|Minaya's First Mistake|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on December 15, 2004
1969 was a wonderful year for the New York Mets. They were a ragtag group of players that pulled off a miracle: they won the World Series. They were the original team to be called the “Amazin’ Mets.”
The year 1970 brought the Mets a new fan: Alois Terry Leiter. In the season opener at Shea in that year, the four-year old boy was in attendance and dedicated himself to the Mets for life. But that abruptly changed on Wednesday, December 8th when the little boy, who some might know him as Al Leiter, left.
“I did not want to leave the Mets and I did not want to leave New York,” the 39-year-old said.
And why would he want to? He has pitched at Shea for seven years and has made the postseason a few times there. He pitched two games in the 2000 World Series representing his favorite team, a probable boyhood dream of his. He loves Willie Randolph and considers Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel friends.
So what caused him to leave? General Manager Omar Minaya.
On November 15th the Mets declined Leiter’s $10.2 million option for the 2005 season, as many people expected them to do. The Mets then offered a one-year deal worth four million, with easy incentives to knock it up to seven million. The lefty thought the deal to be a good one and eventually told his agent to accept it; Leiter wanted to stay a part of the New York Mets. But Mr. Minaya rescinded the deal and instead told Leiter that the Mets had a trade in the works. Instead of being drawn closer to the club, this further pushed Leiter away. So far away that he signed with the Florida Marlins.
The Mets are reportedly hot on the trail of Pedro Martinez, someone who had a higher ERA than Leiter this year and whose shoulder woes are of grand concern. And he resides in a higher salary bracket than Leiter would.
The case against re-signing Leiter is a simple one. He’s thirty-nine years old and not getting younger. Pitchers start hitting a wall around the age of thirty-five usually, though there are exceptions to the norm.
And his age should be overlooked for this. Just think back to the 2000 World Series when Leiter took the burden of the entire team on his left shoulder and grunted his way through 150 pitches. Leiter is a tremendous clubhouse presence and is beloved by every single Mets fan. Oh yeah, did I mention that he pitched 173.2 innings with a 3.21 ERA in front of a porous Mets defense? And that he has proven he can handle the pressures of pitching in New York without any worries?
“As a general manager, you have to make some tough decisions,” Minaya said. “And this was one of those tough decisions I had to make.”
And you made the wrong choice, Mr. Minaya. You let one fish get away that you shouldn’t have.