Monday, February 13, 2006

The Face of the Franchise

When Omar Minaya appeared last week on Stephen A. Smith's, "Quite Frankly, " it continued to be clear that times have changed in Flushing. And there's a new sheriff in town. One with a little bit Andy Taylor, a little bit Matt Dillon. One with gun, one without.
I didn't see the show, but the content isn't the point. We've also see him of Neal Cavuto's show on Fox News and countless times on the back page. Aside from the now media savvy, Steve Phillips, I have a hard time seeing Frank Cashen or Joe McIlvaine or Al Harazin on set to take on an inquisition from someone like a Smith or a Cavuto. Has Omar done Page Six yet?
Whether consciously or not, Omar Minaya is the face of the Mets. But like the television sheriff analogy, there are two ways in which he is doing this.
First, his relationship with the media. I'm not sure if the Wilpons knew they were getting a media dynamo when they hired him. How could they? Wise to the world of the New York media juggernaut, and still acolytes to the Frank Cashen School of keeping the media at arms length-yours and theirs-the Wlpons still seek little publicity. Couple this with a Willie Randolph who's become a master of reticence, and a vacuum of nothingness might exist. Enter Minaya, a New York kid who understands, emraces and is awfully good at the game.
The second is more subtle, but much more important. Minaya has clearly developed the kind of sound people skills necessary to administrate and lead a baseball operation. First a passion
for the game and playing it. Then many formative years as a scout, observing and convincing players to sign contracts with his organization. You never ever really stop scouting, by the way. Some stops as a baseball executive, and it was time. Enter a needy and directionless Mets.
Minaya's years in the game at the baseball level enable him to both engage and relate to both on and off-field personell. Neither standoffish nor unapproachable, he clearly likes people. Thus, a critical thing becomes clear. Omar Minaya establishes, builds and nurtures relationships.
But he takes it a step further. Its called trust.
Minaya's signature moment came last year-not with the Pedro Martinez signing, but with the mid-season flirtation to acquire Manny Ramirez. When it was all said and done, he was asked about it. His answer meant everything to a franchise deperately seeking legitimacy again.
When queried about the effort he made to get the deal done, he responded thusly, "how could I go down into that clubhouse and face a Tom Glavine, a Mike Piazza, a Pedro Martinez, and not done everything I could to help a bunch of guys who are battling."
Previous regimes and other teams to be sure would have said something about mortgaging their future. Not Minaya. That mid-season attempt to get a future Hall of Famer in his prime showed what the man and the Mets are all about now.
Yes, its Omar Minaya's team. And if a World Series title does return to the Mets, it will be to Minaya whom the spoils of adulation go.


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