Building a winner (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday May 30, 2007 11:50AM; Updated: Wednesday May 30, 2007 12:25PM
And now he's in charge, the Newtown High-educated baseball savant who leads a baseball department filled with bookworms, a nice guy from the neighborhood who made it big and never forgets the little guy. During a 15-minute interview with him on Tuesday, he named no less than a dozen scouts, assistants, coaches and a manager who deserve the credit.
"I've been fortunate to be around some very good people," said Minaya, naming Sandy Johnson, Bryan Lambe, Tony Bernazard, Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson and others. Yet, it's clear that the biggest curtain call of all should be reserved for Minaya, whose moves have made the Mets the class of the National League. Here they are, Minaya's nine greatest bargain hits:
1. Perez. He looked like a mere throw-in when the Mets desperately acquired Roberto Hernandez at last year's trade deadline after Sanchez hurt his shoulder in a freak car accident. But Minaya had been working for weeks to acquire the pitcher who was toting around a 6-plus ERA over a year and half in Pittsburgh. At first no one liked the trade, which sent Xavier Nady to the Pirates. Now Oliver has an army of supporters.
2. Maine. Hardly anyone noticed when he came with Jorge Julio for Kris Benson. The Orioles got their throw in (Anna Benson), and Minaya got his. Folks figured Minaya was blowing smoke when he talked up Maine, a middle reliever in Baltimore. Yet Minaya remembered on Wednesday that Maine was second in the minors in strikeouts two years before the Mets got him.
3. Sanchez. Minaya was criticized for giving up starter Jae Seo to the Dodgers for a reliever, but before Sanchez hurt himself he gave the Mets about as perfect a half season as a set-up man can have.
4. El Duque. Julio went west for another pitcher with a 6-plus ERA, one Minaya had acquired as Expos GM and who thrived previously in New York.
5. Endy Chavez. Another player whom Minaya liked so much that he acquired him twice. No one thought anything of it when the Mets signed Chavez. Now, after making one of the greatest catches in playoff history and becoming baseball's best fourth outfielder, he's a fan favorite.
6. Mota. He was terrible in Cleveland. But scout Russ Bove liked his arm strength, and Mets people recalled that he did his best work throwing to catcher Paul Lo Duca in Florida.
7. Lo Duca. He's more of a front-tier fellow than the other eight on this list, but he was still a cost saver after neither Ramon Hernandez nor Bengie Molina jumped at bookend $18 million, three-year offers. He's been a consistent threat, a steadying backstop and a clubhouse key -- not bad for $6.25 million a year.
8. Jose Valentin. This one even surprised Minaya. A little, anyway. Coming off a year of injury, the Mets knew he was better than most folks gave him credit for. However, they still looked to deal him early last year, before he became, in Minaya's words, "one of the best defensive second baseman in the National League."
9. Damion Easley. Right-hand man Bernazard, who himself carved out a fine career at second base, recommended Easley, who has stunned folks by being tied for third on the team with seven home runs (David Wright and Beltran each have eight, and Delgado hit his sixth and seventh on Tuesday night), despite having half the at-bats of the regulars. The Mets outbid the Yankees for Easley's services by offering $800,000, making him perhaps the second-best bargain in New York baseball.
Around the Majors
The Mets weren't shocked to see a 'Mando meltdown on Tuesday night. Armando Benitez's two balks scored Jose Reyes with the tying run in the bottom of the 12th inning and were followed by the game-winning home run by Delgado. Benitez, who has always been a Mets killer (first as a Met, then as a Florida Marlin), appeared to throw a fit behind the mound after balking home Reyes. "We knew we could rattle him," one Met said.
The first call, imperceptible to the human eye, was nonetheless spied by umpire Bob Davidson, who isn't called Balkin' Bob for nothing. The Giants didn't argue, though.
Anyone who can guess who leads the Red Sox in RBIs wins a prize. No, not David Ortiz. Not Manny, either. It's Mike Lowell with 39.
With all the Cardinals' offensive woes, maybe it's time for Rick Ankiel. The former pitcher has 11 home runs and 39 RBis in 41 games for Triple-A Memphis (not to mention a .575 slugging percentage).
Not everyone sees Roger Clemens as a savior. The six shutout innings vs. Toledo on Monday didn't sell everyone. Some noticed fastballs that barely hit 90 mph. Speaking of the $18 million they'll pay Clemens for two-thirds of a season, one competing executive said, "I don't get that one, I really don't."