New York Mets GM Omar Minaya is on the hot seat this winter and for the 2010 season. He is under the microscope this winter to "make a deal" that signifies to the Mets fans base that the organization is committed to winning in 2010.
Minaya will also be highly scrutinized in the spring, summer and fall of 2010, because the team he oversees has not made the playoffs since advancing to the 2006 NLCS.
In that thrilling series, the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals on their own home field in Game Seven.
That season marked the only time under Minaya's reign that the Mets made the playoffs. In fact, the Mets have made the playoffs only once since their 2000 World Series appearance.
The low point under the Minaya regime came last season when they finished mired in fourth place with a 70-92 record, 23 games behind their chief rival Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies went to their second straight World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees...the Mets other chief rival, if only for respect within the same city.
Many people blamed last season on injuries, David Wright's power outage and/or adjusting to their new stadium.
I say it is mostly the GM and his method of maneuvering. I have said before and will say again that Minaya is the worst GM in baseball and goes for the big headline deals instead of building from within.
Signing Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, Moises Alou, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez while trading young players for Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana and Brian Schneider/Ryan Church.
All these big money free agents and trades for established stars has resulted in absolutely nothing but two September collapses and one post season appearance in nine years.
Now all the Met fans, media and bloggers are saying the Mets need to go down this road once again and sign a power bat for left field, two starting pitchers, and maybe a first baseman.
They say that the definition of stupid is doing the same moronic thing over and over again, expecting to get different results. But that is exactly what the Mets, via their GM, are doing this offseason.
Minaya has made a four-year, $63 million offer to free agent LF Jason Bay (whom Minaya once traded away), and is expected to go after right-handed pitchers Joel Pineiro or Jason Marquis.
Both veteran free agent pitchers are expected to command (at minimum) three year deals for over $30 million.
That is almost $100 million on players who WILL NOT help the Mets win in 2010 or beyond.
Minaya will continue to spend other people's money because it is the easiest thing to do, and his job is on the line.
He is not interested in the long term well-being of the franchise, but in saving his own reputation so when he does finally get fired by the Mets, he will be able to land another job within baseball.
What the Mets need to do is not sign more overpriced free agents, but to build the new team around their new expansive stadium with pitching, defense, and speed.
Bay is not the best fielder in the world, and has been supported by the Green Monster in Fenway the last year and a half.
Not having to worry about balls being hit over your head makes the job much easier. I wonder how Bay would fare in Citi Field's expansive outfield.
But Minaya and the Mets hierarchy are just spinning wheels as Bay will never sign with the Mets. Bay and his agent are using the New York market to coax another year and more money from other teams.
But the Mets would be foolish to sign a big name free agent. One of the reasons they floundered last season after the injury bug hit (the bug was so big, it makes the swine flu look weak and pitiful), was that the Mets system had no ready replacements for the injured players.
With all those seasons of Minaya signing other teams high-priced players, the Mets have lost first-round picks in 2007 (signing Wagner) and 2008 (signing Alou).
To add insult to injury, the player the arch-rival Phillies signed in 2007 was Kyle Drabek, their highly sought after top starting pitcher prospect. Drabek could conceivably be pitching in the majors this season or traded for Roy Halladay.
I mentioned earlier that the biggest rivals for the Mets are the cross-town Yankees and the intra-divisional Phillies. Those teams are two of the six major league teams which have made the playoffs in three of the last five seasons.
The other teams are the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals. All but the Phillies have made the playoffs in five of the last eight seasons, too.
What do those six teams have in common? Most of their core group of players were from their own systems, either drafted or signed as amateurs and developed through the minors.
Or the teams (especially the Cardinals) have made great trades to bring in good players. The Cardinals and Red Sox are especially good at getting quality, winning players via the trade route.
The Cardinals picked up Adam Wainwright, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Matt Holliday, and Mark DeRosa via trades while the Red Sox recent run included trade acquisitions Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Jason Bay, and Victor Martinez.
These acquisitions are IN ADDITION to having a core group of homegrown players.
As usual with teams which run for many years at the top, the cores were developed within. The Yankees run last season with three high priced free agents is highly unusual in that they helped propel the team to a title, but most of their team was built from within. Same with Philadelphia.
Who makes up the Mets homegrown core? Jose Reyes and Wright, with a sprinkle of Mike Pelfrey.
The Mets do have some young players like Daniel Murphy, Fernando Martinez, Jonathan Niese, and Ike Davis who could make impacts in the next couple years, but most will never get the full opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Signing Bay is a bad move for the Mets long-term success. This is not an indictment of Bay or any other big name free agent.
They are all good players and will all sign somewhere. My money is on all three big names this off season (Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and John Lackey) will all sign with their existing teams.
The Mets would be better off in the long run to promote more younger talent and stop buying players on other teams. But Minaya is trying to save his own neck and will never think of the Mets future, only his present.
It is ironic how Minaya now thinks Bay is a good enough player after trading the young power hitting minor leaguer in 2002 as the Montreal Expos GM.
Bay would have been a perfect fit four years ago when Minaya traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez. Another power bat in 2006 would have put them over the top that season.
And then Minaya and the Mets would probably already have Bay in the fold as a member of the team, more playoff appearances and a secure job.