Mets Stick With Minaya, Hope for the Best

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The Mets made official this weekend what their fans had feared: Omar Minaya will return as general manager next season. Owner Fred Wilpon, conspicuously absent all season, told the Post: “Am I going to bring Omar back next year? Absolutely. That’s a fact.” As surprising as this might’ve seemed after Minaya’s ridiculous Adam Rubin–skewering press conference last month, it’s less so now: If the Mets didn’t fire Minaya then, they weren’t going to do it once the dust had settled.

Fans can be forgiven for their confusion. Since Minaya took over after the 2004 season, the Mets have a third-place finish (2005), one great season that ended in playoff heartbreak (2006), two epic, historic late-season collapses (2007–08), and the disaster that has been this season. (Along with a botched manager firing and a general sense of chaos.) He has constructed a thin roster full of overpaid mediocrities (Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, to name a gruesome two) and overseen an organization that has dissolved into paranoia and open resentment. In the big city, that’s usually enough to get you fired.

But Minaya has a contract through 2012 at about $1 million bucks a year, and Wilpon decided that firing him was more trouble than it was worth. Canning Minaya would require, essentially, starting over. The Mets are dropping payroll next year, have no rookie prospects coming in (perhaps the most damning part of Minaya’s legacy), and several major holes to fill. Firing Minaya would be an admission that the Mets are blowing up the whole mess. No one wants to admit that.

There has been some speculation that Wilpon is keeping Minaya around as a cost-cutting measure after losing a rumored $750 million in the Bernie Madoff scandal. But Minaya’s salary is utility-infielder money, and besides, you can be assured that, with $30 million cut from the payroll this winter (Carlos Delgado and Brian Schneider are coming off the books, among others), not all that savings will be spent anyway. Minaya is chump change.

Keeping Minaya (along with Jerry Manuel) puts the focus on scraping out some success with the core players injured this season. Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and John Maine could be near full-strength next season, and Wilpon is betting that their return gives the Mets a better short-term shot than hitting the reset button would. It makes a certain amount of sense: After all, with the farm system barren, it’s not clear what the Mets would draw from starting over.

But the team has a ton of holes next year. Even if Reyes and Beltran both recover from their injuries by Opening Day (hardly a certainty), the Mets will still need a catcher, first baseman, left fielder, right fielder (unless they truly trust Jeff Francoeur, whom they shouldn’t), and — if they face reality about Luis Castillo’s dramatic decline — a second baseman. That’s not even including the rotation’s issues. The boat is springing leaks everywhere. The present is bad, the future is iffy, everything looks like trouble. Wilpon is either betting that Minaya can fix it, or that he’ll finally go down with the ship.