Credit Where It’s Due

By Taryn “the Coop” Cooper

Quick! What do Josh Thole, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell all have in common?

Well, Cliff, they may be men who have never been in your kitchen…and technically you could say that they are all playing for the New York Mets now.  And be right.

But their common thread?

They were all drafted by Omar Minaya.

Shocking, huh?  And this is the majority of the team that goes out on a daily basis that are currently 4.5 games out of first in the NL East…and a half game out of the Wild Card.

Craziness.  If you want to wax intellectual, he also signed Ruben Tejada as an amateur free agent, R.A. Dickey, traded for Johan Santana AND gave David Wright his extension.

During Sunday’s broadcast, I heard Keith Hernandez mutter a phrase that I’ve said in agreement before: that Omar Minaya had a good eye for young talent.  It was where he OVERVALUED talent (like Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez or Jason Bay), that got him into trouble.

So does he get credit for how well the team is doing this year?  Surprised to admit, it’s taken me this long to address it, but I figure, what better time than the All-Star break?

When Sandy Alderson took over as General Manager of the New York Mets in the winter of 2010, he made a comment about the Mets farm system, that it was pretty much middle-of-the-road.  With the resources that a New York team is supposed to have, “middle-of-the-road” simply was not good enough.  That didn’t mean, however, that the Mets didn’t have good talent in the system.  It just meant that they didn’t have enough for the level they should be.

The double-edged sword of this was that former Mets GM Omar Minaya, who was heralded as this great scout of young talent, was responsible to some degree for running the team into the ground (the other part was that the Wilpons/Katz ownership group was irresponsible with their finances).  For every Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jon Niese or Ike Davis he drafted, there was a Jason Bay, Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo signing.  Yes, for someone who had such a good eye for young talent was a terrible assessor of old, washed-up talent that cost money, years and resources.

But I don’t come here to bury Minaya, I come in praise.  If Alderson’s hiring of his “dream team” front office along with Terry Collins as Mets manager, letting players develop in the minors as opposed to rushing them and keeping them around at the expense of appearing “small ball-ish,” Minaya certainly has his hand, ghostingly anyway, in how this team is constructed.

The irony was, Minaya was given a pass so much for how well the team rebounded in 2005 and then their playoff run in 2006, that we were sort of clouded that while he was doing okay with drafting, his long-term contracts lost much-needed sandwich picks.  Also what was ironic was that he tended to overvalue the talent that he liked, as long as he was given the blank checks.  Hey, it happens to the best of us I’m sure.

What I can’t give credit for, however, is what WOULD have happened had he stood pat in the winter leading to 2011, like Alderson did, and not give away his draft picks or sign low-risk high-reward guys like Chris Young or Chris Capuano in 2011.

We have no idea what Minaya might have done had he been given his so-called “full autonomy” longer than he had.

What we do know is this.  Minaya traded away a lot of youth for Santana.  This was a deal, however, that was an anomaly, one that every single Mets fan would do any day of the week and twice on Sundays.  We were also fortunate that none of those prospects really panned out (and even Phil Humber pitched a perfect game and STILL sucks…only to be trumped by Johan’s no-no a few weeks later…).  We do know that R.A. Dickey was signed because there was no one else left.  Dickey could have gone either way, and luckily for us, he is an All-Star this year and having one of the most amazing comeback seasons ever (although if he told you, he never really went anywhere).

There is also the overvaluing of the young talent on the team.  Look at Mike Pelfrey – the cautionary tale of rushing a prospect.  Making his start when he was still green in 2006, only to finally come around this season, to get injured.  Look at Jenrry Mejia, who was showcased as a “bullpen guy” to save the hides of the lame duck GM and Manager, when he was projected to be a fireball starter?

What would have happened, say, if stuck around and Parnell sucked, and no one gave him a chance to be a flamethrower bullpen guy and/or closer?

We know there are some underlying financial issues with the Mets, and potentially that may have been the cause for the effect of having these young players on the roster now.  Yet, look at how not only Alderson is handling the development of these guys, he’s also got a keen eye in the minors to not mishandle their development.

Take for example what’s going on with the rotation today.  Dillon Gee was found to have an artery clot and will be on the 15-day DL.  Minaya would have activated Matt Harvey, ready or not.  Of course, I’m going by what my gut instinct would be, but let’s be fair…that would have not been out of the realm of possibility.

No, we’ve been told countless times that Harvey, at best, is a September call-up.  And this is wonderful.  The adults are in charge.  Who knows how many of these homegrown guys we have starting now would even BE on the roster because of a flashier player that we could have via trade?  Who knows if Jose Reyes would have been kept around at the expense of what else, maybe David Wright not getting an extension next year?

The truth is, we never know.  We just have the body of evidence here to support that yes, Omar Minaya did have a good eye for young talent.  Harvesting it, cultivating it, and overvaluing other areas was one of his weaknesses.  Perhaps Alderson really is a catalyst, a change agent to actually putting that good young talent to usefulness, as we’re having a really fun season rooting for a bunch of homegrown guys, with some other mercenaries sprinkled into the mix…

And not the other way around.

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