Tag: jim duquette

Scott Kazmir Released

The moment we’ve all been waiting for since July 30, 2004 has finally arrived: Scott Kazmir is available, free and clear, after being released by the Angels.

Kazmir was going to be the lefthanded Tom Seaver until Rick Peterson thought ten minutes could fix Victor Zambrano and the Wilpons believed the Mets were still in the pennant race — despite the fact that they were in fourth place with a 49-53 record and 7 games out of first.

We know how it turned out; Zambrano was awful before going down with an elbow injury, and Kazmir went on to have a few good seasons before struggling with injuries himself (which GM Jim Duquette expected).

Now that Kazmir is out there for the taking, do you want him back in the Mets organization? He’s still only 27 years old.

Hat tip to loyal, longtime MetsToday reader / commenter “Mic” for the link.

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Does Omar Need to Make a Deal?

omar-hands
The Mets’ recent winning streak (all of four games) was enough to get the natives restless and insist that Omar Minaya make good on his promise that the Mets are “buyers” rather than sellers.

As the clock ticks down, one must wonder if indeed the Mets will “buy” before the deadline — and if they do, will it be for the right reasons?

This season is smelling a lot like 2004 — the last of the Art Howe years.

On July 31, 2004, the Mets were in fourth place (just ahead of the Expos) and 8 games behind the league-leading Braves. Jim Duquette was the lame-duck GM at the time, and desperate to save the season — as well as his job. The Wilpons kept stammering about “meaningful games in September”, and Duquette pulled the trigger on an array of moves in the final days before the trade deadline. I’ll refresh your memory:

Acquired RHP Kris Benson and IF Jeff Keppinger from Pittsburgh in exchange for 3B Ty Wigginton, IF Jose Bautista and RHP Matt Peterson.

Acquired RHP Victor Zambrano and RHP Bartolome Fortunato from Tampa Bay in exchange for LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Jose Diaz.

In case you forgot, those two pitchers had little impact on the team’s performance. By the end of the season, the team finished in fourth place, just ahead of the Expos, and 25 games behind the NL East Champion Braves. Did Fred and Jeff say “meaningful” or “meaningless” ?

Similarly, this year, the Mets appear to still “be in it”. Maybe all they need to do is acquire one or two players, and, combined with the return of the “cavalry”, they can pull off a miracle.

Also similar is Minaya’s situation, in comparison to Duquette’s back then. It’s not bad enough that the Mets have choked away a postseason appearance two years in a row, not bad enough that they’re currently in second-to-last and ten games behind, not bad enough that their farms system is a shambles, but on top of all that, Minaya made more of a mockery of the Mets’ Mickey Mouse operation by verbally attacking a journalist at a press conference. If all those issues aren’t enough to put Minaya on thin ice, nothing is.

So, knowing that a poor finish by the Mets could finish Minaya’s career as a GM (who else would hire him after all this? XM / Sirius maybe, to team with Duquette), will he make a desperation deal, as Duquette did?

Let’s hope that ticking is indeed a clock, and not a bomb …

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The More Things Change

… the more they stay the same. That’s the saying, right?

If you saw this printed somewhere today, I bet following snippet would not be surprising:

This ship has been off course for three seasons, not because of a lack of resources, but because of a lack of judgment. The Mets began the year with a payroll … which is second only to the Yankees’ … They have nothing to show for it but a clubhouse of aging stars with big names, big contracts and big injuries.

(the GM) sold Wilpon on the notion that you had to win with big names in New York, that the fans weren’t patient enough to wait for rebuilding, that you had to do it now. Forget the farm system.

But Wilpon apparently came to the conclusion that the Mets’ salvation was not exclusively found in high-priced stars. Yesterday, he made an intriguing observation. He said he knows now that a hefty payroll does not ensure success. ”We’ve learned that painfully.”

More than once yesterday he said, ”We’re going to get younger and more athletic.”

But you might be mildly surprised to find out that the above was published on June 13, 2003 in The New York Times.

If you don’t remember, these were the words printed when GM Steve Phillips was fired. Jim Duquette replaced him on an interim, and then “permanent” basis, and within a year Scott Kazmir was traded for Victor Zambrano and Ty Wigginton for Kris Benson so that the Mets could “play meaningful games in September”. Not long after that meaningless September, Omar Minaya was hired to right the ship.

Speaking of, does this sound familiar? (from the September 29, 2004 edition of The New York Times):

It is difficult to determine the impact of any Mets general manager because the team’s power structure so often appears split. Although major league executives generally believe the best way to run a team is to let the general manager make the most important decisions and then receive clearance from ownership, the Mets rely on committees to hash out strategy, usually soliciting a wide range of opinions.

Jeff Wilpon directs the day-to-day operation of the club, the superscouts Al Goldis and Bill Livesey have input, and veteran players and coaches sometimes offer opinions, too. Minaya knows from experience what he is getting into. Having emigrated with his family from the Dominican Republic to Queens as a child, he became an assistant general manager for the Mets in 1997 and became a senior assistant general manager one year later.

I.e.: the “collegial organization” that Steve Phillips referred to recently.

Minaya hired manager Willie Randolph in part because of Randolph’s excellent reputation for working with youngsters such as Alfonso Soriano. You see, the Mets were going to build a pennant contender through their farm system and around their youth — David Wright and Jose Reyes. That idea went out the window a year later, when Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran were signed to obnoxious contracts.

Today, Joel Sherman touched on this subject as well — and interestingly, holds “conspiracy theories” similar to the ones we’ve been drumming up here for a while:

In the past week, Minaya proclaimed the Mets “buyers” in the trade market at a moment when they were six games under .500, fourth in the NL East, and tied for eighth in the wild card, 7 ½ back. Good tickets still available at Citi Field in case you are interested.

and …

The Wilpons’ 1-2 strategy was to make sure the criticism was deflected away from them — because ownership can talk accountability, but it really is not great at accepting it — while beginning the process of convincing fans that the following season would be different. Translation: What do we have to do to begin motivating you to start buying tickets again? So Art Howe was fired as manager and Jim Duquette was demoted from general manager to go sit in the corner. A good leaking campaign ensued blaming that duo for everything short of the Hindenburg going down. You were supposed to be distracted from remembering that the Wilpons hired the people who messed up.

Sherman goes on to predict that the Mets will “…try to recruit a big-name general manager with the idea of convincing fans that different leadership would know properly how to surround a talented base of Santana, K-Rod, Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes with better supplementary players” and, failing at that, hire Tony LaRussa as manager, who “… would bring along his trusted pitching coach Dave Duncan, with the idea being that they always seem to get the most out of whatever talent is put in front of them”.

It’s not that far-fetched a theory, and it fits the pattern that the Wilpons have been following for over a decade. The names may change, but the story remains the same.

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Confirmed: Maine was a Throw-in

This morning on XM 175 MLB Home Plate, former Mets and Orioles GM Jim Duquette confirmed that John Maine was a throw-in when the Mets sent Kris Benson to Baltimore for Jorge Julio.

This may not be huge news, and many of you may have suspected as much, but at least a few people (including myself) have lauded Omar Minaya for his ability to spot a golden nugget in Maine in his fleecing of the Orioles.

However, Duquette described the trade this morning quite differently. He said that when he first took the job at Baltimore, members of the Orioles organization saw Maine as a #5 starter, or a “swing man” (someone who would likely be a long man out of the bullpen and spot starter). According to Duquette, the Orioles felt supported in this analysis when the Indians refused to take Maine in a proposed trade. As a result, the O’s had been looking to trade Maine quickly, while he still might have value to another MLB club.

When Duquette and Minaya began talks, Minaya was desperate to unload Benson mostly as a salary dump (the team needed to clear payroll after acquiring Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner) and partially because of Anna Benson’s outfit at the annual Christmas party. According to Duquette, Minaya liked Jorge Julio’s power arm, and asked for Adam Loewen as well — who at the time was the #2 prospect in the organization. Duquette obviously rejected that request, and Minaya said he “needed a throw-in” to complete the deal. Since the Orioles had been trying to trade Maine earlier, Duquette suggested him as the “throw in”, and the rest is history.

Now, this could be Duquette’s way of covering his arse — after all, he was also the person publicly responsible for the trade of Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays. But, the story does make sense when you look back on it.

Hyannis Mets

In another interesting tidbit, Duquette said that the Mets used to give their old uniforms to the Hyannis Mets, which is a Cape Cod League team, to help Hyannis defray some of their costs. As a thank-you, Hyannis would send a dozen lobsters down to Flushing.

Isn’t that an ironic twist, considering that MLB recently put the hammer down on amateur organizations using MLB logos and team names, and specifically went after the Cape Cod League?

So one must wonder if the Mets will still “sell” their old uniforms for the market price of New England lobsters, or if Hyannis will be forced to buy the unis from a licensed vendor?

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