“And not just come home to the Mets family, but the city,” said Minaya, who was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in Queens. For the last three years he worked as a senior adviser with the players union.
During the conference call, Minaya was somewhat vague when he was asked for details on how his return to the Mets had come about.
He said that Wilpon, Alderson and Wilpon’s son Jeff, who is the team’s chief operating officer, had all contacted him and that he met several weeks ago with Alderson and John Ricco, the Mets’ longtime assistant general manager.
Ricco worked under Minaya on the Mets, and the two know each other well. But it is Minaya’s continuing relationship with Alderson that will bear watching, because of its potential for awkwardness and intrigue.
A number of team officials, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to make public comments, said they were confident that Minaya could be helpful to Alderson, who signed a two-year extension with the Mets this week. And in his conference call, Minaya expressed gratitude for Alderson’s willingness to bring him on board.
“I have so much respect for Sandy and the fact that he wanted me back here,” Minaya said. “That’s where we kind of turned the corner.”
Minaya and Alderson have never worked together on a major league team, but they are familiar with each other from their long careers as baseball executives.
Their jobs intersected in the early part of the last decade, when Minaya was the general manager of the Montreal Expos and Alderson a top official in the commissioner’s office, which was then overseeing the Expos in the absence of a team owner.
Minaya will be the second prominent special assistant to Alderson. Terry Collins was given the same title several months ago, when the Mets decided to replace him as their manager after seven years. Like Minaya, Collins has a close friendship with Fred Wilpon.
Several times during Friday’s conference call, Minaya expressed gratitude to the Wilpons and to Saul Katz, another prominent owner of the team.
“It’s personal almost,” Minaya said. “They’ve treated my family so well. And I know their passion and how much they care about winning. Talking baseball with Fred, I’ve been doing it for so many years. My kids are excited because this is their hometown team.”
“I’m happy to be back, my family is happy to be back,” he added. In fact, he said, he didn’t see why anybody would be unhappy to have him back in Queens.
Minaya’s return to the Mets in many ways mirrors the challenging situation the team faced when he was hired as the general manager in 2004. Back then, the Mets had just finished a 71-91 season. This past season, they were 70-92.
Back then, Minaya initiated a quick turnaround for the team. With the support of the Wilpons and Katz, he aggressively overhauled the roster, signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to big free-agent contracts.
The Mets had a winning season in 2005 and, with Carlos Delgado joining the middle of the lineup in 2006, they fell just short of going to the World Series.
But then came two consecutive September collapses, which created intense frustration for the franchise. And after that came two straight losing seasons, along with mounting criticism that the Mets’ farm system was in disarray.
As soon as the 2010 season ended, Minaya was let go. He went to work as a vice president in the San Diego Padres’ front office before joining the players union.
After Minaya left the Mets, Alderson slowly rebuilt the team, which made it to the World Series in 2015. And that achievement had the effect of casting Minaya’s Mets tenure in a more positive light. After all, a number of players Minaya had brought into the Mets’ minor league system — Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Steven Matz — played critical roles in the resurgence.
Now the question is whether Minaya can help the Mets rebound again, or whether his presence will simply end up as a distraction.