Though William Rhoden isn’t the first columnist to note an ethnic shift in Flushing, unlike Bob Klapisch, his comments are closer to an endorsement. From Monday’s NY Times :
You may disagree with Carlos Delgado’s (political) stand, but he is precisely the sort of thick-and-thin player you would want as a cornerstone if you were with the Mets, who are trying to build a foundation. He has principles.
Delgado would complete an intriguing circle representing the essence of the Brooklyn Dodgers-New York Giants spirit the Mets were supposed to represent: the Jewish owner hires the Hispanic general manager who hires the African-American manager. The Dominican pitcher becomes the ace of the staff, the Puerto Rican first baseman becomes the team leader.
I’ve listened to Omar Minaya, the Mets’ general manager, and for all the talk about big names that he wants to sign, the message that comes through clearly is that these moves aren’t about keeping up with the Yankees. The moves are about building a new, diverse culture of winning Mets baseball.
Minaya is the only Hispanic general manager in the major leagues, and he has been clear about saying that he hopes the signing of Pedro MartÃnez will bring more Dominican fans and players to the Mets.
MartÃnez has agreed to be a pitchman for his new team. “I will talk to guys and convince them that we can pull this out and win here,” he said during his news conference Thursday. “If we can pull it out here, it would give me great satisfaction.”
In a more significant statement, Minaya said that his vision was “for Dominicans to impact society in a positive way” and to “prove that Dominicans can do big things in a big city.”
This sense of a collective mission is tricky business. There is nothing like a sense of purpose to add depth and focus to a task. Unfortunately, it also adds pressure. Trust me, the general managers Minaya is competing against don’t carry the weight of history on their shoulders. If one is fired, no one writes, “This is a blow to future generations of white men who want to become G.M.’s.”
Delgado isn’t Dominican, but he can help Minaya achieve his lofty goals. Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ principal owner, and Manager Willie Randolph, Delgado, Minaya and MartÃnez are old enough and wise enough to know they are part of something different in baseball history.
The Hispanic presence in the majors is deep, wide and intriguing. The first Hispanic player in major league baseball was Esteban Enrique BellÃ¡n of Cuba, who in 1871 was a member of the Troy Haymakers of the National Association, which later became the National League. The first Puerto Rican to play major league baseball was Hiram Bithorn. He made his major league debut in 1942.
Ozzie Virgil became the first Dominican to reach the major leagues, in 1956, although there were baseball leagues in the Dominican Republic as early as 1907.
Minaya faces the same challenge that generations of Latin players have faced: a struggle for recognition, coming out of the shadows and jumping into the mix. The most effective way to meet the challenge is to win; everything boils down to winning.
This is simple: If the Mets lose, fans will not come. If the Mets win, Minaya’s team will be embraced.
Minaya says he wants to do big things in a big city.