Though I hate to guess who’ll be the 4th or 5th starter for the New York Mets next April, give Omar Minaya this much credit — he managed to visit Israel before George W. Bush. From The New York Times’ Murray Chass.

Two days after Minaya, the Mets™ general manager, and other members of his traveling group met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Bush met with Olmert. The trip was Bush™s first visit to Israel as president.

œO says hello, Olmert told Bush, among other things more critical to Middle East peace.

Minaya, known to co-workers in past years as O, explained by relating part of his conversation with Olmert.

œHe said if he wasn™t the prime minister he wanted to be the owner of a soccer team, Minaya said. œI told him I was general manager of a baseball team. He said, ˜That™s a game I don™t understand.™ I said: ˜Come to America and come to a baseball game and be my guest. I™d love to explain it to you.™ 

Then Minaya said he added: œIf you want anyone to explain baseball to you, the guy who can really explain it and who loves the game as much as I do is the president. He™ll talk to you about baseball. I worked for him, and he really understands baseball. You can tell him that O told you that.

Arn Tellem, a player agent who put together the travel group and the itinerary, said Olmert called him the day after he met with Bush. œHe said he mentioned the group to Bush and told him one of his ex-employees, O, said hello, Tellem said.

œOh, you mean Omar? Bush replied, Olmert told Tellum.

Minaya did not ignore his day job while he was in Israel. He had his cellphone with him and talked with other general managers daily. But just in case he forgot that he had a job to do, Mets fans were there to remind him.

œI can happily report there were Mets fans in Israel, he said. œPeople came up to me in the airport and said, ˜Go Mets.™ They also said, ˜Have a good year, but get more pitching.™ 