…or merely the finest individual in all of baseball? That’s just one of the questions I have after reading Gary Smith’s inspirational profile of the New York Mets’ general manager in the latest Sports Illustrated (you know, the one with the cover photo Joe Smith was dicked out of).
Minaya’s rise from sleeping on a rollaway cot in Queens to fashioning the finest mosaic of ALL-WALKS-OF-LIFE persons this side of a Benneton ad campaign (“David Wright, and the Dominican shortstop, Jose Reyes, bear-hug and tussle like puppies”) is described in reverential tones by Smith, the writer no doubt impressed by Oscar’s ability to connect with all sorts of foreigners (Italians, Texans).
Lest any of you cynics think this is all a bit much, between the building of baseball academies, AIDS clinics, turn the other cheek overtures to John Rocker (“He wrote Rocker’s parents. ‘I felt for them,’ he said. ‘I felt that my son could make that mistake someday.'”) and making the English-speaking players learn Spanish, Minaya shows the sort of commitment to
tokenism diversity that we can all admire :
A little sketchy on contract and labor-relations nuances? O.K., turn it over to the man who’d been MLB’s wonk on such matters for eight years, assistant G.M. John Ricco. A little green at taking $53 million risks, such as the one in signing injury-prone All-Star pitcher Pedro Martinez to a four-year deal? There’s 66-year-old vice president of scouting Sandy Johnson, who helped the Padres, Rangers and Diamondbacks make those decisions for a quarter century, the guy who gave O his first big league job. Unschooled in the statistical-analysis approach to talent evaluation that the young Moneyball G.M.’s love? Meet Ben Baumer and Adam Fisher, O’s young numbers geeks. “Don’t choose one or the other — field guys or stat guys,” cries O. “Choose both! Listen to what the church and the Commies say! Know what I’m sayin’?”
Wait, something’s missing from the circle — a woman! He summons Leonor Barua, his executive assistant, to the table. “Because there’s just too much testosterone and strong opinions in a roomful of baseball men,” he says. “I’m amazed by people who talk negatively of others. I just listen and think, Why do they need to do that? A lot of that comes from insecurity, people’s fears. Gimme a woman. She’ll subdue that testosterone. She’ll see the big picture. Before every big decision I make, I call my wife. Before every trade, I ask Leonor.”
Good grief. All kidding aside, I cannot possibly argue that Minaya (with no small assistance from Fred Wilpon’s checkbook) hasn’t made the currently-skidding Mets a credible operation, but Smith’s article is puffery to-the-max. Aside from the “sketchy on contract and labor-relations nuances” reference, there’s not a hint, other than Minaya being a tad sloppy with administrative bullshit (ie. he sucks at filing expense account reports) that he has any shortcomings whatsoever as a GM.
It also might’ve been interesting had Smith — who characterizes Minaya as a messianic figure to New Yorkers of all creeds — touched just a bit on the sort of hysterical reactions that greeted Minaya assembling a team that didn’t look exactly like Tom Glavine’s golfing buddies. Or perhaps addressed Carlos Delgado’s claims in 2005 that Minaya and assistant Tony Bernazard rubbed the free agent the wrong way.
I’m not diminishing Minaya’s accomplishments, nor do I deny his life story is worthy of an SI cover. But there’s obviously more to said tale than the sheer force of Minaya’s winning personality, his tenacity or inclusive worldview.
Not to get all David Duke on you or anything (mostly because I cannot grow a mustache), but I find it just a little sad there was no room in Omar’s multicultural Metsville for such quality individuals as Jim Duquette, Anna Benson or Brian Bannister.
OK, I’m only kidding about Duquette and Benson. But a tip of the cap is due Bannister, currently in the midst of a personal 4 game winning streak with the Royals.