(Bumped from FanPosts. --Eric)
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)
Part II: The Quest for Respectability (The 2005 Season)
Coming off a huge offseason in which the Mets reeled in two of baseball's biggest stars (nearly three) and some interesting complementary pieces, the Mets were primed to make some strides from where they sat at the end of the previous season. The question amongst Mets fans, however, was just how many strides they'd make. The team had somewhat of an infusion of talent acquired in the offseason, plus two burgeoning prospects on the left side of the infield in 3B David Wright and SS Jose Reyes to go along with aging stars C Mike Piazza, LF Cliff Floyd and SP Tom Glavine. On the other hand, Mets fans were wary of these signings, of these prospects and of the aging stars, as all three of these groups of players had hurt the team in recent history. Any Mets fan could tell you about the signings that didn't work out (Bobby Bonilla for instance), the prospects who's stars dimmed (Generation K) and the aging stars who aged 20 years in one season (Roberto Alomar and the 2002 Mets). For the most part, it was deemed to be a year of lower expectations with a brand new GM, a new manager learning on the job and two new cornerstones figuring out how to grind through a 162 game season for the first time.
As the season commenced, these lowered expectations suddenly seemed to not even be low enough. The season began on April 4th in Cincinnati against the Reds and things started well enough -- Pedro Martinez threw 6 solid innings allowing 3 runs and striking out 12 Reds. Carlos Beltran had 3 hits including a home run (something which became a theme of 2005 for Beltran, who hit 10 of his 16 home runs while Martinez was on the mound). The Mets had a 6-4 lead headed into the 9th inning, when closer Braden Looper came on to close it out. Looper had a solid, if unspectacular season in 2004 and was in the final year of a two year contract with the Mets. Many people had felt the team's closer role should be filled more adequately if the Mets had higher aspirations, but Minaya chose to stick with Looper and on Opening Day, that decision burned him. Looper allowed a leadoff single to Austin Kearns before giving up a two run home run to Adam Dunn to tie the game. Deadlocked at six, Looper threw one more meatball to Joe Randa who deposited the ball into the seats to send the Mets home with the first loss of the Minaya/Randolph era.
Things quickly began to spiral downward for the reconstructed Mets and before they knew it, they were in Atlanta facing off against John Smoltz with a record of 0-5, looking to stave off their second consecutive sweep to begin the season. It was pointed out that Mike Piazza had given Willie Randolph a victory cigar to be smoked after his first win. As the Mets looked to salvage this game, the cigar still was fresh inside the wrapper. The matchup on April 10th pitted Smoltz against Pedro Martinez, making his second start for the Mets. The hated Braves scratched out a run in the 4th inning against Martinez, who was dominant all day. Pedro allowed just a run on 2 hits while striking out 9 but the Mets found themselves down 1-0 headed into the eighth inning. After a single by Jose Reyes and a sacrifice bunt by Miguel Cairo, Carlos Beltran stepped to the plate and launched a pitch from Smoltz down the right field line for a two-run home run to give the Mets a lead they would not relinquish. The Mets eventually won 6-1, Willie Randolph finally was able to smoke his cigar and the Beltran home run set the Mets off on a 6 game winning streak.
One of the biggest themes for the 2005 Mets was their streakiness, as they seemingly were at or within a few games of the .500 mark all season long. To go along with their streakiness was something else that had been missing in recent years -- the team had fight late in their games and came back a number of times late in games. Another theme included the number of different players who were signed to minor league contracts who contributed to the team. Throughout Omar Minaya's tenure, he was known to sign his fair share of low risk, high reward type players to minor league/inexpensive contracts and in 2005, many of these panned out. Some of these players included backup C Ramon Castro, backup IF Chris Woodward, UT/PH Marlon Anderson, LHP Dae-Sung Koo, RHP Juan Padilla and RHP Roberto Hernandez who all played important roles on the team. In particular, Anderson and Koo are remembered for specific moments during their tenures. For Anderson, it was the game tying 9th inning inside the park home run against the Angels. For "Mr. Koo," as he was called, it was the wild trip around the bases against the mid-90's heat of Randy Johnson and the Yankees in which he was standing almost outside the batters box and still managed to lace a double over CF Bernie Williams' head. This feat was only topped by some incredible base running that saw Mr. Koo score from second base on a bunt fielded by the C Jorge Posada, who had vacated home plate to make the throw to first base.
(Fast-forward to :30 to see the AB, 1:40 to see David Wright scream like a girl and 2:09 to see the epic conclusion).
Another pleasant surprise for the 2005 Mets was Cliff Floyd. The veteran LF put up his best season in a Met uniform as he stayed healthy all year long, provided 34 home runs in the middle of the lineup and was a leader to the younger Mets, chiefly David Wright. This is a presence on and off the field that they would miss in LF when he departed Queens after the 2006 season. This was also the final season of Mike Piazza's Mets tenure and was celebrated with a number of tributes at the end of the year. Mets fans received quite a scare in August when CF Carlos Beltran and RF Mike Cameron suffered a ghastly collision in right center field each diving for a ball. While Beltran would return to the field in less than a week despite suffering a concussion, Cameron would not play again for the Mets after suffering multiple facial fractures as well as a concussion. Like Floyd, Cameron was also a vocal leader in the clubhouse and was in the midst of a solid season before the accident.
Though the team did not make the playoffs in 2005, Minaya and Randolph's Mets ended their first season at the helm with a solid 83-79 record (a 12 game improvement from 2004 and actually 6 games worse than their Pythagorean record of 89-73) and a new sense of hope for what the front office had in store for the coming offseason to make 2006 an even better year. The Mets were able to pinpoint certain areas where they needed help but would they be able to fill these holes adquately?
Look out for the next edition of The Omar Minaya Chronicles--Putting On the Finishing Touches (The 2005-2006 offseason).