New York Mets: After Minaya



Juan Samuel

Juan Samuel played only 86 games vfor the 1989 Mets; the cost was heavy. He came for Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell, brought only Mike Marshall and Alejandro Pena. In between he hit .228 and slugged but .300 in 86 games for the Mets.

Time goes by like pouring rain: 

The Mets finally dropped Luis Castillo like Castillo dropped an infamous pop fly, which means if Daniel Murphy can’t wedge his way into the lineup at second base this year, he won’t ever. Murphy will be 26 on April 1 and can hit, and if his competition for the position –Brad Emaus is the best of a group that includes Justin Turner, Luis Hernandez and Chin-lung Hu — was any weaker, he’d be on the ’62 Mets. Murphy came up as a third baseman, but David Wright is in the way there, and he can play first base and left field, but not ahead of Ike Davis and Jason Bay, respectively. Second base — as poorly as he might field it — always seemed like the best option, but a knee injury stalled his 2010. No reason to let Castillo do likewise in 2011.

I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door:  Jose Reyes may be a better player than Wilmer Flores for a few years yet, but between Reyes’ hamstrings and contract, Flores may soon be the better return on investment. Flores has only a career .725 OPS in three minor-league seasons, but he hit .300 last year for half a season in the Florida State League. By the time he turns 20 this August, he’ll likely be in AA — or higher. His power is improving — 11 homers and 50 extra-base hits last year vs. 3 and 25 in 2009 — but his patience (67 walks in 1,427 plate appearances) needs to do likewise.

What is this man doing here? Now that we no longer have Castillo to kick around, we can focus attention on pitcher Oliver Perez, the other prominent symbol of the Omar Minaya reign (we’re going to just have to ignore, against our best impulses, Boof Bonser). The Mets are saying Perez is a candidate for the bullpen, which says more about their relief group than Perez. Perez has walked 100 batters in his last 112 major-league innings, and the Mets want to bring him into games with runners on base? Really? Talk about self-immolation. There’s only one reason, or 12 million of them, Perez is still a Met — the money he’s owed for 2011. But Perez has followed up ERAs of 6.82 and 6.80 with an ERA this spring of 7.00. Haven’t the Mets seen enough?

Editor’s note: Perez was released on Monday. Who would have ever guessed?

Outlook: The Mets aren’t that bad. Really. They’re not that good, either, but they’re going to get better, and more importantly, they’re going to be managed better at the highest levels.

But to give the previous regime due credit, it didn’t leave the new one without young talent. The 2005 draft produced catcher Josh Thole and pitcher Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey, 2008 gave the Mets Davis, and free-agent signings brought in Jeremy Mejia, Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada. The farm system isn’t in bad shape, even if one of the people Minaya put in charge of it (Tony Bernazard) apparently was.

The trick is molding a team from all the disparate parts, and the new GM, Sandy Alderson, is infinitely more capable of doing so than the last. He’s saddled with bad contracts (Castillo, Perez and Bay at $16.5 million per year for ages 32-34), and his best players — David Wright and Reyes — are likely to be depreciating when the team finally raises to the level the Braves and Phillies are at now.

The Mets look very much like a .500 team in 2011, though closer to the last two versions that finished under the mark and in fourth place in 2009-2010 than the previous two versions that contended and finished second in 2007-08.

But the Mets have resources and an apparently competent management team; they also have a frustrated fan base, the pressure of New York and the inevitable little brother to big brother comparison to the Yankees. No guarantees, perhaps, but at least there’s hope.

Remember when: The 1962 Mets were the fourth New York team Casey Stengel wore the uniform of:

  1. he played for the New York Giants, for whom he batted .349 over parts of three seasons and won the 1922 World Series (as Casey would say, you could look it up).
  2. he played for (1912-1917, batting .316 in 1914) and managed (208-251 from 1934-36) the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  3. he was the most succesful manager the Yankees ever had, winning seven World Series and 10 pennant in 12 years (overall record of 1,149-649, .623 winning percentage).
  4. he was the first manager of the New York Mets, who were 175-404 for Stengel, a .302 non-winning percentage.

Ironically, it’s the Mets with whom he’s most often associated. Go figure.  

Next: Washington

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