Inbox: Does Mets' farm system stack up?
Beat reporter Marty Noble answers Mets fans' questions
What has Omar Minaya done since coming back to the Mets? He made some big splashes with Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez, but Minaya has also misjudged players such as Brian Bannister, Matt Lindstrom and Heath Bell. With the July 31 Trade Deadline looming, clubs are looking at different players, but the Mets don't have the prospects to trade for anyone.
No one likes the Mets' prospects. Part of a general manager's job job is handling the farm system and the Draft and stocking it with good parts for your team and to trade. It doesn't seem like Minaya has done that one lick. All the homegrown talent in this organization came along before his tenure.
Sure, there are decent role players that have come up -- Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans, Bobby Parnell -- but no player who makes a significant difference. Unlike other clubs, the Mets don't have anyone behind Fernando Martinez -- and most clubs don't think as highly of Martinez as the Mets do -- who is worthy of a trade. How would you grade Minaya's handling of the farm system?
-- Doug, St. Louis. Mo.
The depth in the Minor Leagues is insufficient. I thought in Spring Training the Mets were lacking, that they were a collection of, maybe, 27 players that didn't fit together.
The roster then was younger than it had been a year earlier when Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez figured in the plans. But when the regular players fell to injury, it became obvious the Mets couldn't fill the vacancies adequately. No ready-for-primetime first baseman, shortstop or center fielder. Murphy, hailed in March as a .310 hitter, has his troubles in left field. Evans was enduring an impossibly poor tour in Triple-A. And Jon Niese was something less than the club needed when Oliver Perez went down.
There was no indication that that club was equipped to address any sort of injury adversity. The spate of injuries crippled the team, but not one of the holes was filled adequately. That's not the players' fault. Minaya's administration did import Omir Santos, Jeremy Reed and the wonderful Alex Cora to provide depth. But Santos displaced Ramon Castro, and Reed and Cora were to serve as occasionally understudies.
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But other than Martinez and, to a lesser degree, Evans, the Mets had no players who had put themselves at the threshold of the big leagues. The idea, seldom achieved to any great extent by any club these days, is to have a young player at each position in the Minor Leagues or on the big league bench, ready to step in. It's not particularly fair to point to the 1986 Mets because they were extraordinarily manned. Howard Johnson, a year away from a 30-30 season, and Kevin Mitchell, three years shy of an MVP award, were on the bench. Dave Magadan, Kevin Elster and Randy Myers were in the Minor Leagues. And when Gary Carter went down for two weeks in August, Ed Hearn took his place and performed well enough that before the '87 season, the Royals traded David Cone for him.
That was depth, or as Earl Weaver would say, "deep depth." In comparison, depth these days for most organizations is a misnomer. And the Mets are one of those organizations. Injuries happen to players in their 30's. Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, 32 and 37, respectively, hadn't been immune to injuries before this year. Delgado's hip and Beltran's knees had been issues.
Fernando Martinez wasn't/isn't ready to play. Lastings Milledge, who may never be a productive big leaguer, was traded for players the Mets needed and hadn't developed -- a catcher and an outfielder, Brian Schneider and Ryan Church, and Carlos Gomez was traded for the likes of a pitcher few clubs develop, Santana. The Mets get credit for developing talent they could trade, but those trades filled some holes and created others. And Martinez's injuries have undermined his progress.
So the Mets are exonerated to a degree, but my sense of it is that they weren't well prepared for this season -- even some of the injuries hadn't happened.
What's your take on the Church-for-Jeff Francoeur trade? It seems like a wash to me. But the Mets get a 25-year-old for a 30-year-old. What else?
-- Andy S., Ridgefield, N.J.
Francoeur bats right-handed. If and when the Mets are whole again, i.e., when Delgado returns, they will be more balanced. Moreover, Francoeur has a more powerful arm. However, Church has a strong arm too and covers a greater area than Francoeur. Offensively, who knows. Church seemed to be improving in recent weeks. Maybe because of injuries to others, Jerry Manuel finally started to play him regularly and give him opportunities to prosper.
Citi Field offset some of Church's power. Because he bats right-handed, Francoeur won't be affected to the same degree. And his on-base average and strikeouts will work against the Mets, too. What Francoeur might provide is a more conspicuous energy than Church and fuel the Mets. But performance usually does more.
The more baseball people I talk to, the greater the sense that Francoeur could have been acquired at less cost.
One of the comments at the end of one your stories said you're a Yankees fan. Is that true? How can you be a Yankees fan and write about the Mets?
-- Allen S., Jersey City, N.J.
Some place in the past five years, I said or wrote that I was a Yankees fan as a kid. That was true and remains true. I still am a fan of the Yankees of the 1950s and early '60s. But the "Lone Ranger" was my favorite show then, too. Some things change.
But you don't have to be a fan of the team you cover. Indeed, you shouldn't be. Objectivity is critical and impossible if you're rooting. I'm a fan of good baseball and games with good, writable angles. And yes, a fan of the Mickey Mantle-Whitey Ford-Yogi Berra Yankees. And I have Lone Ranger DVD's.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.