Former “super-prospect” Fernando Martinez was placed on waivers yesterday. Never having played a full season in the majors or minors and still just 23 years old, Martinez was jettisoned – along with Danny Herrera – to clear out space on the 40-man roster for must-haves Ronny Cedeno and Scott Hairston. Let that sink in for a minute. Fernando Martinez – our beloved F! or F-Mart – who could have been part of packages that fetched Manny Ramirez or Roy Halladay, has been kicked to the curb in favor of a backup infielder and fifth outfielder. Granted, right now, he more resembles a burned out 12-year utility guy than the five-tool potential star who captured our hearts and imaginations at age 16. But if you think about it for a minute, you come to an “of course,” conclusion. It actually falls right in line with this team’s narrative over the past eight years.
General Manager Omar Minaya, gone from here two-plus years now and newly installed in the front office of the San Diego Padres, left New York a legacy of failure and dashed hopes, much like that callow 16-year-old he signed with so much fanfare. For all his celebrated skills in player evaluation and scouting, it turns out that Minaya lacked the foresight and – frankly – the luck to have his major decisions pan out. His mono-focus on the most glaring problem at hand — at the expense of some of the less urgent issues with the team –cost the Mets at least two division titles. The 2006 team – a marvelous collection of talent that took us to the brink of a championship – lacked a dominant starting pitcher once Pedro Martinez sustained an injury. No worry, said Omar. We’ll support the pitching by buttressing the offense. OK, in a vacuum, no quarrel there. Except…he banked on aged second baseman Jose Valentin repeating his surprising 2006 production and remaining injury free. Neither happened and the team scrambled until Luis Castillo – insert the joke of your choice here – arrived at the trading deadline. He also brought in the historically – if not hysterically – injury-prone Moises Alou to replace the merely injury-prone Cliff Floyd in left field, and never found an adequate replacement for the declining-as-you-watched Shawn Green in right field. This all resulted in – dare I say it? – seven-up-with-seventeen-to-play.
So for 2008, Omar seemingly solved the starting pitching problem by bringing in the shiniest toy on the shelf, Johan Santana. Once again, Omar chose to fight last year’s war, ignoring the lack of depth in the bullpen and the two black holes on either side of centerfielder Carlos Beltran. Santana pitched brilliantly – and down the stretch, heroically – but the Mets again came a cropper at the end. Adding injury to insult, that 2008 season has been Santana’s sole healthy season since donning the orange & blue and we fans head into spring training this year with everything crossed that Johan will make upwards of 25 starts and be Magnificent once again. That’s the difference between Sandy Alderson and Omar Minaya: Omar would have banked on it, while Sandy is lining up alternatives and tempering expectations.
Omar — like Fernando – will bear the “epic FAIL” tag until time softens opinions.