Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Omar's Ghost

Although New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya is highly praised within baseball, personally, I have never had much respect for the man. Despite all his claims to the contrary, when he was Caretaker General Manager of Major League Baseball's Personal Toy, The Montreal Expos, Minaya did a terrible job, destroying the Franchise's very foundation, ripping it up, handing over virtually every single top prospect to other Major League Owners, receiving little value in return.

Last Night, one of Omar's most ridiculous trades came back to haunt Our Washington Nationals. The San Diego Padres Chris Young shut down our hometown team through eight solid innings. Young was terrific, and quite frankly, Washington had no chance. A 3-0 shutout loss to The Padres. This on a fine evening in San Diego where Shawn Hill continued to impress, pitching well, but not good enough to win. Its hard to believe these two fine pitchers were one time minor league roommates. At one time, Montreal had a terrific farm system. Some would say, the VERY BEST IN BASEBALL. Omar Minaya literally gave all the top prospects away.

Eventually, all of Minaya's poor decisions will be forgotten, minor footnotes in the hopeful Proud History Of Our Washington Nationals. But, when your team is struggling, looking to find its way, not sure when they will turn things around--its hard to not think about what MIGHT HAVE BEEN, if Major League Baseball had really CARED ABOUT The Montreal Expos.

Most people are aware of the fact that The Cleveland Indians Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips were all traded away by The Expos for Bartolo Colon in an ill fated bid to win The National League Wild Card in 2002. Only to see Minaya then trade Colon off to The Chicago White Sox for Geoff Blum, Rocky Biddle and "El Duque" Orlando Hernandez. "El Duque" never pitched one game for the Expos, was released by MLB and eventually resigned by The New York Yankees. Still successful at what some folks believe an above age 40 (no one seems sure), Livan's brother now pitches for The Mets. Three top prospects, all starters in the Majors Today, GONE FOR NOTHING.

Chris Young was GIVEN AWAY for a BACKUP CATCHER. A terrible backup catcher, that could not call a game--Einar Diaz. Then Expos' Manager Frank Robinson didn't trust Diaz, so he virtually gave the starting job to the then young and very inexperienced Brian Schneider for his ON THE JOB TRAINING. There is Pirates All-Star Leftfielder Jason Bay (A Canadian--which really shows how poorly the Montreal Expos were run--not even keeping home grown Canadian Talent) traded away for a UTILITY MAN--Lou Collier.

And, of course, there was Vladamir Guerrero, one of game's Pre-Eminent Sluggers--The Montreal Expos Finest Player before their move to DC, that Major League Baseball just allowed to walk, for nothing in return. Gurerrero, still A Most Valuable Player quality candidate today--still slamming the ball out of the park for The Los Angeles Angels. In fact, Vlady Clubbed a Grand Slam last night against The Kansas City Royals.

Even Our General Manager Jim Bowden admitted to me that if Our Washington Nationals had retained all 6 of those players this 2007 version would be far closer to being a competitive, division challenging team. Yeah, I know, I'm crying over some long ago, well documented, spilled milk. But, when my team gets beat because their offense is shutdown by one of its one time own native sons--it bothers me. Just like it bothered me in 1971 when Joe Coleman, Ed Brinkman and Aurelio Rodriguez came back to RFK Stadium as Detroit Tigers' to beat My Washington Senators. Then Senators Owner Robert Short had traded away three of our best players for a washed up Denny McLain. The Tigers would go to win the Eastern Division in 1972. The Senators would go on and become The Texas Rangers in 1972. A long memory is not my weak point.

And Omar's Ghost will haunt me again in June, when The Cleveland Indians visit RFK Stadium. Grady Sizemore is one of the finest all around young talents in the game today. When Grady comes to play, all of Washington, DC will witness a Fine Centerfielder. He can field the position, lead off, steal a base, knock in runs, AND HIT FOR POWER. How nice would Grady Sizemore look at the top of Our Washington Nationals Batting Order? Although Lee is on the Disabled List, Cliff is a front of the rotation starter.

Shawn Hill, Chris Young, Cliff Lee---That's a very competitive starting rotation. We would not be witnessing many 5 run first innings by opposing teams, as many fans have seen in early 2007 from Our Washington Nationals. And, you can bet--Livan Hernandez would still be a Washington National. No way he's traded when the team is so close to winning.

Dreaming badly this morning--Schneider, Nick Johnson, Phillips, Orlando Cabrera (now with The Angels as shortstop), Ryan Zimmerman (hedging that "Z" was still available in their 2005 Draft Spot), Guerrero, Bay & Sizemore. Now BABY, THAT's A WINNING TEAM!! Possible Division Championship Team. How nice would that be? There would be no FLop, no Kearns, no GUZMAN--John Patterson would still be The 5th Starter. NO ONE WOULD BE WORRYING ABOUT FAILING ATTENDANCE AT RFK STADIUM.

Until Our Washington Nationals become a FORCE IN THE GAME, Omar's Ghost will haunt me. You can say whatever you want about Major League Baseball's influence, but Minaya was a terrible front office leader. And, he jumped ship to The New York Mets, the first chance offered.

PS--I will give Omar credit for a couple of moves. He traded Javier Vazquez to The Yankees for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate. Then, moved Choate to Phoenix for Patterson. Ryan Church arrived from The Cleveland Indians for Scott Stewart, now gone from the game.

PSS--And, with The New York Mets all Minaya has done is attempt to trade for or buy veteran talent in a WIN NOW or Nothing Push. To me, not smart with David Wright, Jose Reyes and other fine young talent in your system.


Rocket1124 said...

A fine post, SBF.

Chris Needham said...

You've gotta consider the situation he was in when you evaluate his decisions. He was being asked to win now because the team HAD NO FUTURE. At the time these moves were made, the Nationals were just a glimmer in your eye, and the threat of contraction (though many thought it was just a ruse) was very real.

Most of his moves ended up being bad, but there was no need to keep prospects when the team wasn't going to be around in five years.

(On Bay, take a look at his minor league numbers and how many teams gave up on him; i'll give him a pass on that one)

As far as Bowden's comments, if the team still did have all 6 players, the team would look very different, likely wouldn't have Zimmerman, and might not have even been able to hold on to all of them at their respective salaries. It's easy to play the what-if game, but it's harder to piece things together with salaries and the rest.

On the PPS part, Minaya is doing EXACTLY what he should be doing. He has a core of young players and a loaded farm system full of prospects at the lower-levels. They're a win-now team and SHOULD be signing vets to compliment his starts. The only ready player who's been blocked is Lastings Millege, and there are plenty of questions about him.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Chris: I understand the contaction issue overhanging The Expos. A incredibly poor decision by Bud Selig. Whether The Expos moved to here, Portland, Norfolk or Charlotte, no Franchise should have been put in such a future position. Fans from those cities would ALDO deserve the same consideration and decency. You didn't see The Minnesota Twins DUMPING EVERYBODY? The Twins fought contraction. And, are ONE OF the MAJOR REASONS Our Washington Nationals exist today. No one could FIGHT for the Expos. They were an Expensive Toy to ABUSE by MLB. No one cared. Minaya played the pawn. The Franchise suffers to this day, because of him. Its just how I feel, although I understand your comments and can see that view also.

Chris Needham said...

The one to be angry at is Selig and Dupuy. (and Loria!)

They're the ones who put Minaya into that situation.

Blaming Minaya is a bit like blaming Randy St. Claire for the crappiness of the pitching staff over the last two years. Neither really controlled the larger situation they were in.

Brian said...

I want to echo Chris' point. Minaya and Frank Robinson were put in the role of caretakers for a franchise with no owners and no money. They played it out as if the team was going away. Be it, a ploy by MLB or not, the Expos were considered a year-to-year franchise. There were no plans of continuity. Minaya and Robinson were handed the reins and told to make the best of a bad situation. Whie in retrospect the deals Minaya made were terrible, he was going all-in on the season. If I fault Minaya for anything it's turning Bartolo Colon into nothing after giving up three premium pieces to acquire him.

SenatorNat said...

In the year 2007, Washington marks year one, in reality, of its "expansion" National League team - the Washington Nationals. (Yes, the team existed, as run by MLB for 2005-2006 in D.C. as the Nationals, but it was a cow being kept marginally fat for sale in the marketplace.)

As expansion teams go, it is relatively well-stocked in both major league and minor league terms. The one superstar hitter missing actually could have been "acquired" with a commitment by the new owners that they felt was back-loaded for too long at too much. That decision was imprudent, as the team needs an identity besides one rookie, and it would have paid for itself in the initial years and been able to fit "under the cap" in the outlying years...

SBF is indulging in a fantasy which would by like Philadelphia A's fans saying: look at this team, which would have a Hall of Famer at every position had Connie Mack not sold off all the assets; or Florida Marlins twice, more modern version of same...Indeed, a Florida Marlins alumni game between the 1997 WS winners and the 2004 WS winners would be like an All-Star game. Expos had a gold mine of young talent, though, and it is fun to surmise. MLB would have priced team much higher had they those guys, you can bet, so - may have queered the whole thing in tenuous D.C.

Pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching. That is six high-quality starts in succession, counting the Top O'The Hill, last night. Somebody please hit to go with this. Notice that on May 1, Brian Schneider came out of his customary April slump, with two ropes. Good sign.

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

Anonymous said...

SBF and friends:

Check out this must-read by Ken Rosenthal about Nats' management and ownership.

Anonymous said...

Do we need an intervention in Lot 8?
At this point MLB ownership was what it was. It is now time to move on. Conversation from this point should be limited to the performace of this team and it's future.
(AQ can you give SBF a good back rub?)