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Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding The Mets, Vol. 2

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My dad told me to stop writing negative things about the Mets. He said they're winning and no one wants to read my complaining. So here's something positive I noticed:

Were Angel Pagan healthy last night, the Mets would have started eight homegrown players. Sure, Angel Pagan and Jason Bay broke into the majors with other teams, but only after being developed by Mets' coaches in the Mets' farm system.

Up-the-middle, Ruben Tejada and Jose Reyes, both international signees by Minaya, anchor the defense. Pagan-Wright-Davis, all drafted by the Mets, form the heart of the order. The battery of Pelfrey-Thole, also both recent draftees, could be a winning combination for the next decade. Bobby Parnell contributed. Jeff Francoeur is Atlanta's fault. That's more homegrown talent in the starting lineup than any of the great small-market scouting organizations, including Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Colorado and most emphatically, the team opposite to them, the Twins.

Homegrown players that reflect some organizationally-imposed template are easily the most likable, regardless of the sport. Such players are integral to a team's identity--(Team Name) needs to get back to playing (Team Name) FootballTM. Organizations that focus on developing certain types of players are usually pretty successful too, as they can play to the strengths of their coaches and deal from that strength to fill weaknesses. Team U.S.A. nearly beat a far more talented Canadian team in the Vancouver Olympics because Brian Burke and David Poile only chose players that were young, fast, played a two-way game, and could play as a team. (I would use a more topical soccer metaphor, if I had any idea).

Omar Minaya promised system players built young and athletic, and at last, we seem to be crossing the Jordan. With Thole and Tejada in the lineup, the Mets, 1-8, all have something to contribute with their athleticism. What Jason Bay lacks as a fielder, he seems to make up with aggressive, smart baserunning. Ike Davis is kind of an awkward runner, but he can pick it. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Ruben Tejada--even Francoeur--all have both.

I've reflected extensively on General Jack's statement "Omar is by far, in my view, the most sympathetic figure in the debacle of the David Wright Era." I want to believe that. The guy, after all, was my hero just a few years ago. At worst, I've been called smug know-it-all wannabe GM. Really, though, as a fan, I want nothing more than to think the people in charge of my favorite teams are far more qualified to run them than I'd ever hope to be.

The Mets recent failures have been organizational failures, top-to-bottom. And at the heart of that larger failure is a fundamental problem of misappropriation. Mathematicians, with no specific sabremetric background, were placed under the leadership of a legal expert, another field that vaguely involves numbers and technical issues, but really has no relevance. The unsympathetic, demanding curmudgeon was put in charge of the kids. The General Manager, a great recruit of international prospects and a well-respected amateur-scout, was given a budget earmarked for major-league spending, with a pittance reserved for the draft and foreign amateurs.

Whether or not Omar Minaya's talents are best served as a General Manager--it's an open question--it seems that his talents definitely haven't been maximized in this particular General Manager position. It's been a mind-boggling frustrating few seasons, but never has Omar panicked and dumped the farm. If anything, he has been patient to a fault, waiting for some guys to come around that never did. At various points in their young careers, however, I thought Angel Pagan, Mike Pelfrey, Ike Davis, and Bobby Parnell would never amount to much of anything in terms of major-league talents. I thought the Milledge trade was the end of the world. Holy cow, the Santana trade.

If this season is the peak of a slow-crescendoing player-development success story, I will forgive a lot. If the Mets fall short of the playoffs again, I'll bury all my Mets stuff in the back yard and start watching the NFL network. The way the market dynamics are changing in baseball, I'd happily root for a big-market scouting-powerhouse that makes the occasional contract-gaffe. I'm ready to make the Wilpons and their stupid budget stipulations the enemy. Just win something, playing Mets BaseballTM.