Sunday, November 21, 2010

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame ONLY Omar Minaya for the Mets' Failures Since 2006

What's this, a sick, twisted, demented Yankee Fan like me is talking about the Mets and letting one of them off the hook?

No. Just pointing out that said failures aren't all the work of one man. True, Omar Minaya, recently fired as Met general manager, is the man most to blame for the Mets currently being an even more pathetic mess than usual.

But there are extenuating circumstances.

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame ONLY Omar Minaya for the Mets' Failures Since 2006

5. The New York Yankees. The Yanks' success since 1996 has raised expectations, particularly for all the other New York sports teams, to a ridiculous, perhaps impossible level. Is it any wonder that, since then, of the other 8 teams in the New York Tri-State Area, only the Devils (in 2000 and 2003) and the Giants (in 2007-08) have won a World Championship?
The Mets won a Pennant in 2000 but lost the World Series to the Yankees. The Knicks reached the NBA Finals in 1999 but lost. The Nets reached the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, but lost both and looked totally overmatched in the process. The Jets reached the AFC Championship Game in 1998-99 and 2009-10, but lost both. The Rangers reached the NHL Eastern Conference Finals in 1997, but lost, and haven't been back since. The Islanders have barely made the Playoffs at all since 1993.

The Yankees have bred this mentality that "New York teams should win." Their massive payroll also suggests that all New York teams should have massive payrolls, and most do. And it hasn't worked.

What everyone forgets is that the Yankees also had smart management. This worked against Minaya. But, let's face it: If the Yankees had not been so successful since 1996, the Mets' failures since then (including their 1998 end-of-regular-season collapse, their 1999 NLCS disaster, the 2000 World Series loss to the Yankees, and the dreariness of the Art Howe years, all of which preceding Minaya's hiring) wouldn't seem so glaring.

4. Yadier Molina. Every now and then, a team looking to make it big gives up a home run that ruins their progress. Just in my lifetime, through the 2006 NLCS, we have had many.

* Involving the Yankees: Chris Chambliss against the Royals in 1976, Reggie Jackson against the Dodgers in 1977, Bucky Dent against the Red Sox in 1978, Derek Jeter against the Orioles in 1996, Tino Martinez against the Padres in 1998, and David Ortiz for the Red Sox against the Yankees in 2004.

* Not involving the Yankees: Rick Monday against the Expos in 1981, Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark against the Dodgers in 1985, Dave Henderson against the Angels in 1986, Mike Scioscia against the Mets in 1988 (lest we forget), Kirk Gibson against the A's that same year, Kirby Puckett against the Braves in 1991, Joe Carter against the Phillies in 1993, David Justice against the Indians in 1995, Tony Fernandez against the Orioles in 1997, Scott Spiezio against the Giants in 2002, and Albert Pujols against the Astros in 2005.

When Yadier Molina stepped up to bat against Aaron Heilman in the top of the 9th of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Met fans were confident. The old battle cry of "Ya Gotta Believe!" had plenty of reason. Their team had won a lot more regular-season games than the St. Louis Cardinals. They were still on a high from the Endy Chavez catch a few innings before. They had home field advantage, and the meat of their order was coming up in the bottom of the 9th. For perhaps the last time, Shea Stadium was rocking. And then it got rocked by the 3rd-best Molina brother.
If Yadier doesn't hit that home run, maybe the Mets win the Pennant. Regardless of whether they go on to beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, maybe that glorious feeling of winning a Pennant carries over (it didn't in 1973 and 2000, but you never know), and maybe they don't flop down the stretch in 2007 and 2008, maybe they win a World Series, maybe they can look Yankee and Phillie fans in the eye and say, "What have you done lately?" Who knows, maybe Willie Randolph is still Met manager.

3. The Philadelphia Phillies. Since opening Citizens Bank Park in 2004, they have been the National League's model organization. As Jimmy Rollins taunted the Mets, they're the team to beat.
2. Injuries. Minaya signed Pedro Martinez, who already had an injury history, so blame him for that. But you know who did not have a reputation for being injury-prone? Carlos Beltran. Carlos Delgado. David Wright. Jose Reyes. Oliver Perez. Johan Santana. No one could have foreseen all of that.

1. The House of Wilpon. Jeff hired Minaya. And Fred didn't do anything to correct that mistake well past the point where it was too late. Like Harry Truman said, the buck stops with the commander-in-chief. That's Fred Wilpon, who, like Charles Dolan with the Knicks, Ed McCaskey with the Chicago Bears and Paul Brown with the Cincinnati Bengals, handed too much power to his son, who handed too much power to his favorite guy. With disastrous results. Perhaps not as disastrous as those of the Knicks -- Minaya, after all, is not Isiah Thomas -- but bad enough.
So, does Minaya bear some responsibility? Yes. All of it? No. Most of it? No. The biggest part of it? No.

I could say, "VERDICT: Not Guilty," but he wouldn't be acquitted on all the charges against him.

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