By: Stache Staff

The “New” Mets: Ten Years Later

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by Taryn “The Coop” Cooper

Sometimes, it seems as though it was a lifetime ago, and and in some respects, it was.  Oftentimes, it feels like it could’ve been yesterday.  Yet, looking at the calendar, we are celebrating the year 2015.

Ten years ago this month, the New York Mets’ and then-General Manager with his newly appointed “full autonomy” Omar Minaya, stole the headlines of the New York sports pages and captured the imagination of the Mets’ fanbase by signing coveted free agent and then-crown jewel of the offseason, Carlos Ivan Beltran.

I remember when the signing went down, I found it to be an impossibility.  The Mets certainly did not get “the guy” in that offseason.  Certainly, the reports meant to say the New York YANKEES were the team Beltran had chosen to sign with, and not the team I had rooted for since I was seven years old.  In my personal experience, the Mets didn’t get guys like him.  Well, maybe once in a lifetime.  And in my lifetime, there was Mike Piazza.  I thought they had used up their star quality player mojo.

I would only believe it when I saw it.  I suppose when I saw the press conference, Beltran putting on his new Mets 15 jersey, and talking about things like “the New Mets,” I couldn’t help but get excited.

I’d like to consider myself more of a realist when it comes to being a Mets fan.  I didn’t doubt that signing Carlos Beltran, along with Pedro Martinez who was fresh off a World Championship in Boston, and legitimate run for hot free agent first baseman Carlos Delgado, that the Mets were going somewhere.  At the time, David Wright and Jose Reyes comprised of the left side of the infield.  We were routinely told that with some veteran presence, these two were the magic of the future.

The signing of Carlos Beltran was also almost the official “changing of the guard” from the Mike Piazza’s Mets to the “new” Mets that Beltran talked about in his press conference.  Catchers do not age well in baseball, and Piazza was no exception.  While his signing was a change of an attitude in the late-90s, then-GM Steve Phillips had run himself out of town by running the Mets into the ground.

Minaya was supposed to change that attitude: the thinking that throwing a bunch of money at a perceived problem would fix everything, when in reality all it did was put a Band-Aid on the problem.  When the Mets made it within one game of the World Series in 2006 as a result of all these moves in the winter of 2005, we thought we had it made.  This was a potential dynasty.  Turns out, the “new Mets” were the ultimate one-hit wonder.

It was the beginning of an era.  It was the end of an era.  It was the best of times.  It was also the beginning of the worst of times, if we think about it, that we are still feeling the hangover aftereffects of to this day.

As history has dictated, the 2005 Mets remained a relatively large disappointment and fell short of many expectations.

First expectation: new manager Willie Randolph.  I will state for the record that I was NEVER a Willie Randolph fan.  Nothing against his character.  I did feel as though his personality was unfairly maligned for the sake of the New York press.  I felt he was too laid back for a team that was on the precipice of…something…big.  He never seemed like “the guy” to lead the team.  This was evident in 2006 and especially 2007, when the Mets had clubhouse leaders who were stating matter of factly that they were too complacent about losing.  Until it was too late to turn things around.  Randolph was let go unceremoniously in the midnight hours in California, as the Mets were on a road trip.

Second expectation: Carlos Beltran’s legs.  We all knew the type of player Beltran was capable of being.  That rare five-tool player, someone who made playing centerfield look like a walk in the park.  Yet, his talk about being “85%” and how his legs were affected by his not being well.  I guess looking back, we were able to see the ineffectiveness of the Mets’ training staff, whom I’ve come to affectionately refer to as “Ray Ramirez and his Dr. Death team.”

Third expectation: Banking on Delgado.  Omar Minaya’s strengths, then and now, lay in the idea that he was a top scout with an eye for emerging talent.  This was evident when he found diamond in the rough player Jose Reyes when he had green-lighted his signing several years prior.  Yet, when he was given free reign over the finances as well, he tended to act penny wise and pound foolish.  This seems to be the case in the Wilpon-era Mets as well.  Regardless, the Mets needed a first baseman, and here is power-hitting Carlos Delgado up for grabs.  Delgado stunned Mets Nation by signing with the then-known-as Florida Marlins.  As he said in so many words, he felt he would be more of an impactful player in Florida than with the Mets.  The real story?  Minaya’s right hand man, Tony Bernazard, decided to play the “Latin Card” in Delgado’s negotiations.  Delgado was reportedly so offended, he walked out of the meetings and didn’t take a call from the Mets again.  The deal that didn’t happen could have made or broke the “new” Mets.  The team was in the Wild Card running till the last month.  A big reliable bat like Delgado could have helped, but also would have given the Mets more wiggle room for error at the end of that season.

We all know how that ended up.  Delgado became a Met anyway for 2006, when he was leader of the pack for the one hit wonders.

Fourth expectation: Pedro Martinez.  I remember when Pedro signed with the Mets.  Still in disbelief, I truly believed it when Martinez’s former Red Sox teammate David Ortiz said, “Pedro aint goin’ to no Mets.”  A four year deal brought one of the best pitchers in the modern era to my favorite team.  I didn’t think he would help immediately, and it looked as though Martinez would prove me wrong as his first year brought a panache to the team that I hadn’t seen since the 1980s…and even then, it was different.  The 1980s Mets really represented the time.  Martinez was a new energy.

I still have some post-traumatic Mets disorder when it comes to Pedro Martinez.  From his bailing on the team the last week of that 2005 season, from his injuries that prevented him from participating in the fun 2006 year, from his hamstring injury in 2008 that I am convinced was totally preventable.  We were initially afraid that one year of his four years would be “the lost year.”  Turns out, we only got a good Pedro for roughly one year.

Fifth expectation: the children were our future.  By signing high value free agents like Beltran and Martinez, then trading for Delgado with prospects, in addition to later signings like Moises Alou and the trading away the future for Johan Santana, they lost draft picks and prospects alike.  Draft picks are a critical part to building the farm system, which is Minaya’s strength to this day.  The trades, like Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez for Xavier Nady when under the gun to make a move, were his Achilles’ heel.

Sixth expectation: The development of Jose Reyes and David Wright.  The first few years of his time on the Mets, Reyes was injured, and often.  Wright, on the other hand, was a ray of freakin sunshine who never got hurt.  The two of them together were to be unstoppable and with the right veteran leadership, they’d take the Mets and make them their own.

Reyes, one of the most exciting players to wear a Mets uniform, is now a Toronto Blue Jay, and Wright has spent the last few years off and on injured.  Also, Wright signed an incredibly backloaded deal that would prove difficult to move if the Mets ever needed to try to move him.

Omar Minaya made some decent moves, but the reality was, when he was brought on in late 2004, it was in response to the backlash of “Black Friday” that saw players like Scott Kazmir and Jose Bautista come in and out of the Mets organization at the trade deadline.  The backlash was mostly in response to the Mets’ reliance on high priced free agent veterans, and for a major media market team, their farm system was not strong.

Minaya was essentially brought in to be a master scout.  However, his full autonomy got the best of him, and when he dropped his offer for Al Leiter and gave the deal to Pedro Martinez instead, that gave the Mets positive press.  Which as we ALL know, the ownership laps up like a dog laps up his kibble.

Ten years ago, Carlos Beltran came to the team and threw around terms like “New Mets,” and you couldn’t help but feel excited about the future.

Yet in January 2015, ten years later, we can now see that the “New Mets” were still very much the “Old Mets,” just with some shinier new parts that didn’t exactly work the best for the team.

About Taryn Cooper

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  1. Pingback: This Date in History: Beltran and Shinjo Sign, Ordonez Birthday - The Daily Stache

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