In all of sports, players regress and at least to me it seems that baseball players regress more than athletes of any other sport. Baseball players regress for any number of reasons: age, injury, failure to adjust to change in the game, etc… What you don’t normally see is regression of executives. I feel that since Omar Minaya took the job of General Manager for the New York Mets he has regressed, specifically after 2006.
Once Omar’s playing career came to an end due to injury, he became a scout. He started his behind the scenes career in 1985 for the Texas Rangers as a scout for that organization. Omar helped bring Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa to the major leagues during that time. Omar eventually left the Rangers, came home to New York and worked his way up to assistant General Manager behind former GM Steve Phillips. Many people credit Omar with the success the Mets had in the late 90’s, helping to build a team around Mike Piazza with young role players.
Minaya eventually left the Mets to become the GM for the Montreal Expos. The Expos had pretty much no money, being jointly owned by the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball. The lack of financial support meant that Omar would have to be creative in making this team better than what they had been for a long time. Omar during the 2002 season, he added Cliff Floyd and Bartolo Colon to the roster, helping the Expos to win 83 games. In 2003 they also won 83 games but once Vlad left they quickly took a nose dive in the standings. With the Expos franchise coming to an end Omar was forced to trade many talented players away such as Jason Bay, Chris Young and Grady Sizemore to name a few.
At the end of the 2004 season, Omar returned to the Mets after the Expos franchise was relocated to Washington, this time as the Mets’ General Manager. Omar went right to work that off season and immediately improved the team after signing both Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. After the 2005 season, a season in which the Mets were eliminated from making the playoffs during the last week of September,
Omar continued to improve the team and make it more competitive. He signed Billy Wagner and added Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca to the lineup. The bench was fortified with experienced veterans and role players like Jose Valentin, Julio Franco and Endy Chavez. Wagner was not the only bullpen improvement as Minaya also added relievers Chad Bradford and Duaner Sanchez to the pen. Omar was even able to limit payroll by trading Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady as well as trading away Kris Benson for Jorge Julio and John Maine. Everything came together and the 2006 Mets came within one game of going back to the World Series, but still the future looked bright.
In the off season, Omar allowed Chad Bradford to leave via free agency, and his main acquisition would be signing veteran outfield Moises Alou, who when healthy was solid, but was plagued with injuries for much of the upcoming 2007 season, a season that would end in gut wrenching fashion for the Mets.
After the collapse of 2007, Omar went out and traded for, and then signed Johan Santana to a multi year contract that would make him the highest paid pitcher in baseball. Despite several other warning signs, Santana would be the Mets’ only significant move. There was also the ill advised 4-year contract given to second baseman Luis Castillo. We don’t need to be reminded of how 2008 ended, but the worst was yet to come in 2009.
Omar signed a much needed K-Rod, and traded for J.J. Putz to revamp the bullpen, but passed on several better options for the rotation and instead resigned Oliver Perez.
Omar had enjoyed a reputation of being able to build a team due mostly to being an excellent judge of talent. His first two years with the Mets clearly showed that. Unfortunately for us and the Mets, Omar has since regressed. It’s very confusing, at least to me.
Perhaps once the Wilpons opened up their wallets and allowed him to spend up to 150 million dollars, he got too used to solving problems by throwing money at them. Suddenly, he was targeting players with star appeal instead of going after players that would be able to contribute to the success of the Mets and fill a core need.
Omar’s regression also spreads to the minor leagues, and the system has floundered and has not produced as everyone had hoped.
Omar I believe is a dying breed of GM in that the landscape is changing, but his style is not adapting. Ten years ago, the MLB draft was not focused on by big market teams as much as it is today. For most teams, it’s one of the most vital aspects of their organization, and more teams now realize the importance of building from within. Player development is now the hallmark of a great organization. Omar still seems to hold to his philosophy of building the team by signing big name free agents or trading for them, something that was never the case with him in his early years as a GM. He has gone backward as the sport continues to move forward. If the Mets do not make the post season or get off to a terrible start, he almost assuredly will be out as general manager of the Mets. It’s time for Omar to get back to form and use his ability as a talent evaluator to build the Mets back into a championship team.