For the fan in enemy territory

Friday, July 16, 2010

Small Market Minaya Must Make Big Move

Sports are all about adjustments. In football, the quarterback must adjust the play based on what the opposing team is doing. It is the same in other sports as well. In game adjustments at half times and between periods are a necessity for success. Baseball is no different.

However, instead of adjusting at a half, players must make adjustments with every pitch. Management must also make adjustments, that is what the trade deadline is all about. If a team has a need, it is up to the general manager to make the proper adjustment to put his team in a better position for the second half.

The best GM's in the league are known for this. Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees, Theo Epstein of the Boston Red Sox and Ruben Amaro of the Philadelphia Phillies all come to mind as recent examples. What do they all have in common?

They have all built World Series teams in recent years. They have all done it by using all of their resources, including mid season trades. They are all also GM's for bigger market teams. The city's particular size and market makes a difference. It impacts the team by either hindering them or enabling them based on how much they can spend.

The New York Mets GM Omar Minaya, is in a big market. However, he often makes small market transactions. He will acquire players who are past their prime such as Gary Matthews Jr, Frank Catalanotto and Mike Jacobs (combined 1 home run, 3 RBI's in 42 at bats).

He also will claim players who were waived by bad teams for terrible output. Brian Bruney is a classic example of a Minaya waivers candidate. Bruney posted an 0-2 record with a 9.64 ERA for a Washington Nationals team that is in the basement of their division at 39-50 as I am writing this article. Minaya has made cheap moves in the hopes that they pay dividends.

So far, they have not. Too often, he has not been the type of GM to make the big market mid season move. This may be attributed to his time with the Montreal Expos, before they were relocated to Washington DC. They were a prime example of a small market mentality.

They produced many great players but failed to keep them. Players such as: Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez and Moises Alou. They let those type of players swim in the free agency pool due to a small market, low budget mentality.

To be fair, Minaya does sign the big contract free agent in the off season. He has no problem spending the Mets' money in that regard. He has even done a remarkable job rebuilding the depleted farm system. With this said, he has never been the type of GM to make the mid season trade consistently. He would rather wait until after the deadline for a bargain.

Bargains almost always fail. Every small market GM searches for lightning in a bottle. A very small amount of them find it, and when they do it is fleeting. The best GM's in the league use the trade option as a weapon. It is a way of rearming themselves for a second half playoff run. This aggressive mentality turns the teams they represent into winners.

If Minaya does not share in this aggressive mentality with this current team, they will not win. What's more, this team is ready to win now and may be just one pitcher away from being complete, assuming Jose Reyes will get and stay healthy. If they fail to reach the playoffs due to another season of inactivity from Minaya, he deserves to go.

In fact, if he does not make a move by the July 31st deadline, he should be relieved of his duties on August 1st. This team has had several seasons of inactivity under his watch. Those seasons all led to late season collapses. The last time he made a significant trade deadline move, was in 2006.

That season, they came within an out of the World Series. Is that a coincidence? I am not so sure. It is most likely that this is further evidence for an aggressive mentality in this market. The small market mentality is not a good fit in New York. The fans and media alike expect big things in a big city.

That expectation can make or break a career. Even the career of someone in management. Management is just as responsible for results as the players and coaches are. They build the team and spend the payroll on the roster. If this current payroll does not produce a playoff, it reflects on the one who assembled the roster.

That would be Omar Minaya. If he assembled it and failed to respond to its' needs, he is not capable of making this team a winner. A good GM must recognize weaknesses and correct them. If he cannot be honest toward this current roster and make the proper adjustments, he is no better than a small market GM for a team out of playoff contention.

As it stands, he is the GM of a team in the largest city in the country. He needs to make the big market type of moves to help his team remain consistently contenting. If he makes a move and the player does not work out, that is a different story. Then, at least he tried to improve the team.

However, this transaction silence and inactivity in recent July trade deadlines is divisional suicide. If the Mets fail to benefit from this trade deadline and strengthen their team for the next few months and beyond, than they are a small market team.

If that is the case, then they need a new strategy because a small market team mindset does not win in New York. It rarely wins in major league baseball or sports in general for that matter. That mentality never wins in the NL East.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home Run Derby Jinx: Myth or Fact?

The MLB Home Run Derby will be held on Monday night before a capacity crowd in Anaheim. As it is held, the participants will try as hard as they can to hit as many home runs as they can. There is a myth that this attempt to hit as many home runs as possible messes with a hitter's mechanics and destroys their second half.

Where does this myth generate from? Let's look at the few of the most notable examples. In 2003, Garret Anderson hit 22 home runs before the derby. He could only hit another 7 in the remainder of the season. Bobby Abreu is another example. In 2005 he had 18 prior to the derby. After, however, he tapered off to only 6.

Our own David Wright in 2006 hit 20 before his derby appearance but only another 6 all year after it. Alex Rios had 17 before his 2007 derby. He hit only another 7 after it though. Finally in 2008, Josh Hamilton hit 21 home runs at the break. Just 11 more after. These are the most notable and most written about examples.

Upon taking a closer look, we will find other examples on the other side. A case in point, is Ryan Howard. In the same 2006 that saw a David Wright slide, he excelled and hit 30 of his total 58 home runs in the second half. He also hit a total of 47 the next season when he participated in the 2007 derby.

Is that contributed to his ball park, the field with seemingly little league dimensions that is Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia? Perhaps it is. Keep in mind that with the possible exception of Josh Hamilton, all of the prime examples of down slides were players in pitcher parks. It may depend entirely on their surroundings.

In 2007, Matt Holliday hit 36 home runs. Was he jinxed? No, but he did play in a hitters park in Colorado. What about David Ortiz? He is in this year's derby, but he also was in the event in '05 and '06. In 2005, he hit 47 home runs. In 2006, he hit 54. Was he cursed by a jinx in either season? Absolutely not.

The jinx didn't seem to slow down Evan Longoria in his rookie season of 2008. That year he hit 27 home runs in only 122 games. Carlos Pena hit 39 home runs last year while participating in the derby. Prince Fielder also was a contestant in last year's derby and still belted 46 home runs total for the season.

For every example of a player on a down slide after this event, there are just as many examples of players who remain on pace to strong totals. Therefore, it seems that the underlying factor is most likely be more the player's particular home ball park than a change in mechanics.

Although there are players who do change their mechanics so severely that it does destroy their stroke. One player that comes to my mind, is David Wright of our New York Mets. Again, his well documented drop off in power last year, may have had more to do with adjusting to a new ball park last season and injuries. Just in case, I'm thankful he will not be in this year's derby.

So the question still remains. Is this jinx pure fantasy or is there actually something to it. My research has led me to believe that it is just merely a coincidence that most of those who have struggled are players in pitchers park. However, most of those players that have struggled were not the type of players who relied solely on the home run as their main weapon of offense.

Therefore when trying to specifically hit a home run, they most likely did have to tweak their swing and that may be hard to untweak. Perhaps it is a little of both. But it is more than likely that the surroundings of the particular player may be more of a factor than the player's home run derby swing.