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Queens Chronicle

Omar lands on his feet

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Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 12:00 pm

Queens native and former Mets General Manager Omar Minaya was hired last week by the San Diego Padres as senior vice president of baseball operations. Minaya, who grew up in Corona and attended PS 19, IS 61 and Newtown High School, was the Mets GM for six years, until he was fired along with Manager Jerry Manuel in September 2010.

Sure, Omar made mistakes, such as signing Oliver Perez to a three-year, $36 million contract, and trading relief pitcher Heath Bell to the Padres, ironically enough, for little in return. But the Mets were a far more interesting team to cover with him running the show than they are now. Every big-name free agent had the Mets on his radar during his tenure.

While his successor, Sandy Alderson, is a capable executive, he keeps his cards close to the vest and conversations with the press to a minimum. Omar was a terrific schmoozer who made it a point to know every sportswriter’s name and act as if each were the most important person covering his team. It will be nice to see him around big league parks again.

The announcement of Minaya’s return to baseball followed ex-Mets manager Bobby Valentine’s hiring by the Boston Red Sox as their skipper. It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since Bobby V spent his last day in the dugout at Shea Stadium.

Valentine is one of the brightest men that I have ever met. He always enjoyed the give and take with the press after a game, win or lose, and he treated reporters from weekly papers with the same respect as the high and mighty BBWAA writers from the dailies. Too many baseball executives and PR types love to enforce a media caste system.

This week I feel like the headline writer from the Chicago Tribune who posted “Dewey Beats Truman” in bold type because I always felt that Jose Reyes would be wearing his #7 uniform for the Mets come spring.

Jose had said many times that he wanted to remain a Met. His agents, Peter Greenberg and Chris Leible, were very close to the Wilpons. But the biggest reason I believed Reyes would be back in Flushing was that the only other buyer seemed to be the Miami Marlins, whose owner, personable New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria, is not known for breaking out the checkbook for free agents.

Loria has always reminded me of someone who makes the first bid at an auction and then hopes someone will bid a dollar higher to get him off the hook. My inkling was that he hoped to attract season ticket-holders to his new stadium in Miami, on the site of the old Orange Bowl, by merely giving the impression that he’s willing to spend on talent. Alas for Mets fans, that was not the case here. For once in his life Loria stepped up and delivered.

You can’t blame Reyes for taking the best deal on the table. The fact that there is no state income tax in Florida certainly was a consideration as well. Good luck, Jose.

Mets executives had better have a lot of enticing giveaway days next season.

Welcome to the discussion.