I'm going to say something loud and bold: I'm glad the Mets traded Scott Kazmir.
I firmly believe that the much-maligned deal is the reason the Mets are in first place today.
And stories like this one by Lee Jenkins of the New York Times send me right over the edge. Here's a sampling:
Kazmir Deal Is a Debt the Mets Still Owe
"Four out of every five days, the Mets are a resurgent franchise, flush with charismatic leaders and bankable stars, hailed for their progressive thinking and bold strategy.
"But on the fifth day, when Scott Kazmir takes the mound for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, everything the Mets have accomplished comes temporarily undone. No longer are they the team that leads the National League East. They are only the team that traded Kazmir for damaged goods named Víctor Zambrano.
"The trade was bad enough, with Kazmir possibly bound for the All-Star Game and Zambrano out for the season because of elbow surgery. But add to the package all the teasing, tweaking and public flogging the Mets have endured, and maybe it really was their worst deal since they sent Nolan Ryan to the Angels for Jim Fregosi in 1971."
Jenkins makes some good points later in the story, but I absolutely reject the scenario he lays out here.
Nothing becomes undone and the team is still in first place. And why are they in first place? That's easy. It's because Jim Duquette traded fireballing prospect Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays for sore-armed starter Victor Zambrano.
Follow me here. It was a horrible trade. Potentially the Ryan-esque blunder to which Jenkins makes reference. A certain "What in the heck were you thinking?" deal.
And that's the key. It made people like owner Fred Wilpon, or whoever helps him call the shots, wonder what exactly were they thinking, and who is making that kind of decision. It was a wake-up call, showing that something was seriously wrong with the Mets organization.
You have to know that something is wrong before you can get help from the doctor.
As soon as the season was over, Wilpon hired Omar Minaya away from the soon-to-be-moving Expos to be general manager and put him in control of baseball decisions.
Once Omar took the helm, he made some key decisions:
1) Allowing old but popular pitchers John Franco and Al Leiter to walk, and both moves were heavily criticized. The fact that neither lasted the season with their new teams proves Omar knew what he was doing. But also, it came out later that each of these guys had the ear of people making decisions and had a hand in decisions to send certain players and even a manager packing. There's no way to prove it, but I think if the Duke was still around, so would be Leiter and Franco, aging and ineffective.
2) Signing Pedro Martinez. It was openly assumed that Pedro would be returning to the Red Sox. But much was made of Omar's speaking Spanish and recruiting right in Pedro's living room It didn't hurt that the Wilpons opened the coffers to exceed any other offer, but think it is safe to say that without Omar, there would be no Pedro at Shea.
3) Signing Carlos Beltran. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had Beltran ticketed for the Bronx. But after Pedro came on board, people started taking the Mets more seriously. Again, a seven-year deal worth more than $100 million brings a lot of seriousness. But we also hear about Omar's passionate recruiting trips to Beltran's home in Puerto Rico. I think we can say that without signing Pedro, the Mets would have had no chance at Beltran.
4) Omar went hard after Carlos Delgado, and would likely had got him had Delgado's agent not been a goofball and then-new-Marlin Leiter not have dispensed some bad and bitter advice to avoid the Apple. But because Omar had made the big signings that year, he was able to hold on to prospects that he was able to dangle in front of the fire-selling Fish and finally get Delgado at Shea this year, and later catcher Paul Lo Duca.
Omar doesn't get credit for David Wright or Jose Reyes -- or the blame for Kazuo Matsui -- but I'm pretty comfortable in giving him all the props for Pedro, Beltran and Delgado. And without that trio, I think we're still looking up at the Phillies and the Braves.
So that's the trade: Prospect Scott Kazmir -- and a lot of cash-- for Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. I'd make that trade all day, every day.
And Kazmir's in Tampa Bay, where he'll never hurt us. And in four more years he'll reach free agency and will flee Tropicana Field for a deep-pocketed team -- like the Mets!
And by the way, Nolan Ryan would never have become a mega-star in New York. And we went to the World Series without him in 1973 and beat him in the playoffs in 1986.