Mets bullpen woes continue
Look, it just isn’t seemly for us non–New Yorkers to laugh too much about the continued suckdom of the New York Mets, specifically their bullpen. In fact, most of us decent folk should have watched the spectacle of the Mets trying to win a pennant with Luis “Kerosene Can” Ayala closing games down the stretch with horrified relief, with a There But for the Grace of God sort of attitude — it could have happened to anyone. Of course, a good team would have had at least two decent relievers on the roster at the start of the season, providing insurance against injury to its closer. In the case of the Mets, whose closer (Billy Wagner) is a very little left-handed guy who throws 98 by recklessly hurling his body at the plate 30 times a night, they probably should have wanted better insurance behind their top guy than, say, Scott Schoeneweis.
But the Mets didn’t nail down that insurance policy, and that’s why general manager Omar Minaya gets paid the big money. No one else wins 89 games a year and comes up two feet short of the goal line quite like Minaya. Once revered for his ability to deal away multiple future all-stars for aging quick-fixes — the Grady Sizemore/Brandon Phillips/Cliff Lee for Bartolo Colon deal was the signature Minaya (then with Montreal) move until recently — he has since rebounded and become best known for his ability to mismanage the massive budgets of big-market contenders. And he’s especially skilled in loading expensive and superfluous back-end years onto otherwise reasonable veteran free-agent deals. This year’s Mets, for instance, headed into this season with more than $26 million committed to three 89-year-old injury-prone washouts (Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, and Orlando Hernandez), while letting their left-handed starter-with-upside, Oliver Perez, enter free-agency. That’s not just good business, it’s the Minaya way.
Anyway, one of the great Minaya deals of the past few years was something that at the time seemed like a small transaction: the 2006 trading of innings-eating young starter Brian Bannister to the Royals for unproven relief prospect Ambiorix Burgos. Burgos was sort of a souped-up version of Craig Hansen — he hit 99 on the gun but couldn’t find the plate with a map. Bannister slipped a little this year, but in the two years since the deal he’s pitched nearly 350 innings and won 21 games for the worst offense in the American League. Burgos has since pitched 23 innings, missed the 2008 season due to elbow surgery, and, now, allegedly killed two people. Suffice to say Kansas City is probably happy with the deal.
According to police in the Dominican Republic, Burgos this past week hit two women with his 2009 Hummer, then left the scene. (Both later died.) A relative of Burgos’s has since tried to take the blame for the accident, but witnesses said Burgos was the driver. The relative is being charged with providing false statements, while Burgos, as of this writing, is still at large. He is also wanted for gun possession, and this past month was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend in a hotel in Queens.
Baseball is a funny game. Sometimes you spend some money and a prospect or two to get a raw kid with a big arm, and he turns into Joe Nathan or Bobby Jenks. And sometimes he gets into a car and starts running over people. You just never know. Anyway, two charges of fatal hit-and-run, plus additional crimes and fleeing the cops, put Burgos one point from the top of this year’s list.
Meanwhile, in Montana . . .
Turning to the NFL, it’s time to buckle your seat belts and get ready for the Travis Henry fiasco. This story gets weirder by the minute and threatens to become a full-blown sports-crime circus, à la Bam Morris.
The broad strokes: a bunch of dudes get pulled over in Montana carrying six pounds of weed and three kilos of coke. A passenger in the car says the drugs came from ex-Broncos running back Travis Henry, and are to be delivered to a customer in Billings. He adds that the Billings customer already owes Henry 40 grand and that Henry has been making threats. Henry subsequently gets busted for coke dealing, and now faces life in prison and a multi-million-dollar fine. We’ll give him 55 points and keep you posted, but it looks like the fork is already well into Henry’s back.
When he’s not googling “Let’s Go (to jail) Mets!” and “bustin’ Bronco,” Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone. He can be reached email@example.com.