It’s a staple of Mets message boards and I assume sports talk radio (I don’t listen) — that Omar Minaya favors Latino players over non-Latinos. There is certainly circumstantial evidence to back up that claim. The Mets have perhaps more Latinos on their roster than any other team. Minaya has made some questionable deals that netted Latinos in exchange for non-Latinos — Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos, Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for Jason Vargas are two examples. Then of course there was Anna Benson’s (below, any excuse to use her picture) contention that Minaya was “putting together an all-Latino team.” Who better to help make your point than Anna Benson?
But is any of it true? On the surface, it seems ridiculous. Minaya was hired to build a baseball team, not a Latino social club. But then there’s this 2008 quote from Minaya himself:
“Diversity has always meant a lot to me. Growing up in New York as a kid, diversity was important, and it has always been important to me and to our organization, and ownership, too.”
While it shows Minaya has a social conscious, it’s no proof of some kind of secret agenda. The only way is to look at the deals Minaya has made, and see if there is a pattern. So I analyzed (and when I say “analyzed,” I mean counted) all of Minaya’s transactions since he became Mets GM in September 2004. A special thanks to the good folks at Ultimate Mets Database, which lists, among other things, every transaction in Mets history. If you haven’t visisted the site, do it. But be advised — this will cost you many, many hours of your life as you travel through franchise history.
I broke this down into two categories — trades and free agent signings, and players Minaya released or those who left as free agents. I counted the comings and goings of Latino and non-Latino players. And here’s what I found:
In Minaya’s time as Mets GM, he acquired 62 Latino players. But guess how many non-Latino players he got? — 64. So the idea that Minaya is going out there collecting Latino players at the expense of non-Latinos just doesn’t add up. But here’s where conspiracy theorists have a point — in all of the trades Minaya has made, he dealt away 35 non-Latino players, and only sent 17 Latinos to other teams.
And then there are the players released or who left as free agents. 63 non-Latinos departed the team, while just 40 Latinos were sent away.
So what does all of this mean? You can make the argument Minaya has no bias, pointing to the fact that he actually acquired two more non-Latinos than Latinos. But he traded away or allowed to leave considerably more non-Latino players (98) than Latinos (57). So both sides of the argument have numbers to back up their claims.
As for me, I can’t imagine ethnicity has anything to do with Minaya’s player personnel decisions. I think there is that perception because of a few bad minor trades, and the major acquisitions of such high profile players as Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez. Indeed, these players are Latino, but they were also the best players available when the Mets acquired them, Latino or not. Who cares where they are from as long as they perform well? That is what I think Minaya believes.
Then there are a couple of individual instances. Prior to the 2006 season, when Minaya was shopping for a catcher, he reportedly made identical offers to Latino free agents Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez, and waited for one of them to take it. He eventually rescinded the offers and traded two players (one of them Latino) for Paul Lo Duca — a white guy. And don’t forget the big 10 player J.J. Putz trade, in which four of the seven players the Mets traded away were Latino, in return for three non-Latinos. If Minaya truly had a bias, he never would have made these deals.
Having said that, I’m sure Minaya doesn’t mind having a strong Latino presence on the team. And I think if Minaya has any bias at all, it’s when it comes down to the final few roster spots. If there is a choice between a Latino or non-Latino player for, say, a backup infielder job or the last spot in the bullpen, Minaya might favor the Latino player if both players are at a similar talent level. I have no evidence to back this up. It’s just a feeling I have.
In any case, it’s all about winning. If the Mets had won a couple of World Series during the Minaya years, no one would care if the players were all white or black or Latino or whatever. Winning is the greatest diversity plan of all — fans become color blind, and the players are simply called champions.