Tagged: Omar Minaya

The Other Side of the Steve Phillips Argument

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General manager-turned-broadcaster Steve Phillips has taken
a lot of flack over the last few days, ever since he made a series of critical
comments about the Mets’ Carlos Beltran during ESPN’s Sunday night broadcast.
Frankly, some of the blowback against Phillips has been overdone, with his
comments taken severely out of context by some critics who don’t like his commentary to begin with or haven’t forgiven him for a spotty record as a general manager.

 

First of all, Phillips only suggested trading Beltran IF the
Mets were to fail to make the postseason for a third consecutive year. Let’s be
honest here. If the Mets fall short of the playoffs for a third summer, no one in the organization will be
untouchable. GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel will likely be fired, and
one of the Mets’ big three–either Beltran, Jose Reyes, or David Wright–will
almost certainly be traded. (And if you don’t agree with that possibility, you
simply haven’t been following the Mets’ fortunes since October of 2006.) Furthermore,
one of the reasons that Phillips “picked on” Beltran has to do with the ages of
both Reyes and Wright, who are both 26 and likely have a number of prime years
remaining. Beltran is no kid anymore–he’s 32, an age by which most players
start to show some decline–and therefore not likely to have as prolonged a
future as either Wright or Reyes. Yet, because of his all-round greatness as a
player, Beltran will still command something substantial in a potential trade.

 

In posing some of his criticisms of Beltran on Sunday night,
Phillips chose some of his words badly and came off sounding awkward. For
example, he talked about Beltran not delivering enough “winning plays,” a
strange and nebulous way of wording things, to say the least. That kind of
terminology certainly did not help Phillips’ argument, leading to some of the
negative reaction on the Internet. That’s fair criticism. But some of Phillips’
points about Beltran are legitimate. Twice this year, Beltran has inexplicably failed
to slide on the basepaths when sliding should have been his first and only
option. (Beltran is just part of the problem here; as a team, the Mets are simply
atrocious running the bases. They don’t hustle, they don’t understand game
situations, and now they even miss bases.) In the field, Beltran has also made
a habit of missing the cutoff man, which is surprising for a center fielder of
his rather considerable defensive talents. And Beltran has never been much of a
vocal leader, which is an attribute the current Mets severely lack–and have
lacked for a few years now. Hey, when you make the big bucks, like Beltran
does, some people expect you to speak up in the clubhouse every once in awhile. 

 

Did Phillips make his case against Beltran poorly? Yes,
absolutely. Did he belabor his criticisms of Beltran during the broadcast? No
question. But let’s keep things in context here, while looking toward the
possible future. If the Mets continue their inconsistent play and miss out on a
postseason berth for a third consecutive season, Beltran will be one of just
many people in the organization holding their heads on the chopping block. And
if the Mets can get the right package of players in return for Beltran–who is
still one of the top ten players in the game and a future Hall of Famer–that might be one of the steps they
need to take to change the dynamics of a team that too often seems dazed and
disinterested.

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The Sunday Scuttlebutt

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And now, it’s time for something entirely new. Here is the first edition of the “Sunday Scuttlebutt.”…


The Red Sox are playing very well right now, with six
straight victories heading into Patriot’s Day, but are also facing the very real
possibility that Jed Lowrie will miss the rest of the season with a serious
wrist injury. If that happens, GM Theo Epstein will have to make a trade for a
more seasoned shortstop. Journeyman Nick Green, currently filling in, is not a
long-term answer, nor is the declining Julio Lugo, who remains on the disabled
list. Do not be surprised to hear rumors of the Red Sox dealing for someone
like Oakland’s Bobby Crosby or Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson…

 

The Yankees’ Chien-Ming Wang will receive at least one more
start before being demoted to the bullpen–or to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
If Wang endures another beating in his next start, which is currently scheduled
for next weekend in Boston,
the Yankees will replace him in the rotation with Phil Hughes and move the
sinkerballing right-hander to the bullpen. There is an outside possibility that
the Yankees could send him back to the minor leagues, but as a vested veteran,
Wang would have to grant his permission to such a move…

 

Jorge Posada isn’t exactly thrilled with Joe Girardi’s plan
to remove him from the latter stages of games in which the Yankees are nursing thin
leads. On Friday, Girardi pulled Posada before the top of the ninth, replacing
him with defensive specialist Jose Molina. Posada then left the Yankee
clubhouse before reporters arrived, fueling speculation that he was upset by
being yanked from the game. From where I stand, Girardi’s plan is a smart one.
Posada, returning from major shoulder surgery, has thrown out only two of eight
basestealers this year. Even when fully healthy, Posada is vastly inferior to
Molina in terms of arm strength and general catching skills. Right about now,
Molina might just be the major leagues’ best throwing catcher…

 

The Johan Santana trade is looking better and better for the
Mets. Earlier this week, the Twins designated right-hander Philip Humber, a
major piece in the package the Mets surrendered for the great Santana. The
Twins will now have to trade Humber at a
bargain basement price or hope that he clears waivers and accepts an assignment
to Triple-A Rochester. Humber has been a huge
disappointment in the Twin Cities, unable to crack a young rotation that lost
both Santana and Matt Garza over the past two years…

 

Notwithstanding Luis Castillo’s game-winning infield single
on Friday and his current flirtation with a .400 batting average, the Mets
still have major worries over the future production they can expect from the
aging middle infielder. The Mets are already considering a contingency plan
that involves a platoon of Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis. Here’s the problem:
Tatis has almost no experience playing second base, having started his career as
a third baseman before learning to play the outfield corners. But Mets GM Omar
Minaya believes in Tatis, largely because of his athleticism and the way that
he has taken to playing the outfield…

 

Citi Field, the Mets’ new home, has received criticism for
detailing too much baseball history that has no direct connection to the Mets
and for failing to acknowledge the team’s own rich history, which dates back to
1962. The latter criticism is legitimate–the Mets should have a Hall of Fame,
or at least a Wall of Fame somewhere within the large confines of Citi
Field–but the former criticism is bogus, to say the least. Why shouldn’t
the Mets honor the legacy of
someone like Jackie Robinson, who not only changed the course of the Brooklyn
Dodgers’ franchise, but laid the groundwork for alterations to all of
baseball’s rosters? The Mets, like all other 29 franchises, have had important
African-American players along with dark skinned Latinos, many of whom would
have seen their major league debuts delayed if Robinson had failed. The Jackie
Robinson Rotunda is a fitting tribute to someone who remains pertinent to the
game today, even 62 years after he first took the field at Ebbets Field…

 

How much did Harry Kalas mean to the Phillies’ organization
and their nation of fans? On Saturday, Kalas lay in state at Philadelphia’s
Citizens Bank Park,
making him the first baseball man since Babe Ruth to have his casket displayed
at his team’s home ballpark. Thousands of fans poured through Citizens Bank
Park to pay tribute to
the man who had become almost as synonymous to the franchise as Mike Schmidt.
Kalas, who died on Monday at the age of 73, was still regarded as one of the
game’s best play-by-play men and was likely years away from retirement. He will
be missed enormously.

 

A Sunday Splash of Spring Training

Ken Griffey Jr.’s decision to return to Seattle has been portrayed as the feel-good story of the early spring, but I’m not convinced it’s in the best interests of either side. From the Mariners’ perspective, they are acquiring a veteran player in a season in which they have virtually no prayer of contending. In other words, they will be giving playing time to an aging player near the end of the line, playing time that could go to a young, developing player instead. The Mariners are also banking on Griffey helping at the box office, but few players in baseball history have served as one-man drawing cards. Teams have to win to draw fans–and the M’s won’t be doing that in 2009. As for Griffey, he will be playing what could be his final season for an also-ran, when he could have opted for a more optimal situation with the Braves, who at least have a chance to make a run at the National League wild card.  He will also have to endure a return to Safeco Field, hardly a hitter’s haven. Griffey didn’t like hitting at Safeco in his prime; will he feel any better about it in 2009, with a 39-year-old swing that has slowed considerably? This feel-good story could turn very ugly by August…

 

Griffey’s last second change-of-mind caps off what has been a winter of frustration for Atlanta GM Frank Wren. At one point or another, Wren thought he had free agent deals with both Junior and Rafael Furcal, only to be rebuffed at the last instant. He also believed he was close to completing a major trade for Jake Peavy, but the Padres’ asking price grew too large for Wren’s liking. Still, in spite of all the disappointments, the Braves look like an improved team. They added Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez to a rotation that already included Jair Jurrjens and can now look forward to a full season from lefty closer Mike Gonzalez. And on Monday, they will officially announce the signing of Garret Anderson, their Plan B option to Griffey. Anderson has become a defensive liability in left field, but he is three years younger than Griffey and has just about as much left in the tank offensively. Anderson will platoon with Matt Diaz, another Brave poised for a comeback in 2009…

 

Very quietly, Mets GM Omar Minaya made a shrewd move in bringing veteran outfielder Bobby Kielty to spring training as a non-roster invitee. Kielty didn’t play in the majors at all in 2008, in part because of two different injuries, but he’s healthy now and has a history of hammering left-handed pitching. Kielty’s splits for his career are borderline terrific; he has a .379 on-base percentage and a .503 slugging percentage against portsiders. Capable of playing all three outfield spots, the switch-hitting Kielty would make perfect sense as a platoon partner for Ryan Church in right field. There is an obstacle, however, to the Kielty comeback. The Mets’ fifth outfielder is currently scheduled to be Marlon Anderson, who was dreadful in 2008 but has a guaranteed contract. The Mets will have to show some courage in waiving Anderson and swallowing his salary. Otherwise, Kielty’s best hope might be for an injury to one of New York’s other outfielders.