(utility man Jose McEwing, happy to welcome teammates of all ethnic backgrounds to spring training)
Omar Minaya had dramatically altered the face of the Mets in one winter, from Al Leiter and John Franco to Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. As he did, the whispers began throughout New York, about the ethnicity of Minaya’s imports.
“Los Mets,” became a phrase uttered often, albeit quietly, or anonymously on fan message boards, though it was even used in the clubhouse this spring.
Minaya, the Mets’ Dominican-born general manager, finds the phrase objectionable.
“People who make those comments have a racial bent to their thinking,” Minaya says. “When you hear that, you ask yourself, ‘Do they make those comments when the staffs are all another race?’ But look, when you are doing something that has never been done before, people are going to make comments. A lot of times it’s part of being a minority.”
The rapidness of the Mets’ transformation, coupled with the profile of the players involved in this winter’s retooling – Leiter, Franco, Mike Stanton and Vance Wilson out; Martinez, Beltran, Felix Heredia, Miguel Cairo and Andres Galarraga in – may give a false impression of the Mets clubhouse diversity relative to other clubs. An analysis of baseball’s 40-man rosters shows the Mets rank tied for 10th of 30 teams in percentage of players born in Latin America (27.5%) – though it’s worth noting that the team Minaya formerly led, the Expos-turned-Nationals, tied with the Dodgers for highest percentage at 37.5.
Throw in the non-roster invitees at Mets camp this year – of which 11 of 27 are Latin American-born – and one player labels the number of Hispanic players in the clubhouse as “very, very high.”
If the Mets fielded 25 players from Mars who could do the job, that would be fine with me.