Kazmir for Zambrano: A Good Deal for Mets Fans

KazmirLast night was an ironic match-up for the Mets, with Zack Wheeler facing Scott Kazmir. In 2004, Scott Kazmir was Zack Wheeler. We all know the story, the Mets traded him for Victor Zambrano, who was ineffective and ultimately injured. Kazmir, of course, promptly became a front line starting pitcher. It was all very dumb and painful, you can’t really find a Mets fan who supported the trade.

But later on looking back at that trade, I couldn’t get too upset. Although in isolation it remained idiotic, it led to a chain reaction of positive events. One of those was a Division title, which sure gets glossed over a lot now, like that is some easy thing. It’s so easy that since 1988 the Mets have done it one time. By 2006 I looked at trading Kazmir as a sacrifice for the greater good. It’s fun to speculate how much better that team would have been with Scott, but it’s naive to think we would have had that team if the Kazmir trade had never happened. In case you have forgotten, here are the events that proceeded the trade.

Al Goldis and Bill Livesey

Al Goldis and Bill Livesey

It had been four years since Mike Piazza led the Mets to the World Series. Nelson Doubleday sold his interest in the team, and for the first time there was nobody to keep the Wilpon family in check. Steve Phillips made a series of bad moves and was let go as GM in 2003. His replacement was a good organizational man, Jim Duquette, who was not a strong personality. Fred brought in some old scouts to have lunch with, Al Goldis, and Bill Livesey, and a committee-like approach was put into place for running the team. And Jeff got very involved.

The big offseason move prior to 2004 was to sign Kaz Matsui and shift young star Jose Reyes to second base. Fred slashed the payroll from 2003 levels. That meant Duquette could only make a half-hearted, useless run at Vladimer Guerrero, who signed with the Angels. And our manager was Art Howe, babbling about battling and showing himself two steps behind every night.

But in spite of all this, the 2004 team was not playing terribly. There was still talent, including a young Reyes and Wright, and the team hovered around .500. But you looked at how they were being run and at the talent on hand, and knew this was not a playoff team. Worse, it was hard to imagine the management team ever improving the situation.

Then came the bombshell Kazmir/Zambrano trade, remarkably bad on many levels. It didn’t take years for people to dislike this deal, it took minutes and the outcry was loud and immediate. The team nosedived and the press savaged everyone involved in the deal. That included Jeff. Fred, the protective parent, needed to do something to put a stop to that, and boom, heads began rolling. Duquette was replaced as GM by Omar Minaya. Goodbye, Goldis and Livesey. See you, later, Art Howe. Next, the Wilpon wallet was re-opened.

pedro-martinez-new-york-mets-philadelphia-phillies1So yes, in 2005 the Mets did not have Scott Kazmir and that was bad. But as a result of the new direction of the franchise, we had Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. We won 89 games and made a playoff run. In 2006, as I stated above, we won a Division, and the last games were brutal in 2007 and 2008, but not the teams.

I don’t see any of that happening without the Kazmir trade. We were on a slow train to nowhere, bad enough to not be real contenders, good enough for the Wilpons to have stayed on course. The Kazmir trade, and the resulting backlash, was a quick derailment. It was painful, as accidents are, but we rebuilt quickly, and built a better railroad.

Eventually Madoff happened, our owners went broke, and the team collapsed. But it was fun while it lasted, and with broke owners lean times were going to come. I’m sure happy we partied while we could.

So when I think about the Scott Kazmir trade I smile and think of the good times his trade engineered.

Hopefully we see those good times again someday.

 

 

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6 comments

  1. James Preller says:

    Great, great post. Haven’t thought about Goldis and Livesey in years.when WFAN started going after Jeff, Fred knew he had to do something to take his unequipped boy out of the line of fire.

  2. Patrick Boegel says:

    Imagine if fred could chew gum and walk at the same time. His hand pick baseball geniuses could have kept Kazmir vs trading him for a converted outfielder, then signed Pedro and even maybe not have run Al Leiter and John Franco’s end days into the ground.

  3. Alan K. says:

    There were a lot of bad aspects to the Kazmir- the influence of Jeff, the lack of any decision making power by Duquette, an unrealistic assessment of the 2004 team’s playoff chances, trading Kazmir for far less than his fair market value, the total lack of due diligence with respect to Zambrano’s physical condition. A classic cluster__ . Mike rightly pointed out that the fallout brought some positive changes, but that trade and the total lack of thought process reflected the incompetence of ownership. I still think Jeff longs for control, and with Fred pushing 80 and Sandy already over 65, t makes one wonder (and worry) about what Jeff might do if he gets the gets back the keys to the kingdom…

    • James Preller says:

      I have a friend who has met Jeff a few times at various functions. He says it’s way worse than you could possibly imagine — no social skills whatsoever. OTOH, says that Fred was sharp, engaging, impressive. Personally, I’ve never met either guy, but this assessment has the ring of truth.

    • Michael Geus says:

      I don’t think we have to wonder. Use all your energy on the worrying.

  4. NormE says:

    Michael, great recap of a very distressing situation.

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