The Myths of Omar and Sandy

An article by posted on June 20, 2011

From the day he was hired, to the day he was fired I was often called an “Omar apologist.” I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase before right? Basically from what I deducted from that was “not everything Omar does is garbage,” therefore I am apologizing for him. 

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of negativity towards Sandy Alderson and his front office team. In all reality, from the day fans heard Alderson’s name was mentioned in a scary book called “Moneyball”, nothing Alderson could do would be good enough. 

What I find odd is how several people including some in the media like to point to the 2011 Mets as being influenced heavily by Omar Minaya. Also, they use this as a way to downplay Alderson’s role with the franchise. 

Several myths are in play here; let me try to touch on some of them. 

Minaya wasn’t fired because guys like Justin Turner, Dillon Gee, and Daniel Murphy existed in his minor leagues. He was fired because targeting players like Moises Alou, Jason Bay, Rod Barajas, Frankie Rodriguez, El Duque, Guillermo Mota, Chan Ho Park, Tom Glavine halted them from building a deeper and young farm system.

Guys like Justin Turner are great finds (for now at least), but they aren’t difference makers. Minaya gave away young talent for older talent that didn’t make much of a difference when it came to making the Mets a contender. 

I don’t think any GM in baseball will leave his job and not have players he drafted or acquired come up through the system. If that’s the case, you wonder why or how they got the job in the first place. 

Minaya’s problem was simple, it was multi-tasking. He wasn’t able to focus on the big league club, while paying close attention to the farm system. When a team gets decimated by injuries, you should be able to bring young talent up to replace them.

You may not be as good, but having talent in the minor leagues (specifically pitchers), stops the 2007 or 2008 collapse by having fresh arms in the pen, and stops 2009 from being such a disaster of a season. 

Would the Mets have made the playoffs in 2009 had young players come up to replace the injured? Not necessarily, but the Red Sox in 2010 lost Dice-K, Lowrie, Ellsbury, Beckett, Cameron, Lowell, Victor Martinez, Delcarmen, Varitek, Buchholz, and Youkilis to the Disabled List. Yet, they managed to win 89 Games? 

How did they do that but the Mets have similar (possibly even, not as bad) luck in 2009 and only win 70 games? Franchise depth. The fact is, as a General Manager your job is to have depth within your franchise. 

Your team cannot be built on veteran players if you don’t have players in the minors that can come up and contribute if things go wrong. Building a 25 man roster isn’t the only job of a GM.

Minaya was fired because he refused to account for not only the mistakes that he and ownership made, but he kept making them. He’s a great evaluator of talent, specifically in Latin America. Nobody denies that, nor should they. 

He wasn’t good at being the boss. He seemed to have no plan for the direction of the franchise. It’s as though his own knees buckled when Adam Wainwright struck Beltran out. After that, a spending frenzy of poor decisions took place. As fans, we’re partially to blame. We thought we could buy our way to a title and so did he. 

Critics of Alderson’s love (capital L?) bringing up sabermetrics or “moneyball”. Some key principles to Billy Beane’s philosophy in 2002 (doesn’t mean he thinks that way in 2011 by the way) was limiting base stealing and bunting. 

Currently, the Mets are in the top half of baseball in bunting players over, and are 2nd in baseball in stolen bases. Weird huh?

What aspect of sabermetrics does Alderson use when evaluating players? Have you heard him mention things like DIPS, EQA, BABIP, UZR, VORP, Win Shares or WAR? Which one of these has Alderson spoken about that leads you to believe he is running the Mets solely on sabermetric principles? 

With regard to using “moneyball,” that’s frankly just a lie. His critics are taking half the story (the part where he only spent $7million this off-season), and ignoring the rest (his owners being sued and having a serious cash problem). 

Which player that Alderson signed was acquired because of Moneyball? My favorite is Brad Emaus. A Rule 5 pick, I admittedly liked. Why? Because the Mets had Luis Castillo at 2B, and had guys like Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner along with young Ruben Tejada at 2B. Nobody ran away with the job, so giving a Rule 5 pick a chance makes sense because he’s the only guy you lose for good if he doesn’t perform well. 

One myth I’ve heard is that Emaus was picked over Turner because of his minor league OBP. Ignoring the fact of course that Turner’s OBP was higher than Emaus’. Who needs facts though right? 

What other aspects of Moneyball did Alderson use so far? Did he avoid drafting High School Pitchers like Beane tried to do? 

Lets see… 28 pitchers drafted, and 17 were drafted out of a college. However, of their first 10 pitchers taken, 5 of them were from High School, including their 1st taken. So, I’m sorry but that’s a fail as well. 

In Moneyball, Art Howe was there to serve as a go between from upper management to player. He was not allowed to be “himself” in terms of how he manages games, and he was seen more as a figurehead or somebody to fill a uniform. Is that how Alderson’s critics see Terry Collins?

I certainly don’t see a mundane Manager who is there solely because you have to fill the uniform. Just another example of how in no way is Moneyball the guide to running the Mets. 

When his critics bring up his free agent signings this year, they conveniently ignore the fact that David Einhorn essentially loaned the Mets $200million in late May of 2011. Thus, cash flow and adding large amounts of payroll to the Mets in the winter of 2010-2011 was likely not an option for Alderson. 

Alderson signed 8 players for a total of $7million. Not many other teams have or had a payroll near the top of the sport and needed 2 starting pitchers, a catcher, a 2B, 2 bench players and some relief pitching. Pair that with his owners having a serious cash problem, and you have to take several small priced gambles.

Currently, it’d be very tough to argue that $1.5m for Capuano and $1.3m for Paulino were poor investments. How many teams signed a starting pitcher and a starting catcher this off-season for better deals?

You can’t do anything about injuries. Chris Young’s $1.1million was a risk, and his contract didn’t stop the Mets from getting somebody else. He looked great, and then got hurt. It happens. However, if you combined his contract with Carrasco and Buchholz you get Aaron Harang or Brad Penny (Ignore for the fact that Buchholz was a good grab). 

Harang who is currently on the DL made it publically clear that he wanted to go play where his home is, and Brad Penny appeared in 9 games last year, and hasn’t spent an entire season healthy since 2007. Sound familiar? 

The fact is, he had limited funds to work with and quite possibly still does. This isn’t because of his philosophy on running a team. You can’t tell me if this was 2006 that Alderson would want to cut payroll if he had an open checkbook. 

Another aspect his critics love to forget is Alderson made the moves Minaya wouldn’t make. He released both Perez, and Castillo. That’s $18million that he essentially “spent”, with no return. It’s not like the NFL where he got the money back.

In 2006, the Mets made it to the LCS with $101million on the books. From there, the payroll went skyrocketing to its peak of $149million in 2009. Nobody, not Alderson’s supporters, not Alderson himself have said they wish for the Mets to be an $80milion franchise. 

What has been said is that if they intend on spending money, spending it wisely is what wins games. Not spending, just to spend. Why is that so bad? 2005-2007 the Mets payroll average was about $105million. 2008-present, their payroll average is roughly $138million. Which time periods would you as a fan like to get back to? 

When I hear or see people who disliked Minaya start to praise him solely because they hate Alderson, I have to laugh. They are two totally different types of GMs and no matter what they do; they can’t win with some critics. 

I like Minaya a lot, I think he was given every chance to win and he failed. That doesn’t make him a bad evaluator, or a bad guy. He had some bad luck, and on top of that made some bad decisions.

I’m ready for something new, and many of us gave Minaya 3-4 years before we ever came to a conclusion about his tenure. 

Yet, for Alderson, those same people are only willing to give him less than a year? 

I don’t know my thoughts on Alderson and his team yet. I’d like to wait it out, and see where he takes the franchise.

I’m not going anywhere regardless. I’ve suffered through 2007 and 2008. It’s not going to get much worse than that for me, so why not just watch things unfold and see if Alderson can turn things around instead of rooting against him every time he opens his mouth or makes a decision?

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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