I've read a lot of articles lately calling for Omar Minaya's head. Why not? The Mets are off to a slow start after two of the most agonizing September swoons in baseball history. Somebody must take the blame for this.
As a Met fan, I'm as disgusted as anybody else by what's gone on in Flushing. But I don't direct my ire at Omar. Before I go into why I think Minaya is a good (not great) GM, I'd like to address the reasons people are calling for his head in the first place.
The Oliver Perez Signing
Is Ollie erratic? Yes.
Is he a headcase? Yes.
Would Derek Lowe have been better? Yes.
But, was there any indication that Ollie would be this bad? No.
The Mets lost out on Lowe because they wouldn't guarantee a fourth year. Derek Lowe is 36, a four year contract for a pitcher that old isn't exactly a slam dunk.
Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections (similar projections are relied upon by half a dozen major league teams) has Lowe hovering around a WHIP of 1.3 over the next four years and Perez around 1.4.
I'm not saying I'd rather have Ollie at three years, $36 million over Lowe at $60 million over four years. I'm just saying it wasn't as cut and dried as we're making it look now.
I also read someone's suggestion that Jon Garland was a better fit than Ollie. Had Omar made that move, some rabid Mets fan (probably me) would have slit his throat about 30 minutes after it was announced.
Nobody thought Jon Garland would pan out to be better than Oliver Perez. Omar Minaya's job isn't to be a psychic, his job is to make decisions based upon the information available. According to just about every report out there, Perez was projected to outperform Garland.
Not Signing Manny Ramirez
Believe it or not Met fans, this team has a budget. The Mets don't spend like the Yankees because they can't. Go to any European city and you'll see a few Yankee hats, you won't see any Met hats. Sure the Mets are equally relevant in New York, but the Yankees are relevant Worldwide.
Omar Minaya wanted Manny just as he probably would have been willing to give Lowe the fourth year he wanted. But he has a budget he must adhere to and there are only so many big contracts the team can take on.
The Team Plays With No Heart
This is my (least) favorite one. Grit and determination don't win World Series! Talent does! Look at the Yankee's of the late 70's and the Yankee's of the late 90's. The personalities of those teams couldn't be any different, but the results were the same. What was the one thing they had in common? The were really f*%!ing good! There is no one kind of mental makeup that wins championships.
Also, since when is the GM responsible for the mental state of the team? Isn't it the manager's job to manage the clubhouse? The job of the GM is to put talent on the field and Omar has done that.
Anything Involving Luis Castillo
I got nothing here. The handling of the second base position has been by far the biggest black eye on Minaya's resume. If this team never trades for Castillo we probably get by with Ruben Gotay in 2007, we have Orland Hudson right now and maybe the last two years never happen. Who knows?
I never said that Minaya was perfect. But one false move shouldn't get him fired.
Now that I've made the case for why Omar Minaya isn't an awful GM, I might as well explain why he's worthy of following in the footsteps of such greats (said as sarcastically as humanly possible) as Steve Phillips and Jim Duquette. I've got three reasons why Omar Minaya is worthy of being the Mets GM.
1) This Is Still the Man Who Got Johan Santana for Pennies on the Dollar
He's also the guy who turned Kris Benson into John Maine and El Duque. And the guy who locked up David Wright and Jose Reyes to deals that are probably below market value. Even though Sean Green looks like he's going to be a bust, the Mets certainly got the best of the JJ Putz trade.
For all the questionable moves Minaya has made, there have been a whole bunch of good ones. Lets not forget that.
2) There Aren't Very Many in the Business Far Better Than Minaya
I know, we're all raising our hands screaming "Call on me Mr. Wilpon! I know way more about baseball than Omar!"
Lets all face reality, we will never be big league executives. We are all far more likely to replace Mike Lupica so let's just all focus on the sports-writing pipe dream instead.
There are two general managers who are, beyond any doubt, better at their job than Omar Minaya. Theo Epstein in Boston and Scott Shapiro in Cleveland. That's it. And Theo Epstein isn't going anywhere so if you want to fire Omar, you better be damn well sure that Scott Shapiro will want to take the Mets job.
I'm not saying Omar Minaya is the third best GM. There are plenty of other guys out there who aren't awful at their jobs. Billy Beane in Oakland, Neil Huntington in Pittsburgh, Dave Dombrowski in Florida and Bob Melvin in Milwaukee are all very good at their job. But I wouldn't say any of them are noticeably better than Minaya.
3) This Team Is Supposed To Win
Every year since 2006, most of th experts picked the Mets to win their division. Every year my friends at Baseball Prospectus (four of the men I just talked glowingly about pay attention to Baseball Prospectus) have had the Mets as the team that should win the division. Isn't that the GM's job? To put a team on the field that should win?
By that criteria, Omar Minaya has done his job. This team should win. If they don't then everybody should be held accountable, not just Omar.