January 30, 2008

We've Been Down This Road With The Twins Before...And Why We Should NOT have included Martinez in the Deal!

Two topics today, in one column- twice the value for half the money, or something like that, anyway...guess I'm just giddy on the heals of acquiring Santana, after what has been the worst week of my life...

Been There, Done That, This Time It'll Be Different
Back in 1989, at a time when ace, Dwight Gooden, was hurt, the Mets traded 4 players, including David West, Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera, to the Minnesota Twins for star pitcher, Frank Viola, a former Cy Young award winner and a 29-year old, left-handed pitcher. I remember discussing it with Jonathan at the time, and the one pitcher we were upset to lose was, believe it or not, David West. West was touted as being one of the best pitching prospects in the Mets' system for quite a while, and we thought he'd be the next Gooden. As much as we liked New York boy Viola (a St. John's grad), we thought we'd overpaid at the time with the inclusion of West. And that only goes to show you that not only were we wrong at that time, but we could be just as wrong today regarding the outcomes of any of the four minor leaguers we sent to the Twins - again - in exchange for 2-time Cy Young award winner, Johan Santana.

Now hold your horses- there was NO CHOICE in making this deal- it had to happen on so many levels, and for so many reasons, and on top of that, I LOVE watching Santana pitch and am BEYOND excited that Johan will be taking the mound every 5 days!! I STILL can't believe it, even after I've already purchased a Santana/ Mets jersey via ebay a few short hours ago!!! What I am merely suggesting, to all those who criticized Twins' GM Bill Smith for not getting "more" for Santana, especially in light of the package received by Billy Beane's A's for Dan Haren, is that, before judging this trade either way, time has to pass and we must have a chance to see exactly what Guerra, Mulvey, Gomez and Humber will do, now that they'll have the chance to make it to the majors with the Twins.

Here we were, thinking West was the prize in what we'd given up, and it turns out he had a very forgettable career, while Tapani was a shockingly good starter for a number of years for the Twins, and Aguilera became one of the best closers in the game. We only had Viola, if memory serves, for about 2.5 years, as his arm got old fast due to the two "I's" - injuries and innings!

Furthermore, I'd also like to think that the Twins will, indeed, have received value from this trade, as it would be great to know that, not only did the Mets' farm system yield us Santana, but that the same players we looked forward to seeing in our uniform one day actually were the quality of players that we'd hoped they'd become! It's important in two ways for these players to pan out- first, so that we know that the system is, indeed, producing quality players, and second, so that other teams will want to trade with us in the future. Under Joe McIlvane, every player was the next greatest star (see, Abner, Shawn, Presley, Kirk, and Jeffries, Gregg), and after a spell, we couldn't give these players away as everyone realized that what the Mets qualified as "can't miss" became, for everyone else, "sure to miss."

Finally, before criticizing Omar Minaya, which many members of the media have done quite often during the past few weeks, remind yourselves of the great Yogi Berra line- "it ain't over 'til it's over," and in this case, the little round catcher from St. Louis was never more right and Omar never looked better! He waited out his competitors (if, indeed, the Yankees and Sox were ever really totally "in" on this deal or whether they were just playing a game of chicken with each other) and got the star pitcher, in fact the BEST pitcher in baseball, for exactly the package he wanted to give up! He was responsible for bringing Gomez, Mulvey and Guerra into the organization, while inheriting Humber, and turned them into an all-star starter with 6-8 more prime years left at the top of his game. He also brought in a great fielding catcher, Brian Schneider, who calls an excellent game, something that will also benefit Santana, as well as a right-fielder who, in Ryan Church, comes with quite a bit of baggage but also quite a bit of unfulfilled potential, in a deal for a young outfielder who, like him or not (and I really did), was not going to make it in the New York environment, at least not at this point in his career. Omar also re-signed Luis Castillo, one of Santana's best friends, and I'm sure that was NOT a small reason that Santana wanted to move to Queens, but a much bigger one then has been speculated. He brought in some inexpensive, interesting bullpen help in the form of Matt Wise and Steven Register, to join the returning Duaner Sanchez and Juan Padilla, both sidelined with injuries last season. Finally, he invited Jose Valentin to minor league camp, on a minor league deal, to see if he can play himself back into shape after last season's injury, which would give us perhaps the best bench in the bigs, with some combo of Valentin, Chavez, Anderson, Castro, Easley, Gotay and Pagan.

Remember- this WAS the team that finished one game out of the play-offs, behind the Phils last year (ugh- how could I even remind myself again, after yesterday's column!), and the addition of Santana alone would have made the entire off-season worthwhile! I bet, at this time next year, we'll all be happy about the acquisitions of Church and Schneider, and Santana will be coming off of his third Cy Young award season. IF I was a betting man...
In Sum: Viola trade- temporarily worked out, overall, not so much...
Santana trade- the best is yet to come, baby, and won't it be fine!!!

Why Martinez Needed to Remain A Met!
There are, simply, two big reasons why Martinez had to stay with the Mets, and here they are:

1.) If the Mets had traded Martinez, as well as Guerra, in a deal for Santana, it's entirely possible that future Dominican talent would be more retiscent to sign with the Mets in the future. If they were merely going to be trade-bait, why would top, young talent continue to sign with the Mets, regardless of how much money they might offer or whether or not the player was thrilled with the possibility of playing in the Big Apple one day? This way, we can point to Martinez as someone who will have made it through the system, a success story, to build upon with other up-and-comers, long after Pedro has retired (as Pedro was indeed the "lure" for Guerra and Martinez to sign with the Mets in the first place, instead of accepting offers from other teams which may or may not have been more lucrative.)

2.) Martinez is a necessary component of the Mets' future success, especially after we will have lost both Moises Alou and Carlos Delgado. Bats such as Alou's and Delgado's will not easily be replaced, in spite of the injuries both suffered last season. We have Wright and Reyes locked up long-term, and Beltran still has at least 4 years to go on his contract, so the core will be staying right where they are for the forseeable future. However, the Mets need Martinez to be successful so that payroll will become more reasonable, again, in the near future; so that the bats of Delgado and Alou will be replaced by a younger, talented hitter who will, hopefully, increase his flexibility enough to be able to handle first base or, at worst, left field; and so that Omar and company can prove their acumen at spotting and developing (just as important) great talent in the minors.

I hope that we get doubly lucky from this trade - that Santana pays dividends for many years to come, and that Martinez, who wasn't traded, will do likewise...I am going to sleep, as it's 11:22PM right now, or 2:22AM for you East Coast, early-risers...and yes, it wasn't a dream, we DID get Santana!!!!


Anonymous said...

yes but we never traded for the calibur of santana. not even viola was that good

Anonymous said...

the mets and twins should get their own bat phone for each other

Anonymous said...

nice one