Mets Cronyism, Bernazard Are Problems

People are starting to open up their eyes to the horrible state of the Mets minor league system and the smoking gun is in Tony Bernazard’s (and ultimately Omar Minaya’s). Mark Healy writes in Gotham Baseball Magazine:

However, while [Minaya] has created a better overall talent base, his trades and signings have had mixed results. His hiring of Randolph looks like a wash. His insistence on picking nearly all of Randolph’s coaches has not helped his manager’s confidence, and given the frosty relationship that his top assistant Tony Bernazard has with a growing number of people within and outside the organization, cleaning house after the season might be a better long term option.

Based on his resume, and a choppy 2005 as Minaya’s special assistant, it’s hard to fathom why he was given control of the minor leagues. Yes, he spent 10 years in the majors. After retiring he was a special assistant with the Players Association. Not a lot of scouting background that I can find. Well, there’s none, actually.

Unlike Minaya’s other assistant, Sandy Johnson, who is a well-respected talent evaluator and has a proven track record of success, Bernazard’s qualifications for his job seem a bit unrelated to the position he currently holds.

Like [Steve] Phillips did with former Scouting Director Gary LaRocque (now with the Cardinals), amateur scouting guru Jack Bowen (now with the Pirates) and Minor League Coordinators Guy Conti (now the bullpen coach) and Tony Tijerina (now with the Royals), the then-Mets GM delegated those duties to “his guys”.

The result was a system that had it’s share full of blue-chip prospects (David Wright, Scott Kazmir) and major league-ready players (Mike Jacobs, Brian Bannister, Jesus Flores, Lastings Milledge). Minaya – who also played a large role in Phillips’ early success as Mets’ GM — also delegates, but his selection of Bernazard as the chief of the farm system hasn’t benefited the Mets much.

In fact, while Minaya bears the brunt of the blame for his pre-2007 season trades for Jason Vargas and Jon Adkins that immediately backfired, the banishment of pitchers Heath Bell (2-3, 2.23 this year, 6-4, 2.02 ERA in ’07), hard-throwing Matt Lindstrom (3.08 ERA in the last two season for Florida) in the deals were made in large part on Bernazard’s evaluations.

Seems to me that having two homegrown relievers – making the minimum – in a pennant-contending bullpen would create a significant amount of payroll and roster flexibility.

They may have also meant the difference in a 2007 bullpen that was ravaged in the second half by the horribly ineffective Guillermo Mota and Jorge Sosa.

Even worse, with the Mets struggling, and looking around baseball for players to help their team in the second half, there is very little indication that anyone – excepting the untouchable Fernando Martinez — in the Mets system that is on any team’s radar. If that’s not an indictment of a minor league system, I don’t know what is.

While I like that Healy is exposing Bernazard as the root of the problem with the evaluations of the Mets
minor leaguers, he still has to answer to Minaya and Minaya is the one who hired him. How could someone so unqualified be put in a position of such importance.

From where I sit, with the exception of the Milledge for Church & Schneider trade, Minaya’s trading track record with the Mets is pretty suspect. He is good at spending Wilpons money to get free agents and he’s clearly good at fostering a team culture based on who you know rather than on accomplishments.

Bernazard may be A problem for the Mets, but ultimately he is not THE problem.  Minaya is THE main problem for the Mets.


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