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The Blame Game by Julian Gompertz

With the New York Metropolitans holding a 24-26 record fifty games into the season, their has been rampant discussion about who is to blame for the team’s uninspired play, and who should be removed from their current position as a result of this lackluster baseball. I am here to offer support for both Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya, the two men most Mets fans want removed from this franchise.

Let us revisit the New York Mets of 2004; a team that went 71-91 under the comatose Art Howe yet was comprised of the same roster Willie Randolph was handed in 2005 minus Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. All Randolph did was turn a team 20 games under .500 and got them four games over that mark in his first year as manager with a less productive Beltran than the 2004 center-fielder Mike Cameron and the team’s winningest pitcher in 2004 (Steve Trachsel) limited to six starts in 05’.

It is important to remember that until the final few weeks of the 2005 campaign, the Mets were in the playoff hunt going into September seven games over .500 before dropping 13 of the first 15 games in the final month. This success brought hope to the 2006 team, a team that won 97 games and were one Aaron Heilman change-up from going to the World Series. In his first two seasons, Randolph had taken a 71-win team, and turned them into a 97-win team while making them relevant in New York again. He did so partly because he breathed new life into the organization, but partly because of the moves Minaya had made at the time. When signing Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Paul Loduca, Billy Wagner and Pedro Martinez, Minaya had been lauded for changing the culture of Met baseball and infusing the team with the much needed talent and experience to challenge for the National League pennant. And in 05’ and 06’ his moves paid off handsomely.

Beltran, while struggling to adjust to New York baseball mashed 41 homers and 116 RBI’s in 06’. He also hit three homeruns and batted almost .300 in the championship series but will still be remembered for keeping the bat on his shoulders against Adam Wainwright.

Delgado parlayed his successful 05’ season in Florida with a more powerful 06’ with the Mets hitting 38 homers and driving in 114 runs giving the middle of the lineup the jolt it had lacked in previous years. In the postseason, Delgado continued to rake hitting 4 homers and driving in 11 runs while batting .351 becoming the most feared hitter in the Mets lineup in the 06’ playoffs.

Loduca brought heart-and-soul to a team looking for an identity and accumulated a career-best 163 hits in 06’ creating a superb 1-2 tandem at the top of the lineup with Jose Reyes.

Wagner made Mets fan forget about Braden Looper saving 12 more games then the current Cardinal while posting a 2.24 ERA. He certainly had a difficult post-season with a 16.88 ERA in the championship series, but Mets fans had to consider the acquisition a success compared to what might have happened if Looper or worse Armando Benitez were still in Queens.

Martinez had a stellar 05’ season before getting hurt in 06’ but his 15-8 record with a 2.42 ERA gave the Mets reason to cheer about the upcoming 06’ season.

These were simply five of the moves Minaya made that proved his ability to improve the New York Mets’ roster, but all of a sudden the guys he signed, “to change the culture of the team,” were no longer producing.

In 07’ and 08’ Beltran has become an enigma offensively as he has not matched the success he had in 2006 and currently has just four homers in 50 games this season. Delgado has been the biggest offensive issue for the Mets as his production has dropped off severely in the last two seasons as well. Martinez has not been healthy for most of the past three seasons while Loduca is no longer a Met. Of the five, only Wagner has gotten better this season than in any other year with the franchise.

Do Randolph and Minaya need to be held accountable to a certain extent for the team’s epic 07’ collapse? Perhaps, yet how can a sports fan simultaneously praise both men for developing and acquiring talent like Reyes, David Wright and Delgado while faulting them when the marquee hitters all collectively slumped down the stretch of last season?

We have seen the ability of Randolph as a manager when his roster plays at the level they are capable of. When his team performs, Randolph is able to make the Mets look like the best team in the NL circa 2006. We have also seen Minaya make some very good acquisitions in trades such as Ryan Church, Paul Loduca Oliver Perez, John Maine, Xavier Nady and Duaner Sanchez. What he dealt for these performers amounted to very little as only Xavier Nady and Lastings Milledge have produced for their current organizations.

These moves are in addition to the big free agent signing of Johan Santana which early on looks to be a good investment statistically.

Yes both of these men have made mistakes. Randolph’s words in the Bergen Record were unnecessary, and often times he leaves pitchers in for to long. It also took Randolph a while to get used to the double-switch and he often lacks the venom of a Piniella or Cox. Minaya has made some lousy decisions as well. Dealing Heath Bell and Brian Bannister and getting Jon Adkins, Ben Johnson and Ambiorix Burgos would qualify as poor decisions. His trade of Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick also has not panned out yet neither man is the real reason for the Mets recent struggles.

That would be on the New York Mets players themselves who must regain the swagger they had in 2006, the year the fans praised Willie and Omar as the duo that would lead this team to a World Series.


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