Marge: You know Homer, it’s easy to criticize.
Homer: Fun too.
– The Simpsons
As with most things, Homer Simpson (left, with the Capital City Goofball) is right — it is indeed fun to criticize. Unfortunately, the Mets have given us plenty of material over the past few years. But now is the time to put all of the negativity away. This could be a pivotal off-season for the Mets, and whether we like it or not, Omar Minaya will be the man making the decisions. We’ve already looked back on all of the horrible, horrible moves Minaya has made over the years. And yes, it was fun. But it’s time for us to support Minaya, because if he does well, the Mets do well, and we’ll all be happy. So with that and a positive attitude in mind, let’s take a look back on all of the good moves Minaya has made in his time in Flushing, and hope he can repeat them this offseason:
12/16/04-Signed Pedro Martinez to four-year, $53 million contract
Sure, the signing didn’t turn out well — Pedro was injured basically half the time. But think back to the post season of 2004. The Mets had just endured two nightmare seasons of “battling” under the eternally dull Art Howe. They needed something to fire up the fan base, not to mention good players. Pedro was both. Sure, they went one year too many, although everyone knew that at the time. But his signing gave the Mets instant credibility, which led to…
1/11/05-Signed Carlos Beltran to seven-year, $119 million contract
Without Pedro, Beltran probably wouldn’t have come here. But after that monster post-season, the Mets gave Beltran (left, thanking the Lord for his $119 million) the moster contract. His first season was absolutely horrible, but ever since Julio Franco pushed him out of the dugout to take a curtain call early in the 2006 season, he’s been a key cog in the Mets lineup. Minaya overpaid for Beltran as well — Beltran’s agent offered him to the Yankees for a discount before taking the Mets offer. But the Mets were so bad, that was the only way to attract top-notch talent.
11/18/05-Traded Mike Cameron to San Diego for Xavier Nady
While everyone called this a classic salary dump, Minaya shocked everyone by calling Nady an important piece of the Mets future. And he was right — Nady played extremely well for the Mets, and was an instant fan favorite. But Minaya blew it with the panic trade after Duaner Sanchez got injured, sending Nady to Pittsburgh for Roberto Hernandez and, uh, some other guy. No need to re-live that here. But Minaya was proven correct, as Nady has evolved into a very good hitter.
11/24/05-Traded Mike Jacobs, Yusmiero Petit and Grant Psomas to Florida for Carlos Delgado
Minaya almost nabbed Delgado as a free agent the previous off-season, but Delgado was reportedly put off by Tony Bernazard’s “come to the Mets, we have a lot of Latinos” sales pitch. But Minaya doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer, and dealt for him a year later. He didn’t give up much. Jacobs is a pretty good home run hitter, and the other two guys aren’t pretty good at all.
11/29/05-Signed Billy Wagner to four-year, $43 million contract
The Mets needed a closer after the reign of terror of Braden Looper mercifully ended, so Minaya went out and signed one of the best closers in the game. Wagner (left) missed all but two games of the final season following Tommy John surgery, but for 3 years before that he was lights-out.
12/05/05-Traded Dante Brinkley and Gaby Hernandez to Florida for Paul Lo Duca
Dante who and Gaby what? Exactly. The Mets needed a catcher, and had offers out there to Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina. But before either one of them could take it, Minaya went back to the trade well for the Mets that is the Florida Marlins, and got a better, cheaper alternative in Lo Duca for next to nothing.
1/4/06-Traded Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack to Los Angeles for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmol
Jae Seo had worn out his welcome in Flushing, and Minaya was able to turn him into in Sanchez. If only he hadn’t gotten into that cab that fateful night in Miami. Sanchez might have continued to be unhittable, Minaya never would have dealt Nady, the Mets wouldn’t have been so vulnerable to left-handed pitching, perhaps they get past the Cards and win the World Series. And of course, that other guy they got from Pittsburgh wouldn’t have ever been on the team. That accident may have really changed the course of the franchise. But I digress. Good move by Minaya.
1/21/06-Traded Kris Benson to Baltimore for John Maine and Jorge Julio
This trade was famously more about getting rid of Anna Benson and her cleavage-baring Christmas outfit (left) than it was about ditching Kris. I never understood it, but whatever. Anyway, Jorge Julio was the main man in the deal, but Minaya had apparently done his homework on the “throw in,” John Maine. Up until the injuries, Maine was developing into a dependable starter. As far as Julio, he was a nightmare, but more about him in a moment.
2/28/06-Signed Pedro Feliciano
They say “the third time’s the charm,” and that certainly was the case with Feliciano. When Minaya signed Feliciano after spending a year in Japan, it was the third time the Mets acquired him. He has proven to be a key member of the Mets bullpen. They lefty specialist led the Mets and the NL in appearances the past two years.
5/24/06-Traded Jorge Julio to Arizona for Orlando Hernandez
Julio was a nightmare for the Mets (where have I heard that before?). Minaya was able to flip him for Hernandez, who pitched well for the Mets before getting injured right before his first playoff start. So Minaya was able to turn Kris Benson into 2/5 of his starting rotation. Not a bad haul.
11/30/07-Traded Lastings Milledge to Washington for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider
Funny thing about this deal — many people think it was among Minaya’s worst. Others disagree. Minaya was able to turn the fallen prospect that was Milledge into two starters. Sure, Schneider was nothing to write home about, but he was a seriviceable catcher. And Church was the Mets MVP in 2008 until he suffered his second concussion. A lot of people criticize Minaya for holding onto Milledge for as long as he did, and not trading him while he still could have gotten frontline players. But Minaya saw what everyone else saw in Milledge — raw, unlimited talent. He held onto him long enough to see Milledge was never going to develop as hoped, and got a decent return.
2/2/08-Traded Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra to Minnesota for Johan Santana
Definitely Minaya’s best deal, and perhaps the greatest deal in Mets history. All Minaya did was get the best pitcher in the game (left) without giving up any of his top prospects. People like to minimize Minaya’s credit for this deal because both the Yankees and Red Sox actually offered better packages. But the Twins didn’t pull the trigger fast enough on those deals, so Santana fell into Minaya’s lap. You can’t blame Minaya for that. He kept at it until Santana was in a Mets uniform.
12/10/08-Signed Francisco Rodriguez to three-year, $37 million contract
Once again, the Mets needed a closer, and once again, Minaya went out and got the best one in the game. And he got him at a great price. When the free agent process began, there was talk of K-Rod landing a five-year, $75 million contract. But with the supply of good closers high and the demand low, it was a buyer’s market. And Minaya did an excellent job of waiting out the market until he got his man at his price.
7/10/09-Traded Ryan Church to Atlanta for Jeff Francoeur
With Church inexplicably in Jerry Manuel’s doghouse, Minaya knew he had to deal him. Francoeur was in a similar position in Atlanta, so an even swap was perfect for both teams. While Church is good, he’s a .275, 15 homers, 75 RBIs kind of guy. Not only does Francoeur have the potential to be a 30 homers, 100 RBIs guy, he’s already done it — all he has to do remember how to do it again. Think about how many games the Mets would have lost had Francoeur not been on the team the second half of last season. A great trade by Minaya.
So there you have it. Minaya may not be the nightmare general manager he’s made out to be. One thing is a bit disconcerting, however. When you check the dates of the above deals, most of them are in the first couple of years of Minaya’s run. Just as a player peaks and starts going downhill, perhaps the same can be said for a GM. Let’s hope not. Let’s hope Minaya can make some deals, so perhaps the Mets can resemble a playoff team again. Hell, if Mr. Burns can assemble an all-star team (left), Minaya certainly can.