We interrupt your regularly scheduled day of blog reading to give you breaking news that’s already been broken. Omar Minaya has been relieved of his GM duties and Jerry Manuel’s option for the 2011 season was not picked up.
Of course, this wasn’t even breaking news before it became official. It was a foregone conclusion that the man famous for inserting the words “that being said” into every other sentence and the man known as Dead Manuel Walking were not going to retain their positions after the completion of the 2010 season.
The team had underachieved since the end of the 2006 season. The players were performing below expectations and if there was camaraderie between the players, it wasn’t as evident as it should be with winning teams.
It is the general manager’s job to put the team together and the manager’s job to get them to perform between the white lines.
Omar did his best to put Los Mets together. That being said, that also included offering contracts that were far too long to the ostracized Oliver “El Perez-idente” Perez and Luis “Squeam Queen” Castillo. Other players that were signed for more years than they should have been were Orlando “The Dookie” Hernandez, Pedro “I Left My Fastball In Beantown” Martinez and Carlos Beltran (sorry, I like Don Carlos, so I won’t give him a demeaning nickname). He also traded for fan-favorite, but now increasingly fragile Johan Santana.
Jerry Manuel was forced to manage an oft-injured group of ragtag players, a job that most managers would have difficulty doing, although a fellow Manuel (Charlie) had no problem doing that when his star players were dropping faster than Citi Field’s paid attendance figures.
Part of Charlie Manuel’s success with being able to survive his club’s injuries was that his GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., was able to provide him with the right players to fill in the holes left by the disabled players.
When Rip Van Winkle (Jamie Moyer) went down with an injury, Amaro swung a deal with the Astros for Roy Oswalt. All four infielders for the Phillies (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco) were also hurt at some point of the season. Amaro made sure each player had better than adequate replacements in Ross Gload, Ben Francisco and Wilson Valdez. Those three players combined to hit .266 (170-for-640), which was higher than the team’s collective batting average (.260).
In those 640 at-bats, which are about the same amount an everyday player would collect over a full season, the trio collected 37 doubles, three triples, 16 HR and 85 RBI, while scoring 77 runs and going a perfect 16-for-16 in stolen bases. They also excelled defensively, combining to make a total of four errors in 569 total chances.
While the Phillies didn’t miss a beat when one of their star players got hurt, what did Omar Minaya give us? Either not yet ready for prime time players (Ruben Tejada, Jesus Feliciano, Lucas Duda) or players who fall into the “who dat” category, like Joaquin Arias.
A general manager is the head talent evaluator. His job is to put together the best team possible so that his manager can put the best possible lineup on the field. Unfortunately for Jerry Manuel, the best team possible was never THE BEST TEAM. There were 25 guys, or 23½ as suggested by my colleague (The Coop) in her earlier post, but these guys were never a team. Ruben Amaro has put together a team of guys in Philadelphia, not guys who were part of a team, like Omar Minaya put together in New York.
The new general manager has to realize that teams win games. He has to give the manager not just the best individual players, but the guys who stand the best chance to become a cohesive unit that can all contribute to winning ballgames. Twenty-five individuals don’t lead teams to championships, but one team of players can do that.
Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel had early success with the Mets because they had a team of guys. Over the past few years, that team dissolved into a group of guys whose only common trait was the shirts on their backs. The formula is simple: Have team, will win. If the new general manager can’t get the new manager a team of guys to work with, then they stand a good chance of being shown the same door that Omar and Jerry were last seen walking through.