The hardest thing for anybody to do is admit they were wrong. Therefore, I’m going to try my best to avoid doing that.
As somebody who appreciated Omar Minaya until 2010 when I felt his time had finally come, I have been very critical of his management styles when I look back on his regime.
I think many people have, and I think at times they are labeled as being unfair to Minaya.
The biggest knock on Minaya has been his lack of building up the minor leagues. Yet, yesterday’s lineup was comprised of all “homegrown” players.
Now, we have to be honest about the value of the Mets players. Some believe that the mere fact the entire lineup was homegrown is proof positive that he did in fact build a solid farm system. While others declare it is evidence of no such thing.
Me, I’m in the middle. For me, just because a player is on the big league roster, doesn’t mean the minor league system produced quality players.
Before I get back to that point, let me mention the good. I believe we’re seeing a lot of future Mets in today’s lineup. I believe Davis, and Tejada will be Mets for quite some time. I’m not yet sold on Nieuwenhuis, Duda, Valdespin, or Thole as long-term solutions. I’m also not sold that Murphy will remain with this team past a few more seasons, though I hope he does.
So I think people rush to judgment and say “look all homegrown!” Then declare the mission accomplished. The mere fact they are all homegrown doesn’t mean Minaya did a great job. It does mean he did a better job than people (me included) gave him credit for.
Just to further prove the point. The San Diego Padres have in their lineup, Nick Hundley, Chase Headley, and Will Venable. All of them were drafted in 2005, the same year that Sandy Alderson took over as CEO of the franchise. Just because they are homegrown, doesn’t mean you’ve done a great job.
When people knock Minaya’s minors, they do so in two phases. The first, is that they never had enough depth at the top in highly touted prospects that were needed to acquire a big time player via trade like Cliff Lee, or Roy Halladay. Going hand in hand with that, there was an apparent disregard for valuable draft picks in order to sign aging free agents.
The second is not so much that they didn’t have “prospects,” every team has some prospects. The problem was there was such a wide gap between big league ready talent, and minor league talent that there was no chance to tread water after injuries. For example, Pelfrey is injured now, but they are now able to try and fill in his spot with a few different options.
You have to also consider that it’s possible a new philosophy in the minor leagues has something to do with better development of talented players. The hiring of new coaches, new scouting directors, and a new big league manager have had an impact on the development of some of these kids. Truthfully, there’s no way to know how big of an impact it made.
Consider a kid like Nieuwenhuis. A lot of Alderson’s critics like to knock the idea of taking pitches, but when you teach a minor leaguer to be patient, you create a better hitter.
In 2009, Nieuwenhuis played in 131 games, his most as a professional. He drew 57 walks that year, and before his injury in 2011 he was on pace for 79 walks (if he played 131 games).
If you take Nieuwenhuis’ 2010 totals, he struck out 132 times and walked just 41 in 124 games.
In 2011, he struck out 59 times and walked 32, in 71 less games.
I’m not coming here declaring walks as the end all to the development of these prospects. I’m saying, there’s more to developing a player than the GM who was in charge at the time of his draft.
When you’re developing a player, team philosophy, the coaches and instructors have more to do with that than the GM. Even when that GM is Sandy Alderson or Omar Minaya.
So, I will say this. When I see players like Davis (though I’m worried about him), Tejada, Niese, I tip my cap to Minaya and say thank you for having something to do with bringing them here.
When I see guys like Nieuwenhuis, Duda, Gee, Thole, Valdespin, I’m not going to say mission accomplished. I believe they have talent, I believe guys like Terry Collins can be given some of the credit, as well as Tim Teufel etc. However, I’m not about to declare them as guys that will be on this team for years to come, thus proving Minaya built a deep system.
Minaya is gone, he’s not coming back, and if you want him back, the odds are that you wanted him fired when he was here. Almost every GM that leaves a team will have players come through the pipeline from his regime. It will continue to happen with Minaya, and it will eventually happen to Alderson.
The Mets need to continue to build; the mission isn’t over just because today was a historic day. It just looks like it may be a better road back to the top of the NL East than some of us may have thought.