Tuesday, August 11, 2009


If today's Adam Rubin story in the New York Daily News is accurate -- and based on his reporting throughout the last few years, there's every reason to believe it is -- about Mets General Manager Omar Minaya gradually being edged out of his post and Assistant General Manager John Ricco slowly being ushered in, Mets fans should rejoice.
Ricco already has accomplished the seemingly impossible -- made a positive impact on this year's club.
Ricco, Rubin reports -- not Minaya -- engineered the July swap with the Braves, of underperforming right fielder Ryan Church for Jeff Francouer. Francouer not only represents a considerable upgrade at that position, but also is several years younger than Church, has far more upside and has accomplished considerably more to this point in his career than Church and who, in about only a month with the club has exceeded Church's offensive numbers.
Ricco is the Mets payroll and rules compliance expert and according to Rubin's story, is not a talent evaluating whiz. If Ricco indeed replaces Minaya, his first order of business should be hiring the best Minor League coordinator he can possibly find.
Ricco will need that person to go about accomplishing something crucial Minaya hasn't -- building and maintaining a farm system that is the envy of every other Major League club.
Remember the good old days of the 1980s when then-GM Frank Cashen and has scouts constructed a pipeline and delivered such talented players as Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Roger McDowell, Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Rick Aguilera to Shea Stadium?
Compare that bumper crop to what's currently on the field for the Mets.
Compare it to the talent of the top-two farm teams -- the AA club in Binghamton and AAA squad in Buffalo, whose poor records have both mired in last place in their respective divisions.
And the fruit has been harvested from the farm system over the last two seasons that Minaya and chest-baring, teeth-gnashing, recently-fired Vice President of Player Development Tony Bernazard have built, has been more rotten than ripe.
Daniel Murphy, who after 131 Major League at-bats last season, both Minaya and Manager Jerry Manuel anointed before Spring Training as the everyday left-fielder, has been a bust in the outfield -- and more importantly, at the plate, with a .252 average. First-baseman/outfielder Nick Evans, after narrowly missing making the big club after Spring Training, was demoted from AAA to AA.
Pitcher Jonathon Niese has been uneven at best before succumbing last week to a season-ending hamstring injury, injury-prone outfielder Fernando Martinez -- himself on the shelf with a leg injury -- hasn't demonstrated an ability to hit Major League pitching and hard-throwing reliever Bobby Parnell hasn't yet developed into a dependable setup reliever.
Even more problematic, the Mets' highest ranking prospects, such as catcher Josh Thole, pitchers Brad Holt and Jennry Mejia, first-baseman Ike Davis and second-baseman Reese Havens are several years away from the show.
If anyone needs more evidence that stocking a farm system with talent is more important to a club's success than splashy free agent signings and blockbuster trades, watch this week's Dodgers-Giants series, in which those two teams are fighting for supremacy in the National League West.
The Dodgers have been bursting with homegrown talent for the last three years and has yielded such impact players as catcher Russell Martin, outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, first baseman James Loney and pitchers Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and Clayton Kershaw. Martin is a two-time All Star, while Billingsley and Broxton are 2009 All Stars, while Kemp narrowly missed being named as a reserve.
The Giants, meanwhile, boast 2008 Cy Young Award winner and 2009 All Star starting pitcher and current strikeouts and ERA leader Tim Lincecum, third-baseman Pablo Sandoval, whose .331 average is fifth-best in the Majors, solid first-baseman Travis Ishikawa, speedy outfielder Fred Lewis, promising second-baseman Eugenio Velez and pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who authored this season's first no-hitter.
Given the Mets plunge into medicority this season and poor prospects next year, it's not at all surprising the team lags far behind the Dodgers and Giants in the won-lost record. Even in their own division, the current leaders and defending World Series champion Phillies developed pitcher Cole Hamels, have outfirlder John Mayberry Jr. and in fact are so prospect-rich, they could afford to ship four of their best to Cleveland to snag last year's American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee.
Minaya, incidentally, knows Lee quite well. Minaya traded him away in 2004, when he was general manager of the now-defunct Montreal Expos.
That deal didn't work out so well for Minaya, just as his leadership isn't really working out now for the Mets.
But exchanging Ricco for Minaya alone won't improve the Mets fortunes.
That begins where every effective general manager has made a serious investment -- down on the farm.

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