Being a Mets Minor Leaguer Under Omar

I asked ex-Met Teddy Dziuba to once more explain what it was like to be a ballplayer in the Mets minor leagues, under Omar Minaya, before we never mention him again.

Teddy came back with this:

Ya know Mack, I only saw the "micro" side of things being a player in the system. I never took the time or really dug deep into the "macro" big picture type stuff - i.e. organizational philosophy regarding the draft, player development, etc. Having never played in another system, I can't opine on whether or not the Mets were going against the grain in their decision-making process or if what I experienced was the norm across professional baseball.

As best as I can see it, the Mets run a minor league system that's aimed less at developing serviceable big leaguers and more towards grooming the future "superstars". Rather than letting pure competition weed out the weak links and let the cream rise to the top, the deck is stacked in favor of the "front office's boys" who reap the benefits of the added attention from coaches, not to mention the added playing time and un-warranted promotions. The Mets are notorious for their aggressive approach in promoting unseasoned youngsters, and while it's exciting from a fan-perspective to see a 20 year old manning an infield position, you can't sugarcoat a .213 average.

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this philosophy if done right. If a big-budget organization can focus on grooming and graduating one or two homegrown studs per year from the minors, the rest of the big league squad can be filled in via free agency and you can easily construct a perennial contender. Unfortunately, outside of Reyes and Wright, the Mets have failed to do so.

The flip side of this approach is where I get my bitter streak...

When you focus all of your resources and attention on a handful of blue-chip's, inevitably some able-bodied young athletes will go unnoticed, or will not get the attention required to blossom into a big league regular or even a big league backup. This would be a non-issue if the aforementioned mentality was churning out even mediocre big leaguers, but the organization's inability to translate the few draft dollars that they do spend into serviceable big league ballplayers has forced them to rely too much on the free agent marketplace, which has been a disaster all by itself.

Nobody can accurately allocate every dollar spent on the draft appropriately - injuries, off the field transgressions, and poor scouting will ensure that even the most hyped prospects can fail - but their is a distinct an unquestionable relationship between AMOUNT spent and the quality of talent in a minor league system, and that is that the team's who spend more, have more. The teams who try and cheap out are the one's left with a system full of AAAA ballplayers.

The Red Sox go over slot EVERY year and they have youngsters helping out the big league team EVERY year. The Yankees laugh at the idea of a slotting system, and while Yankee fans rarely get to enjoy their haul of Austin Jackson's and Jose Tabata's in pinstripes, they do get a bevy of veterans via trade when they need them the most by leveraging their in-house minor league talent. If Sandy Alderson wants to make a splash next year in his first year at the helm, he should work on getting Uncle Fred to open up his wallet and spend $10MM+ on the draft and on the international front.

In the end, I can't let my own prejudices get in the way of my reflections on this organization. Chances are, if the Mets gave me 300+ at bats a season, I'd do no better or worse than the guys who did get the opportunity over me. But you can't mine for gold in a coal mine. The way I see it, their are two ways you can approach player development. You can spend big money, bring in the toolsy studs and establish a minor league system that showcases their abilities and allows them to shine at the expense of the grunts. Or, if you're not willing to foot the bill that 21st century baseball requires, you have to let competition decide who the true ballplayers are.

With the Mets, it was like they were trying to buy champagne on a beer budget.


David Rubin said...

Very, very well said, Teddy, and as a lifetime Mets fan for 40+ years, it saddens me to know just how badly the team has handled (mishandled) the quality youngsters who have passed through this organization. As a Met blogger of 6+ years, I've seen far too many players with a similar story pass through the organization, and my hope is that, under Alderson, this situation changes AND drastically, asap! His press conference was a nice start- now when he focuses on the draft and development of players, perhaps we'll see a better, more talent-friendly organization. I don't think it can get much worse...and please, please, PLEASE keep posting more often with us- your viewpoint is unique, candid and well-stated!!

Teddy Dziuba said...

Thanks David, much appreciated

Work doesn't allow me nearly as much time as I'd like to devote to posting on Mack's site, but I'll do my best to add new content when I can

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