It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, to be followed immediately by the annual nationwide Black Friday shopping sprees, when millions of Americans will search for the best deals on nearly everything, as they get a jump start on their holiday shopping.
Meanwhile, major league baseball’s holiday shopping season has already begun with this year’s general mangers meetings, held earlier this week in Chicago.
Among the general managers who participated in discussions with other clubs and player agents was New York Mets’ GM, Omar Minaya.
And, it’s a good thing he was there. This off-season of all off-seasons is a perfect one for Minaya to get an early start on seeing what he can deliver for suffering Mets fans after what they’ve witnessed under the Minaya regime over the past four seasons.
The Mets are coming off their worst season in six years, an awful 70-92 campaign, replete with a rash of injuries and off-the-field embarrassments within the organization.
Not only did many Mets spend significant time on the disabled list, but the starters who remained underachieved as much as the backups who were called upon to increase their roles. And, both groups were fundamentally unsound and unfocused throughout much of the season.
While that was going on, the Mets’ front office and medical staff seemed clueless, repeatedly promising the return of starters Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado. Only Beltran made it back, but after it was it was much too late to save the Mets’ season. And, Reyes and Delgado were flown back and forth so many times across the country before being seriously checked out, it seemed that the Mets prime interest was in racking up frequent flyer miles over getting those two players back on the field.
There was also the July firing of former vice president of player development, Tony Bernazard, with his mortifying shirtless tirade in the Mets’ Binghamton minor league clubhouse being the final straw in a series of missteps on Bernazard’s part over the years. That was followed by Minaya’s subsequent shameful mishandling of the situation. He not only blamed New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin for reporting the incident, asserting that Rubin was after Bernazard’s job, but on several occasions, awkwardly stumbled over his own words, as if public speaking was new to him.
All of that came on the heals of the two prior seasons, in which the Mets made the type of history that will haunt them forever — blowing the two largest, consecutive September leads in major league baseball history. The second of those to seasons included the shameful firing of former manager Willie Randolph, who was flown across country from New York to Anaheim, just to be fired after 3 a.m. EST, before the Mets started a road trip there.
Go back to the year before the back-to-back September collapses, and there’s more. The Mets were probably the better team against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 National League Championship Series, but they came up short in a Game 7 on their home field, falling a big ninth-inning hit away from making the World Series.
But, who did make it to, and win the World Series in all of that time?
The Mets’ two biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees.
The Phillies won it all in 2008 after the Mets’ second collapse helped Philadelphia reach the playoffs. And, then just earlier this month, Met fans had to watch their two most hated rivals play each other in the fall classic, and watch the cross-town team win its fifth championship in fourteen years while they continue await another title for their own team since 1986.
Really, how much could a Met fan take over the past four years?
Given all of the above, if there were ever a time for a professional organization to save face with its fan base, that time is now, with the Mets, especially after opening their brand new Citi Field with a dud of a season last year.
The Mets have several needs this off-season, and at the top of Minaya’s wish list should be a top line starting pitcher and finally landing a left fielder with some great pop.
So, it’s quite fitting that the two players who would best fill out Minaya’s holiday shopping list would have last names like Halladay and Holliday.
Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher Roy Halladay and St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Matt Holliday are both there for the taking and they’re who Minaya for now, needs to target above all else.
Even Beltran, who said the Mets were the team to beat in the NL East before he and his teammates were ravaged by injuries said, “I think a little help wouldn’t be bad. I do believe [management] is going to bring people that are going to help us. The Wilpons [Mets’ owners Fred and Jeff], they want to win. If they bring a left fielder, it’d be great, another bat. If they bring a guy like Johan Santana, it’d be great also.”
Beltran could be talking about players like John Lackey and Jason Bay, who would both be good acquisitions for the Mets, or even many others who are available. But, more likely, he’s talking about Halladay and Holliday, the two biggest names out there, and the two who would best fill the Mets’ two principal holes looking toward 2010.
Earlier this week on SNY’s “Mets Hot Stove” show, SNY Insider Jon Heyman, from SI.com, said the Mets would have enough minor-league talent to get Halladay from the Blue Jays, “but they’ll have to be very aggressive and gut their system,” he said.
That strategy worked out pretty well in trading for Johan Santana, and it’s time to do it again.
Heyman believes the Mets will look into acquiring Halladay, widely regarding as one of the game’s best starting pitchers, if not the best. However, he said, “To do that twice, and have two pitchers making $46 million, I just don’t see them doing it.”
But, after the past four years, they have to.
This year is definitely not a year for the Mets to rely solely on healthy reinforcements returning, or as Minaya and the Wilpons have tried to do in the past, bargaining their way to contention with another patchwork and “piecing together while you cross your fingers and hope for the best” effort.
In some regard, Met fans can understand the Mets’ apprehension, especially given the money they lost in the Bernie Madoff scandal, when Madoff “made off” with millions of the Mets’ money.
But, the Mets had the NL’s highest payroll last year, and they still have plenty left to afford both Halladay and Holliday if they want them.
Although it would cost a lot, the Mets would certainly later realize a positive return on their investment, as a Santana-Halladay one-two punch would instantly make them relevant again after last year’s horrid season.
Adding Holliday, along with getting last year’s injured players healed up and returned to the lineup, should then make the Mets contenders, as well.
Heyman said if the Mets want Holliday, “They have a good shot,” though they would be competing against the Cubs, Giants, Braves and Cardinals -– even more reason to get him, to not only strengthen their own team, but to keep him away from perhaps next year’s National League competition.
If you’re worried if Holliday is worth the money in a pitchers’ park like Citi Field, don’t be. He’s legit, and he can hit anywhere.
The cautious Met fan might say that Holliday posted his 128 home runs, 483 runs batted in, and .319 batting average in five seasons with the Rockies because of the thin Colorado air, but playing in another pitchers’ park in St. Louis, after coming over from Oakland last year, he still produced.
Despite a bad 2009 NL Division Series (in which he was just 2-for-12 with just one home run and one RBI), in a much larger sampling, Holliday hit .353, with 13 home runs and 55 RBI, in 63 regular season games with the Cardinals.
Taking the usual few games off, basing on 155 games, would equate to about 32 home runs and 135 RBI. Those are the types of numbers, to go along with the defensive ability in left field which the Mets, one of the weakest power hitting and one most mistake prone teams in left field last year, could sorely use to back up potentially Halladay and others in a Met uniform.
It would be enough to almost make Met fans forget how jealous they’ve been of Phillie or Yankee fans over the past three years.
That’s why if Minaya and the rest of the Mets’ front office truly want to make up for the past few years, they should be doing all they can this holiday season to deliver both Halladay and Holliday to the Citi Field doorstep next season.
Met fans have been good to continue to follow their team and to show up at Citi Field in large numbers despite what they’ve endured in recent years, and now it’s time to give them the holiday presents they richly deserve.
So Omar, if you’re looking for the best way to wish Met fans happy holidays this year, just tell them:
“Happy Halladay” and “Happy Holliday.”