Sports

Mets Fire Manuel, Relieve GM Minaya Of Duties

Public EmployeesGovernmentNew York MetsWPIXOmar MinayaJerry Manuel

The New York Mets fired manager Jerry Manuel andgeneral manager Omar Minaya on Monday, an expected shake-up of thebig-spending ballclub after its second straight losing season.

The Mets said a search is under way for a new GM, who will workwith the team to hire a new manager.

"We are extremely disappointed in this year's results and thefailures of the past four seasons," said chief operating officerJeff Wilpon, the son of owner Fred Wilpon. "We need to hire a newgeneral manager with a fresh perspective who will transform thisclub into a winner that we want and our fans deserve."

Manuel is the seventh manager this season to lose his job. Thefinal guaranteed year of Manuel's contract expired, and the Metsdeclined to exercise the club's option on the deal.

The Mets were 79-83 this year, a disappointing 18 games behindPhiladelphia in the NL East despite having an opening-day payrollof $133 million that was the fifth-highest in the majors. They havenot been to the playoffs since coming within a game of going to theWorld Series in 2006.

"Changes like these are never easy, especially when you aredealing with people you like and respect," Wilpon said.

Manuel was promoted from bench coach on an interim basis afterthe midnight firing of Willie Randolph in June 2008. The Mets thenwent 55-38 the rest of the way but missed the playoffs with a lossin the last game at Shea Stadium, on the final day of the season.It was their second consecutive September collapse.

Still, Minaya was given a three-year contract extension through2012 and Manuel a multiyear deal.

Minaya won't be staying on in another capacity - as of now.

"The fact is that it's not fair to give me another role. Ifyou're going to bring in another GM - first of all, I don't thinkthe GM would want to have me aboard and vice versa," he said."Whoever the GM is, I would have to make the decision if I want towork with that person."

He said the possibility of talks for a different job with theMets were for a different day.

"We came to a mutual agreement that at some point in time wemight discuss that," he said.

Minaya overhauled a wretched bullpen in the offseason, seeminglythe club's biggest weakness, and Sports Illustrated picked New Yorkto win the 2009 World Series.

But long-term injuries to Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, JohanSantana, Carlos Delgado, Jason Bay and Francisco Rodriguez havedecimated the Mets' roster the past two seasons.

They finished 70-92 last year, their first at $800 million CitiField, and a promising start this year was all but wiped out by a2-9 road trip immediately after the All-Star break.

Attendance dropped at the new ballpark, and Rodriguezembarrassed the organization when he was charged with third-degreeassault and second-degree harassment following a fight with hisgirlfriend's father outside a family lounge at Citi Field on Aug.11.

On the field the Mets went for long stretches without Bay,Beltran, Reyes and Santana, who had shoulder surgery in Septemberthat could keep him out for much of next season. And while All-Starthird baseman David Wright rebounded from a dreadful season in '09,he struck out a career-high 161 times and slumped for severalextended spurts.

Once the Mets dropped out of contention, the decision to fireManuel was expected.

Manuel, AL Manager of the Year in 2000, is the seventh managerto lose his job this year. Baltimore's Dave Trembley, Kansas City'sTrey Hillman, Arizona's A.J. Hinch, Florida's Fredi Gonzalez,Seattle's Don Wakamatsu and Milwaukee's Ken Macha also weredismissed.

With Atlanta's Bobby Cox, Toronto's Cito Gaston and the Dodgers'Joe Torre all retiring and Lou Piniella having stepped down asCubs' skipper in August, finding a big-name manager who couldcommand the respect of the players and help boost attendance in NewYork might be difficult.

Only the Orioles and Dodgers have locked down managers.

Bobby Valentine, who led the Mets to the 2000 World Series, andWally Backman, a second baseman on New York's 1986 championshipteam, have been mentioned as potential replacements for Manuel.

Minaya, who became the first Hispanic general manager in 2002when he was hired to run the Montreal Expos, took over as GM fromJim Duquette in September 2004 and quickly enjoyed success in hishometown. He used his Latin American contacts cultivated as a scoutand talent evaluator for the Texas Rangers (1985-95), where he wasresponsible for signing Sammy Sosa, to sign All-Stars Beltran,Pedro Martinez, Santana and Rodriguez.

He also has been criticized for depleting the farm system whilesigning Oliver Perez ($36 million) and Luis Castillo ($25 million)to inflated contracts.

But not much has gone right since they lost Game 7 of the 2006NL championship series.

The Mets blew a seven-game division lead with 17 remaining in2007 and had a 3½-game lead at the same point in '08 but finishedout of the postseason again.

Turmoil increased in July 2009 after the Daily News reportedMets vice president of player personnel Tony Bernazard challengedDouble-A players to a fight. During the news conference to announcethe firing, Minaya questioned the motives of the reporter who brokethe Bernazard story, saying he had asked about getting a playerdevelopment position.

Minaya apologized and Wilpon, son of owner Fred Wilpon, said thefollowing day that the GM made a "very large mistake" by singlingout the reporter and added "ownership is not happy with thedirection of the team."

Whoever takes over as GM will have little room to make anysplashy moves in the offseason because of several large contracts -all of which expire after 2011.

Little-used second baseman Castillo has $6 million left on afour-year deal; left-hander Perez, who only pitched nine timessince being dropped from the rotation May 14 is owed $12 million;and Beltran has $18.5 million coming to him after two injuryabbreviated seasons.

Also, the Mets owe Rodriguez $11.5 next year, but the teamwithheld more than $3 million of his salary and has enacted aclause in his contract that would make the remainder of his dealnon-guaranteed, prompting a grievance.

Manuel won the AL manager award after he led the White Sox to aleague-best 95-67 record. He was fired by Chicago in 2003 followinghis sixth season as manager.

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