If Minaya is serious about repairing this broken franchise, he should ask himself why the Cubs would trade away their best gate attraction. He needs to ask why Sosa bolted his team on the final day of the regular season, leaving Wrigley in the first inning and ultimately being fined $87,400.
Although Sosa’s agent is now insisting his client would be happy at Wrigley in 2005, here’s the most troubling red flag of all: If Sosa couldn’t get along with Dusty Baker, the ultimate players’ manager, what makes anyone think Willie Randolph will be any more successful? Asking a rookie manager to contain the ego of a brooding, selfish veteran on the way down is like asking him to sign his professional death notice.
The Yankees were able to absorb Gary Sheffield and Ruben Sierra because Joe Torre has the cache of a Hall of Famer, not to mention the political support of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams. Randolph will have no such reservoir. It’ll be Willie against Sosa in that clubhouse, one on one, and the slugger already has put his potential bosses on notice about his spot in the batting order in 2005.
After being dropped to sixth in Baker’s lineup last season, Sosa told Hoy, a newspaper in the Dominican Republic, “I’m not a sixth batter. I’m a cleanup hitter, or third, because I’ve earned that right. I also need to say that I felt poorly treated.”
Of course, Sosa fails to see what’s become apparent to the rest of the baseball world: His best days are gone. At age 36, he hit just .253 last year, and his 35 homers were the fewest in a decade. After the All-Star break, Sosa batted .233, a 46-point drop-off from his average in the first half of the season.
Yet, none of this has stopped Minaya from furthering his own agenda. Despite objections from within his own front office, the newly crowned GM is counting on a 20-year personal relationship with Sosa to reverse the slide.
It was Minaya who first discovered the young slugger in the Dominican Republic, scouting and signing him before anyone else in the industry even knew Sosa’s name.
Minaya has gotten plenty of mileage for that single coup – and rightfully so. But if the Mets think Sosa will hit better at Shea because of Minaya’s work as a scout in the Eighties. … well, that’s like saying Mike Piazza would hit .300 again if only the Mets had hired Tommy Lasorda as their manager.
What the Mets’ hierarchy needs to recognize is that cherry-picking marquee names – making a splash, competing with the Yankees, executing grandstand moves, whatever name you give this hollow philosophy – is precisely the recipe that’s doomed the Mets in recent years. Fred Wilpon has to stop dreaming of a one-year turnaround and give his franchise three full summers to heal.