At the end of 2004 baseball season, the New York Mets were a sorry mess. Several years of underperformance following their appearance in the 2000 World Series had left them adrift both in terms of their fan base and their place in sports-rich New York City. The club lacked the gravitas that the Yankees had, and this told in their media coverage and in their ability to attract talented players. In sheer desperation, club owner Fred Wilpon made a secret trip to Montreal to woo Omar Minaya to accept the general manager’s position.
Minaya, who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, did accept the position and turned the club around by acquiring pitcher Pedro Martinez and the immensely talented slugger Carlos Beltran. While the Mets did not go to the post-season in 2005, the season augured well for the club’s future. Adam Rubin covers the Mets as a beat writer for the New York Daily News and hence had a pivotal perspective to observe Minaya’s magic. He chronicles the 2005 Mets season in fine detail, layering his textured narrative of a season that had both ups and downs with rewarding detours that tells us more about the personalities involved and what makes them tick.
When Minaya brought to the Mets Latinos such as Martinez and Beltran and let go the fan-favorite but aging pitcher Al Leiter, he was accused of reverse discrimination. The press derisively referred to the club as “Los Mets.” However, as Rubin observes, Minaya had a master plan, and the fact that his first few high-profile signings were Latino stars was a mere coincidence. The season saw the coming of age of transcendental third baseman David Wright as well as the success of perennial stars such as Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza. The Mets hired the inexperienced Willie Randolph as manager, and Rubin analyzes his moves in several well-chronicled passages.
While books that detail a club’s season depend largely on the club’s on-field success to hold the reader’s attention, in Rubin’s structure, the promise of the future takes center stage for the Mets. Fred Wilpon wanted the Mets to play “meaningful” games in August and September – in other words, not be eliminated from the post-season early on. For Minaya’s recast Mets, August and early September held tremendous promise as the team valiantly battled for a wild card spot. That it did not happen does not undermine Rubin narrative. Instead, it takes the reader through the meticulous steps that a club must take to become a contender, as well as the large doses of serendipity and luck that distinguish success from failure.