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Mets Trade for El Duque: Was David Cone Too Busy?

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Yesterday, the New York Mets completed a trade to acquire Orlando Hernandez from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for relief pitcher Jorge Julio. Ostensibly, the trade was made to shore up the Mets pitching staff, which has been ravaged by injury of late, with Victor Zambrano suffering a season-ending elbow injury and Brian Bannister still working his way back from a hamstring injury.

While the trade is questionable on many levels (why trade for a 40-year-old starting pitcher with a history of injuries?), what is even more bizarre is the rationale being used by the New York Mets GM Omar Minaya to justify making such a trade. They obviously enjoy laughing in the face of logical thinking.

One look at Minaya’s quotes demonstrates just how much he enjoys it.

“We’re happy to have El Duque,” Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. “We needed starting pitching. The thing I liked a lot is he has pitched in New York. He’s happy to be coming back to New York, a place he knows and a place that knows him.”

If the only qualification for a trade for a player is whether or not he has pitched in New York before, maybe Minaya could have called Jeff Weaver or Al Leiter or Fernando Valenzuela. But if Minaya wanted to trade for a pitcher who could provide a modicum of success, maybe he should not have traded for one who has not made more than twenty-two starts since 2001, whose OPS-against has been increasing every year since 2002, whose ERA+ was 87 last year, thirteen percent below the league-average, and whose pitches per start is the lowest of his career.

Also, Minaya should be less hasty in saying Hernandez is happy to be coming back to New York.

“I’m happy, and I’m not happy. It’s 50-50. I like New York. I like Arizona,” he (Orlando Hernandez) said.

That sounds more like ambivalence to me.

“In his last start Monday, he gave up one run and six hits and struck out nine against Pittsburgh. Minaya watched the outing and became convinced that Hernandez could help the Mets, who have struggled to find fourth and fifth starters.”

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but when a pitcher dominates a team with the 24th-best OPS in the major leagues, it is nothing to get excited about. One can only imagine what Minaya would have done had Hernandez pitched well against the Florida Marlins. Perhaps he would have inducted El Duque into the Mets Hall of Fame.

“He helps you when he’s pitching and when he’s not pitching,” Minaya said.

That would be a pretty impressive assessment of a player if, you know, it was not a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. A pitcher who is not pitching has very little if any impact on the game. Still, having Hernandez in the rotation is better than trotting out Jose Lima every five days.

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About David Barbour

  • marvin

    Could you please to update your ironic, irrealistic and unfair comment about El Duque on 05-25-06? In my personal opinion, you should (at less) apologize for your intention to degrade the inmense figure of this unbelievable and unique baseball player, currently THE HOTTEST AND MOST RELIABLE STARTER in the Met’s staff! I hope that you proceed to recognize your embarrasing mistake.

  • rob

    Your assessment was way off. That’s why Minaya is the GM and you’re not.

  • Fred

    In retrospect, this was an unbelievably good trade by Minaya.