(bumped from fanposts. --eric)
The Devil Rays, the Pirates, the Mariners: one by one the old-school, traditionally-minded general managers and management strategies are being replaced by an intelligent, purposeful, and businesslike approach, making use of the resources and knowledge available today. Left behind are teams like the Mets, Astros, and Giants, to name a few of the most pathetic.
Nevertheless, poorly conceived and poorly constructed squadrons can and do compete-- the Mets had a nice run there from 2006 to 2008-- even if, with some better decisions made on the margins, they could have made the playoffs those latter two years and perhaps brought home a pennant or two. Now, it seems, the opportunity has passed; the Mets can either set themselves up for a burst of success in the future, or continue to throw money around, perpetually fielding 75-85 win teams.
That can work when one has as much money as the Mets, but one must spend that money correctly, not based on potentially heartwarming stories and silly notions of set roles (instead of relative and total value).
This first theory of Mets' management is, I think, highly neglected. Omar Minaya does not have any special talent for constructing a baseball roster. He has skill as a scout, but basically no understanding of the relative value of baseball players, how to measure it, and how to obtain that value at a good price. His thinking is rigid where he needs to be flexible, and imaginative where it just doesn't matter.
What do I mean? This-- that Minaya thinks in terms of stories. When he needs to fill a spot (more on that later), he does not do a thorough analysis of the possible performances but rather decides based on the possible stories. Thus he brought Fernando Tatis and Jose Valentin out of obscurity (good moves), and gave a two-year contract to a Julio Franco who was closer to 50 than 40 (a bad move among many). He wants to be seen as the genius who gave Cuban defector Raul Valdez, toiling in the Latin leagues, his great chance. Frank Catalanatto, Smithtown's own. Etc., etc., ad nauseum.
Which is not to say that such considerations do not have their place-- they do, but they come after actual performance. Minaya's Met front office seems incapable of understanding basic economic principles, let alone the advanced understanding of the game that has revolutionized most other front offices in the last ten years. There are undoubtedly people in the organization who understand these things, but I believe that the perverse notions of Minaya and those around him ultimately trump everything else.
Those notions are, in addition to the desire to pack a roster with stories that beat writers will love: the idea of a baseball team as a 'mix,' as in chemistry, or a puzzle, with the pieces 'fitting together'; defined 'roles,' whether it is 'a power-hitting first baseman,' or 'an eighth-inning guy'; and that minor league statistics are meaningless and completely non-predictive.
Thus we hear stories such as, "The Mets are looking for a power-hitting first basemen." They have decided, arbitrarily, that the other positions are filled and this is the one that needs to be 'filled.' Consequently the team makes a stupid trade, overpays a free agent, or acquires a complete non-entity/liability like Mike Jacobs and considers its job done. Instead of assessing the free agent/trade market for value over and above what the current roster provides, the front office assesses its own roster in terms of 'slots' that are either 'filled' or not. Consequently Alex Cora, backup infielder, is re-signed to a pointlessly large contract while Felipe Lopez, starting second baseman and a far superior option to the Mets' own starting "second baseman," is passed over.
For years Billy Beane and others have been running a scam where they put an adequate reliever into 9th inning situations so that he can acquire "saves," and then flip him, his value inflated by a meaningless statistic, to a gullible team who finds, too late, that he is just an ordinary reliever. The Mets have been and continue to be the team who will overpay for players like these.
How long, oh Lord, will we suffer the Gary Matthews, Jrs. and Mike Jacobses? How long must we wander the desert of general incompetence? How long will we see value wasted and opportunities lost? Oh ye Mets, come down from your high places, put on sackcloth and sit in ashes, for the time of reckoning is soon at hand.
Cross-posted at Blastings! Thrilledge.