It's only the middle of January, and the 2010 Mets already have the look of a team coming apart at the seams. Today's revelation that Carlos Beltran had knee surgery against the wishes of the team's management and will not resume baseball related activities for 12 weeks is the cherry on top. For those of you scoring at home, 12 weeks from now is the end of the first week of the regular season, and it appears likely Beltran will miss some significant time at the season's outset.
This cannot bode well for general manager Omar Minaya, who himself spent much of 2009 cooling off upon standing from his very hot seat. The Mets were ravaged by injuries in 2009 and stumbled to a 70-92 record despite a payroll of $149 million, which was exceeded only by the Yankees.
The Mets made some headlines by signing Jason Bay to patrol left field for the next several seasons, and appear to be on the verge of signing Benjie Molina to play behind the plate. The Mets are also reportedly keeping an eye on Carlos Delgado's progress during winter ball for a possible return to the club.
And? The Mets still stink.
Signing Bay was clearly a priority, given the team's utter lack of production from the corner outfield spots in 2009. And signing Molina would help them, because Henry Blanco and Chris Coste behind the dish everyday isn't going to get it done.
But have the Mets improved themselves significantly? Bay is an odd fit for Citi Field (and was perfectly suited for Fenway Park), and Molina will turn 36 in the middle of the '10 season, having already logged almost 1300 big league games behind the plate between the regular season and playoffs. My initial reaction to the signing of Bay is reflective of my thoughts on the team as a whole: "Well that's nice and all, but unless Bay can catch, play first, second, right, pitch the 7th and 8th and start on the mound three days a week, it doesn't really matter, because they're still not going anywhere."
Which brings us back to Minaya. Why aren't the Mets going anywhere? Well, he's been given ample time and certainly ample resources to build a winner in New York, and he hasn't done so yet. His ridiculous signing of Luis Castillo continues to kill the Mets, as the very capable and very wanting to play in New York Orlando Hudson remains just out of reach to the Mets because they can't rid themselves of Castillo's awful contract. Speaking of awful contracts, Minaya bought into the false hope presented by Oliver Perez and re-singed the erratic lefthander to a big contract prior to the '09 season instead of using that money for Derek Lowe. The result is an undependable, erratic pitcher making way too much money, and the secondary consequence of the Perez signing is that prime free agents like John Lackey must be passed over for the likes of Lackey's former teammate, the hard-throwing and ever-rehabbing Kelvim Escobar.
Not all of the Mets' misery is Minaya's fault. He could not have forseen that J.J. Putz would blow up in his face, and the Mets farm system hasn't produced players nearly as good as the public has been told since Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. (Gregg Jefferies, Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher anyone?)
But a lot of the mess does rest squarely with Minaya. His team's most obvious needs are continually ignored, and he's consitently invested and bet on players with shaky injury history, makeup, or both. His team has no killers, no guys that will stand up, grab a bull by the horns and kill it with his bare hands, but he does have plenty of guys that would watch that guy kill a bull only to run out from hiding to dance over the carcass.
And that all falls on Minaya. He's remained the teflon GM forever (he is the baseball genius that traded Lee Stevens, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore to get Bartolo Colon to the Expos), but that teflon is about to turn to fly paper if the Mets don't turn it around quick. Carlos Beltran's surgery, and subsequent absence from the lineup to start the season, are not great signs for the Mets or their infamous Mr. Minaya.