniable that Chad Bradford played a huge role in the Mets bullpen success in 2006. When Bradford signed prior to the season, he'd received little fanfare but by the end of the year, he was a commodity to a number of teams. The Mets decided to let he and Darren Oliver test free agency and look for their replacements on the market, just the way they had found them the year before. Mets fans were okay with letting the veteran Oliver walk as there was some doubt that he could replicate his season. Bradford was a different story though and in late November, news came that the Baltimore Orioles were willing to offer Bradford a 3 year contract worth around $10 million. The Mets had offered two years and thought it over, before deciding to stand firm with their offer and let him leave. Two months later, the team still had a void in the pen and in order to fill it, they threw a 3 year contract worth $10.5 million at LOOGY Scott Schoeneweis. Mets fans jumped all over the move from the beginning and rightly so. Schoeneweis was clearly an inferior pitcher and it seemed obvious that Minaya panicked in giving out this deal. Meanwhile, Oliver was replaced by veteran RH Aaron Sele, another mediocre starter turned reliever late in his career.
Other moves include the signing of INF Damion Easley who proved to be a solid bench player for two seasons, inept UT David Newhan, RH Jorge Sosa, RH Chan Ho Park and C Robinson Cancel. The Mets lost C Jesus Flores in the Rule V draft to the Washington Nationals. Flores was left unprotected as the Mets felt that he would not be taken, since he only completed the season in A+ St. Lucie. Finally, the Mets resigned 2B Jose Valentin to a 1 year deal worth $5 million with an option for a second year. Valentin was a great find for the team, but to bet on him a second year would prove to be problematic for the 2007 Mets.
In Part VI of The Omar Minaya Chronicles, we will review the 2007 season in full. Things got off to a rip-roaring start in the first two months but that all changed soon after. Look out for Part VI: Nuclear Disaster in the near future.