The Big Orange Guy’s Top 5 – Mistakes of Omar Minaya

Living in New York, there are so many sports teams for us to talk about and watch.  We have four newspapers that have a daily sports section, two regional sports networks, two all-talk sports stations and many characters to go around for everyone.  However, for the four sports there are, usually there is one team that is winning and another that is not (except in hockey where the Islanders are always losing).   During the summer there are only two teams for us to watch, the Yankees and the Mets.  Since the two teams met in the World Series, the Yankees have had a pretty good decade while the Mets have not (look at my Top 5 last week, according to Elias Sports Bureau the Mets had the biggest two-year collapse in history in 2007-2008).  The man leading the help for the Mets since September of 2004 and relieved of duties on Monday is Omar Minaya.  In his six years with the Mets, the team’s record was 506-466, a winning percentage of .520, making the playoffs and losing in Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006.

Minaya did many good things for the Mets during his tenure.  He traded for Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca before the 2006 baseball season.  In 2007, he traded for Luis Castillo and before the 2008 season, he traded for Johan Santana.  He signed Billy Wagner and Moises Alou to free agent contracts and for the Mets, he drafted pitcher Mike Pelfrey.  However, although there is much good there is more well known bad.  So, today’s Top 5 is the Top 5 Mistakes of Omar Minaya’s tenure with the Mets (in no particular order).

(Author’s note: I am not an angry Mets fan)

#1 – Signing Oliver Perez to a 3-year, $36 million contract

In 2007, Perez was 15-10 with an ERA under 4.00.  He was a good serviceable pitcher for the Mets as they made a run for the playoffs.  Whatever issues that plagued Perez seemed to disappear during that season.  2008 was not as good of a season for Perez, leading the National league in walks but he did have 10 wins for another Mets team that just missed the playoffs.

Before the 2009 season, the Mets had a choice to make; Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez.  The Mets decided on Oliver Perez.  With Scott Boras as his agent, it was well known that the Mets needed pitching and a deal for three years was worked out and agreed to.

The signing has been a disaster.  In 2009, he was 3-4 with an ERA almost 7.00.  In 2010, he was 0-5 with basically the same ERA.  During the 2009 season, Perez refused a minor league assignment and became relegated to the bullpen, starting only 7 games during the season and appearing in only 10 more.  The Mets may be forced to release him for 2011, just to have a workable spot in the roster.

#2 – Re-signing Luis Castillo after the 2007 season to a 4 year, $25 million contract

Before joining the Mets via a trade, Castillo was hitting .299 as a member of the Minnesota Twins. In his two years with the Twins, Castillo also had 34 stolen bases, an on-base percentage of .357 and scored 140 runs.  While with the Mets for 50 games of the 2007 season, Castillo hit nearly .300 and stole 10 bases.  In addition, he was rumored to be Johan Santana’s closest friend.  He was signed to a four year contract.  The only other free agent second baseman that off-season was David Eckstein and he was never really within the Mets focus.

After he was signed, the Mets did get Santana in a trade.  Mets fans were happy although it was beginning to show that Castillo was starting to slow as a second baseman.

Yes, Castillo has a .290 batting average as a Met, however in 2008 he only played 87 games and this season, only 86 due to injuries.  His batting average in those two seasons was .245 and .235. In addition, he is most known for the ninth inning drop against the Yankees that cost the Mets a game at Yankee Stadium.  The Mets have been trying to trade him for two seasons, but who wants a slowing second baseman making $6 million in 2011.  The Mets will have to pay his salary for someone to take him off their roster.

#3 Tony Bernazard Firing

If you can tell me why it took Omar Minaya six days to fire Mets VP Tony Bernazard, I would be the first to know.   During late July of the 2009 season, it became known that Bernazard took off his shirt and challenged players within the Mets AA affiliate Binghamton to a fight.  He got involved within a heated discussion with a Diamonbacks scout and also had a well-heard about argument with Francisco Rodriguez on the team bus.

Back to Binghamton, he went after specific players.  He called them terms I will not type here.  He went crazy in northern New York and the actions were collaborated by many sources within the Mets,

Minaya took six days to fire Bernazard after the incidents all became public.  Minaya went on an investigation to find any way possible to not fire his friend.  Minaya made public statements that he had heard the Bernazard spoke in stern tones, but never admitted to his outburst.  Minaya did say why he questioned any reports that he read, and that will be #4.

As a side note, all around New York it was speculated that Bernazard was the bird whispering in Minaya’s ear when Willie Randolph was fired.

#4 Adam Rubin and Throwing a Reporter Under the Bus

As I said earlier, New York is a big city.  We have reporters for a bunch of large and small papers, reporters for national and local radio and television stations and reporters for internet based companies everywhere you turn.  So, it is not a foreign concept for a reporter to get a story that no one else is aware of and report it.  That situation is what occurred for Adam Rubin when he reported for the New York Daily News the situation with Tony Bernazard and challenging his minor league players to fights.

So, as always with major sports teams, there was a press conference and Adam Rubin covered it for the Daily News.  Here is what transpired:

Omar Minaya: Once the reports came out, you know, of course we had to expedite more of the investigation. Early in the process, early in the process, when the reports came out, I had to kind of tell myself, “Wow, these things are coming out.” And I say this because coming from Adam Rubin, okay, and Adam, you gotta understand this, Adam, for the past couple of years, has lobby for a player development position. He has lobby myself, he has lobby Tony. So when these things came out I was kind of a little bit, I had to think about it. And I was a little bit, you know, somewhat, kind of, we gotta find out about this. We really have to do a thorough investigation of this.

Adam Rubin: Is what you’re alleging that I tried to tear Tony down so I could take his job? Is that what you’re saying?

Omar Minaya: No, no, I’m not saying that. All I’m saying was, that I know that when you wrote the reports, but I am saying, that in the past, you have, have lobby for a player, for a, for a job…

Adam Rubin: If I were interested in working in player development somewhere in the major leagues at some point in my life, how did that impact this situation at all?

Omar Minaya: I said, because, when the reports came out a lot of these things were cross… I said “Who’s writing these reports?” and I said well okay who’s writing the reports and in the back of my mind, Adam, you have told me you have told other people in the front office that you want to work for player development in the front office.

Adam Rubin: So what you’re alleging is that… the only conclusion I can draw from that is that you’re trying to allege that I tried to tear everyone down so that I could take their position. Is that what you’re saying?

Omar Minaya: Adam…

Adam Rubin: It seems pretty despicable to say that.

So, Omar Minaya, angry that a reporter broke a story that was beginning to the end for a friend of his, threw Rubin under the bus to the point that Adam Rubin was quoted as saying, “How can I cover this team again?”

Two hours after that press conference, Minaya held an impromptu press conference to apologize to Rubin.  The general feeling was that he was apologizing because he was told to by his superiors.  The owners of the Mets themselves apologized for the incident and for the wrongdoings of their general manager.

Adam Rubin now covers the Mets for ESPN New York.

#5 Mets Medical Staff

I am going on a limb here on my own and saying that the Mets Medical Staff is under the direction of the general manager.  If it is not, fine.  But, I believe that the general manager would then have the ability to go to ownership and say, “We need a change and here is why”.  Overt he past few years, the Mets have been the walking wounded.  They have had more injuries and poor recoveries of any team in recent history.  Yes, injuries happen in baseball.  However, usually they do not continually happen and usually the players return in a timely manner.

Without doing any research into this topic, who can forget when Jose Reyes had a hamstring issue in the 2009 season and came back too soon.  The result was that Jose barely played throughout the season (36 games).  In 2010, Reyes had another injury (oblique).  It shows heart that a player wants to play, but when a player goes out to the field and re-injures himself because he may have come back too soon, the medical staff must take the blame.

Carlos Beltran is another medical issue with the Mets. Beltran had a knee issue that cost him half of the 2009 season.  In January of 2010, Beltran had surgery on the knee without the Mets permission (according to the Mets).  This surgery caused Beltran to miss the first 89 games of the season.  The surgery was to cost him 12 weeks, instead it cost him over 6 months.  The Mets blew this situation as well.  Why did he not get the surgery when the season ended in 2009?  This is a player with a 7 year, $119 million contract.  Do you not believe this is a player the Mets would want on the field?

JJ Putz was supposed to be the setup man for the Mets in 2009.  He barely got a uniform dirty (appearing in only 29 games) after the Mets traded for him.  Putz said he ended up on the disabled list last season because the New York Mets never examined his injured pitching elbow.  Putz claimed that the Mets knew he had a bone spur but never examined it.  In fact, Putz has publicly said that the Mets told him to lie about the severity of the injury.

These are just a few examples of situations that the Mets have had with injuries under the tenure of Minaya.  As the general manager, he had the ability to do everything he could to see these situations were handled better by the team as a whole and they were not.

In the end, team performance is what matters.  Fred Wilpon, owner of the Mets was quoted as saying, “The past four years were the most painful in my 30 years of ownership”.  When your boss says that, there is no hope for you at your current position.

There you go, this week’s Top 5.  Good luck if your team is in the playoffs and by next week, we shall see who is playing for the league championships.  I can only hope my team does so I can see more playoff games!

See you on the other side.

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