Minaya knows when to let go

This week’s New York magazine has a great article on Omar Minaya and the Mets. It delves into Minaya’s professional history and his plan of action after returning to the Mets at GM back in September.

I took particular note to the paragraphs that talked about Al Leiter’s departure. I’d heard a lot before, from Leiter’s 20-minute-plus discussion with Steve Somers on WFAN back in December to various articles — particularly in today’s Daily News, where Leiter blames his departure, in part, on “Mike & The Mad Dog” on FAN. I mean, c’mon, Al. Please.

Then, on Michael Kay’s show on the way home tonight, a caller talked about the running back situation with the Jets and compared it to the Knicks in 1994 with Patrick Ewing. This caller felt that the move 11 years ago would’ve been to trade Ewing when they could’ve gotten several top players and/or first-round picks in return. He wondered if maybe the Jets should’ve done the same — trade Curtis Martin, last season’s NFL rushing leader, for a player to fill a need and a first-round pick and a later-round pick or two. Promote the promising Lamont Jordan to starting running back. Kay agreed he had a point, adding that he felt the downfall of the Boston Celtics was their determination to hold onto the past and not cutting ties with Larry Bird, Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale when they could no longer carry the team deep into the playoffs.

Minaya’s doing what the Jets, Knicks and Celtics probably should have done. He’s said goodbye to 39-year-old Al Leiter and 57-year-old John Franco, two longtime Mets who deserve a special place in fans’ hearts, but not on the roster anymore. It won’t surprise me if he does the same this offseason with Tom Glavine and Mike Piazza, unless, of course, the right deal comes up in July. It might be tough to replace Piazza with anything more than a weak-bat, strong-glove kind of backstop, but a good defensive catcher presumably will be the final piece needed to shore up the defense up the middle. Sign Charles Johnson for a year, finally make that trade involving Mike Cameron or Cliff Floyd, and use the money for a big bat in the outfield. Next winter, we should see Brian Giles and Lance Berkman on the market.

Piazza has long been my favorite Met since I looked up at the bar TV at Craigville Pizza and Mexican in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, and saw the trade announced on SportsCenter. But now there’s David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. There’s Pedro and Kris Benson and you just can’t have a 37-year-old catcher as the heart of your order in the National League and expect to have a shot at going far into October. Come November, I’ll be ready to let go. He’s done enough to have that interlocking “NY” on his Cooperstown plaque in seven or eight years.

March is here. Exhibition games have begun, tickets to six Mets games and a Giants game are already in my possession, with more untold games to plan. Opening Day is four weeks from Monday.

It just can’t go by fast enough.

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