Squared Up: Changing of the Guard
"So long, suckers."
I've just heard on the radio that the Mets have officially let GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel go. This had to happen, but it won't change anything, because the problem is not Manuel's field-generalship or Minaya's stewardship of the payroll. The real problem is that Jeff Wilpon is consulted on every player decision, and Minaya's lack of autonomy left Manuel with a fool's-gold lineup of aging utility guys, overpaid sluggers, and head cases.
This is not to say that Minaya is a misunderstood genius or that Manuel couldn't have done more with what he had, and it's gotten to the point where leaving either of them in place can't work psychologically. But unless Fred Wilpon sits Jeff down and says, look, son, I love you, but you need to hire a general manager whose deal-making you trust, and then you need to get out of the way and let him/her make those deals on his/her own.
If that conversation doesn't happen, it really won't matter who's hired to replace Omar and Jerry, because Jeff Wilpon will still involve himself in player acquisition, and his track record sucks. I'll give him a pass on Santana and Beltran, particularly Beltran, because I liked that deal at the time and it mostly looks bad now because he's missed so much time. Santana, same thing; he's had some serious injuries, and my dad thinks the Mets signed him too old, but I disagree — he did throw a lot of innings with Minnesota, but it's not like he got to New York and Vasquezed. He's done his job.
But some of these other signings, oo-fah. K-Rod: come on. "But he had the most saves in the –" No. Please use a more indicative metric to give a guy a bajillion dollars. One of these metrics is called "your eyeballs," and when you realize that a K-Rod save entails loading the bases and then finally escaping (or not) from the game after throwing, like, 55 pitches, please put away your wallet.
Jason Bay is just as bad a call. He isn't terrible, obviously, but why would you look at a guy who hit a ton on a post-trade bounce in Fenway and say to yourself, "Self, that's our guy"? I admit that I haven't examined his stats to see where he puts most of his hits, but here's what his stats can tell me: bad deal.
I won't get into all the C-minuses they had to play because guys got hurt, or the denial in which some Met fans lived while waiting for Beltran to return, like that would fix anything. I also won't get into Ollie Perez, except to say that putting him in the game last night…what the fuck. The guys in the booth stopped short of calling it outright mean, but I'll go ahead and say it. The guy hasn't worked in almost a month! Think about why that is! It's extra innings in the last game of the season — you don't want to try to go out on a good note, instead of deliberately setting Perez up to fail and then losing? Is that why Jerry sent him to the hill, as a "fuck you" to Wilpon and Perez? If so, it has a certain acidic elegance to it, but I felt terribly sorry for Bad Ollie yesterday. I've always felt sorry for him. He should have gone back to the minors or had his contract dumped, don't get me wrong, but he's obviously miserable, he obviously doesn't want to suck and get booed. Just…what a dick move, truly. Dan Warthen looked like he'd just eaten ten live frogs.
…Okay, so I got into Ollie Perez, but he's just a symptom of a more serious disease, to wit: the Met front office likes to poor-mouth about how they "can't" go after the big stars or can't afford to get into a bidding war with the Red Sox, but if they didn't have all these big sucker-bet contracts — which are their own damn fault — maybe they could get a true elite closer. Maybe they could get a durable outfielder whose doubles power is legit. And maybe they could have the baseball equivalent of a bake sale and just trade Jose Reyes already, if they can find a team who wants him. He's a very good player at times, but I don't think he's going to become the superstar everyone's waited for for years now, I don't think the injury problems will go away, and if the Dodgers or whoever want him, for God's sake, trade him. Trade everybody but D. Wright and Santana for whatever you can get, seriously. Clear out the medium-talent deadwood, bring up some kids from AAA, and start over.
But even that won't do shit unless the Wilpons can look across the river and learn a lesson from the Yankees — not that money can buy you a championship, although let's not pretend it doesn't help, but that when ownership can't stop putting its thumbs on the scale, all the money in the world won't do shit. Remember all the assy deals from the early aughts? Randy Johnson? Effing Womack? Cashman isn't Carnac — see: Vasquez II: The Revenge — but the difference between now and then is that, when the deals don't work out, it's usually bad luck versus obvious from the get-go. He's allowed to do his job without clearing everything with the board, which is how it should work — and if he biffs and the club is losing, fine, fire him. But it's bad baseball and bad management to stand over the guy while he's trying to work, and then fire him when you don't let him talk you out of your own stupid ideas.
I mean: Castillo.
Fingers crossed, of course, and I love me some Walter Backman, but if they don't put a guy or lady in at GM who's ballsy enough to tell Jeff Wilpon to mind his knitting, we've got another two years of false hopes and crap signings until we have this same conversation all over again.
Tags: Brian Cashman Carlos Beltran Dan Warthen David Wright Francisco Rodriguez Jason Bay Javier Vasquez Jerry Manuel Johan Santana Jose Reyes Luis Castillo Oliver Perez Omar Minaya Randy Johnson shut up Wilpons Sir Walter Backman Squared Up Tony Womack