I'm not sure there's a more polarizing figure on the Met landscape than Omar Minaya. And I'm also not sure there's a more scrutinized GM in baseball right now either. You love him, you hate him. And after two straight collapses, my guess is that most of you hate him.
There's a lot of angst over Minaya getting a four-year contract ... announced officially after the season was over but leaked before Collapse II, which made it all the more painful for fans to swallow. My response to that is not to get worked up over the length of the contract. It's not good business practice to have anyone ... especially Minaya ... in a position where he needs to make moves with the spectre of not being employed next season looming. That's a recipe for disaster, because Minaya needs to always think "long term" with this organization while he's there. When you see guys like Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson be merely the latest in a significant line of Red Sox prospects who come up from the minor leagues and make huge contributions immediately, you wonder where that's been in Minaya's tenure.
At the risk of sounding like an apologist, some of that has started to happen. Both Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans have come up and helped the team in varying degrees ... Murphy looks like a keeper, and at the very worst, Evans could be trade bait to help some various holes (cough ... bullpen ... cough) that the Mets have. Whatever you believe about Minaya not being able to shore up the bullpen at the deadline, the alternative would have been to blow young players like Murphy, Evans, Eddie Kunz and the like to acquire from a limited pool of relievers including Jon Rauch and Arthur Rhodes (Rauch was horrible with Arizona and Rhodes ... incredibly ... was outstanding for Florida in his 13 innings. Though with the Mets he probably would have been terrible ... and he's still 38.) And then how would you have felt? The problem in 2007 was that the team was too old and, yes, bored. Minaya has seemingly reversed course and has relied more on the farm system. There's still a long way to go with the farm system, but Murphy and Evans are a start. And those calling for Minaya's head should take a look at the big picture and realize that even with all of Omar's faults, the organization is in significantly better shape now than it was in 2004.
Have we all forgotten 2004? I mean, sure ... you may complain about Carlos Delgado. But would you rather have Wilson Delgado?
But now that the season is over, and seemingly more relievers would probably be available, it would behoove Minaya to make sure that bullpen looks completely different than it did last year, four-year deal or no four-year deal ... because a third disaster will likely mean his head. So they have to pay him to do nothing for three seasons. With all the money they're getting selling their championship banners, foul poles, dugouts, and napkin holders, the Wilpons will barely feel the sting. Let's put it this way, when the first reliever comes into the game at Citi Field, he shouldn't just be announced, we'd better see Ty Pennington with a megaphone yelling "drop that curtain".
In other words, there had better be a makeover ... and it had better be extreme.
But here's what worries me about Omar Minaya and the Mets bullpen ... for that matter, it's the same thing that worries me about Omar Minaya and the rest of the roster: It's his penchant for falling in love with reclamation projects. There are only so many times that turning to the likes of Jose Valentin, Orlando Hernandez, and Fernando Tatis are going to work ... and when they work, the payoff has a limited shelf life. Combine that with the soundbite that came from Minaya (or perhaps it was Jerry Manuel but it's indicative of the same problem) when asked about getting Frankie Rodriguez:
"We're going to be creative with the bullpen."Creativity takes many forms. Matt Groening is creative. Mozart was creative. So was Roman Polanski. Polanski is also a fugitive from justice for having intercourse with a minor. If you give a five-year-old a crayon and a wall, he can be creative too. But all you get are scribbles on a wall. I got a computer to be creative. But instead of writing the Great American Novel, all I could come up with was a blog where I make jokes about Wilson Delgado.
Creativity could be a good thing with the bullpen. Maybe Minaya will target guys like J.P. Howell from the Rays. Maybe he'll force Billy Beane to take a reasonable offer for Huston Street. Perhaps a guy like Frank Francisco from Texas will be available. Maybe Brian Fuentes will be willing to come to New York and close if K-Rod takes his 62 saves elsewhere. There's a whole host of guys out there who have been successful in the major leagues in the past six months that could be had at the right price. But what worries me is that the Omar Minaya I know has already given orders to the clubhouse staff to sew "Urbina" on a jersey for the first official news conference from Citi Field.
Because as you know, incarcerated relievers are as creative as it gets.