09/30/2004 3:10 PM ET
Mets name Minaya as GM
Duquette shifts to senior VP of baseball operations
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
|Omar Minaya talks to the media on Thursday as Mets owner Fred Wilpon looks on. (Marc S. Levine/Mets)
NEW YORK -- In the end, it was what Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon believes Omar Minaya could do and not what Jim Duquette couldn't do that led him to turn over the keys of his baseball kingdom to the Queens native.
Wilpon, completing a week of swift and stunning negotiations, named Minaya, 45, as the club's executive vice president of baseball operations and its general manager on Thursday, removing Duquette from the latter position. Duquette, who was officially hired as general manager last October, will retain a position in the organization, given the title of senior vice president of baseball operations.
Minaya, a former senior assistant general manager with the Mets who spent the last three seasons as the general manager in Montreal, was given a five-year deal to reshape the club as he sees fit, from hiring a manager to naming front-office personnel to deciding on a coaching staff. Wilpon stressed repeatedly that Minaya would have complete autonomy in the baseball department, citing his ability as a talent evaluator as the primary reason for the hire.
Wilpon said he spoke at length with his son, Jeff, the club's chief operating officer, team president Saul Katz and several people outside the organization to find someone who has the "special skills of evaluating the evaluators".
"We're extraordinarily happy about this," Wilpon said. "Omar brings so much to this organization. He brings the evaluation skills that Jim and the baseball department felt we needed. He brings his history with three years as a successful general manager under very difficult circumstances [in Montreal]. Two of the three years, he was in contention for the Wild Card.
"He's an evaluator and a person whose judgment we trust. We've seen his evaluation here and we trust his evaluations very much. We believe he enhances our baseball department. This is not about Jim not doing a good job. This is about adding to the organization someone who brings a great talent and I believe the organization is better for it."
Duquette, meanwhile, who has two years left on the three-year contract he signed last fall, will serve as Minaya's right-hand man. The responsibilities of other staff members, such as assistant general managers Gary LaRocque and John Ricco, amateur scouting director Jack Bowen as well as "super scouts" Al Goldis and Bill Livesey, was not announced.
Minaya will oversee the search for Art Howe's replacement and start working immediately on reconstructing a team that will finish fourth this season in the National League East after a pair of fifth-place finishes in 2002 and 2003.
"My plan here is to continue with the plan that's in place," Minaya said. "And if I'm not mistaken, the plan that's in place is based on pitching, defense and athleticism. They have a plan here and I want to work with that plan, because at the end of the day I want to win. It's the dream of this New York kid to win a World Series here and have a parade down Broadway. That's my dream."
It was Minaya's eye for talent -- he scouted and signed several star players including Sammy Sosa and Jose Reyes -- that led Wilpon to try and hire him last fall in a supervisory role, similar to the position Gene Michael holds with the Yankees. He would have worked with Duquette as sort of a co-general manager, but Minaya turned the offer down and decided to stay with Montreal for another season.
This time, though, after Wilpon sought and received permission from Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to speak with Minaya, the process moved swiftly. Wilpon was granted permission late last week, calling Minaya to set up a meeting and Minaya happily accepted.
"Last year didn't work out," Minaya said. "It wasn't the right time. Part of me wanted to stay in Montreal because we had unfinished business. Part of me also wanted to be with the Mets, but it wasn't the right time.
"But when Fred called me Friday and said I was going to have full autonomy, that's a baseball man's dream. And, well, I was willing to talk. We talked about a bunch of things. We met on Monday and talked about the organization and having full autonomy and the importance of me being surrounded by good baseball people. We talked about the importance of having Jim Duquette as my right-hand man and other people I know [here]."
The fact that Wilpon said Minaya would have complete autonomy was important in the hiring process.
"Omar will have the authority and the autonomy in the baseball department," Wilpon declared. "The truth of the matter is that he has the autonomy, but so did Jim. That's a fact. Omar will make the final decisions in the baseball department. He will have the authority with respect to who the new manager will be, coaching staff, player development and he's looking forward to working with the current baseball department.
"And we are grateful that his talents were available. That's what's needed now. We will continue on with our plan, albeit he may change that plan. He has the prerogative to change that plan, make new ones or wholesale changes. When you lose the way we lost -- eight weeks ago we were a few games out of the Wild Card and at .500 and then went downhill precipitously -- we recognized what was essential. This was the man I had in mind all the time, this was the man our people talked about all the time."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.