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10/17/06 7:10 PM ET

Omar Minaya pregame interview

Mets laid-back GM talks about NLCS, World Series and offseason

Is it hard to avoid at least temporarily dwelling on the "what ifs," if you had Pedro and El Duque?

OMAR MINAYA: You think about it but the fact is you can't spend too much time thinking about that because every club at this time of year has the "what ifs." They have the "what ifs," what about Mulder, what about that. So for me, really, you think about it, actually, people bring it up to you. It doesn't, you know, at this time of year, everybody has those. So we're not the only teams that has those issues or any team, when they start Opening Day, there's no way you can project that you were going to have Oliver Perez, John Maine pitching. As a baseball manager you'd better have a lot of offense available to you.

Last tight the team got split up at a couple of hotels, can you explain that?

OMAR MINAYA: I asked Charlie (Samuels) about that, he went pretty much right down the list, looked at roster, the rooming list and he went down, somebody asked him, "how are you doing that?" I'm pretty sure, I trust Charlie, he's been in the business for over 20-some years. He's done this before. I think the best way, at least in his judgment, the best way to do it is just go down the list, this group goes here and this group goes there.

How does the process take place? Was there no rooms booked or was it because of the rainout?

OMAR MINAYA: The process takes place that the fact that we got rained out and we did not know we were going to get rained out until like about 5:00. Hotels here, like any other places, they have reservations already booked. We're staying nearby, I believe it's called the Westin. You know, they have previous reservations. If I'm not mistaken, there were some people here, too. There's a hockey game going on today. So one of the hockey teams was there. So that's how it happened. But when it's all said and done, once the game is decided -- but we talked about it before. I started giving Charlie a heads up, "Listen, we might get rained out here, start making some plans and some arrangements." Charlie is one of the best in the game as a clubhouse guy and being in the business for so long.

How viable is El Duque to pitch for you in the World Series if you make it?

OMAR MINAYA: Viable. Viable. He had a bullpen, if I'm not mistaken, two days ago that was somewhere in the range of 70 pitches. You know, one thing about El Duque, I will never -- this guy, there's nothing that I wouldn't, you know, with El Duque, anything is possible. Here is a guy that has a long history of being around big games and being around comebacks, just his overall defection from Cuba and coming here. So I would not put nothing physically, that's going to be impossible with El Duque.

How are you going to handle some of your coaching staff who are going to interview for positions? When would you like them to do that or how did you feel about their chances, Manny and Manuel?

OMAR MINAYA: I've encouraged and I've actually called for some of our coaching staff. I think it's great that clubs have interest in some of our coaches. I have not officially gotten permission for none of our coaches. I use the word "officially" whereby they go to the Commissioner's office and they send me an e-mail and, "We want official permission." I have been contacted by clubs and they have interest in some of our coaches. I have told some general managers that they can interview them even as we go during this run, or interview between series, it's fine. What I do not want is an interview during the day of the game. If the guys want to call, I'm hopeful some of these guys -- we have some very good candidates to be managers on our staff.

When you took the job here with the Mets, did you have a vision of how long it might realistically take to get to the World Series, to get to the LCS and hopefully the World Series?

OMAR MINAYA: Yeah, it's fair to say I thought when I took the job in the end of 2004, knowing what the team was, knowing the farm system, knowing the issues of convincing players to come and play in New York, knowing the division that we're in, and I still feel we're in a very good division with the Braves, and of course the Marlins. They were good at the time. They kind of broke off and did a great job with their front office. You're looking at taking a team that's last place or next to last place, to get to where we are today, because what happens beyond with injuries and all those things, it's going to take somewhere between three and four years. So I guess we're ahead of schedule.

As you go through this, do you already have an eye at the same time and start preparations towards the off-season and looking at the Zitos and Sorianos and starting to approach things in terms of trades?

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OMAR MINAYA: We are looking at potential free agents, yeah. I've been looking at potential free agents now since probably August, September. I've been looking at potential free agents, and as we go through September and here we are in October, yeah, we are pretty much focusing on guys we want, who are we going to highlight, who are we going to go after. I've had conversations with Sandy Johnson and John Ricco, Tony Bernazard and Jeff Wilpon. We sat down and had some coffee this morning and have a better idea of who we're going to focus on that are going to be free agents. With managers being hired, you start getting a feel which manager, who is going to go for that guy, who is going to go for that guy. So it changes on you a little bit, too. But we're pretty much -- we feel comfortable that as we focus on the postseason, we've also been focusing -- when the bell rings, we're going to have a plan like we've done the past two years. We're going to be focused on who we want and we're going to go after those guys.

A lot of general managers are high strung and you don't seem that way. What's your stomach been like this series as you've gone through the rainouts and the ups and downs, winning and losing, and here you are tied?

OMAR MINAYA: Well, I may not be high strung, but I can tell you there's an internal nervousness of going through the postseason. If somebody tells you that they are not, I don't know, this is my first postseason as a general manager. I've been one as an assistant general manager. I was just thinking, we've played I think seven games in two weeks. So you think about that. But there is an internal nervousness that goes on. But the fact is, as a general manager, there's only so much you can do. There's not a pitcher that we can go get. The only thing we could do is hopefully get ourselves ready for the next series. Look, it's tense. I will tell you, I'd rather just play the games. Those rainouts, there's only so many places you can go to dinner during those rainouts. (Laughter.) That being said, Walt (Jocketty) recommended me a nice place to eat here in St. Louis, so Walt did a pretty good job.

Your role players' contribution is high, how much do you think is being in Montreal and working trying to get more from less? How much of it is your ability to scout talent?

OMAR MINAYA: I think it's a combination of a lot of things. It's a combination of, yes, when you work in Montreal, that's how put your team together. There was no other way around it. But I think it's a credit to our scouts and our front office people, especially our professional scouts that are able to recommend these guys. As a general manager that has a scouting history, I think the key is to listen to your people. Do I have some input? Of course. I'm the last call. But you really have to use your scouts, and even your staff, your uniform staff and bring everyone's opinion together and try to pick those guys. For me, you're right, in Montreal, we learned, that was -- basically, Montreal, when all the free agents were signed, we said, okay, these are the guys we have, who do we pick from these guys.

First of all, I want to find out, which list did you make it on, did you get to stay in your hotel or did you get bounced to the other one?

OMAR MINAYA: No, I was able to stay in my hotel (Laughter.)

In your opinion, where does Cliff stand now and how do you define the fine line between a guy who wants to be a gamer and a guy who might want to be a gamer too much and might not be able to play that much?

OMAR MINAYA: Well, Cliff's been playing hurt a large part of the second half. There's no doubt, we've taken him to the doctor and there is an Achilles injury there. My understanding, Willie told me, he was going to tell Cliff, tell me how I can use you, and Cliff tells him how he can use him. When he's hurt, you can't play. I don't think Cliff wants to go in there being hurt and hurt the team. We're very fortunate to have Endy Chavez and come in and step out for us. That last game, Chávez throwing that guy out at third base, that was huge. In a lot of ways, that really kept that inning, if I'm not mistaken, to one run. Maybe Cliff can't make that play. If Cliff wants to play, he can play. As far as the gamer is concerned, that's subjective. It's about who can go out there and play and play healthy.

Just going to follow up on Cliff: I know you have to, if somebody's hurt, you know, that's the way it is. But is there a part of you knowing that this is the end of his contract and he's been here for the hard times with the Mets, that if he doesn't get to be as big of a part of it as he would have hoped, just that little part that feels for him?

OMAR MINAYA: Who is that?

Cliff, sorry.

OMAR MINAYA: We hope we win here, we hope we win two out of the next three games and we're hoping to be in the World Series and we're hoping Cliff is going to be back to playing every day and that's a possibility and we're hoping for that. We still have to go out there and win the games. I told Cliff all along, "You're going to be big. At some point in time you're going to be big. Just get ready, when your time comes, get ready, you're going to be big." But then again, I tell that to a lot of guys. (Laughter.)

I want to follow-up on something that was said earlier about your laid-back demeanor: Would you say you're an easy boss to work for, a demanding boss? And how was it that you demanded excellence from this organization and kind of got that to happen?

OMAR MINAYA: Well, it's hard for me to judge myself. The only one that can answer that question would be my staff. I don't know, you know what I'm saying. I just try to tell myself, I like to treat people the way I would like to be treated. I was an assistant, I was an area scout, I was a coach. I think from the baseball part, I've done pretty much everything and all I try to do is tell myself, treat people the way I want to be treated. So I can't tell you how well I am. As far as standards, I am big on standards. We're still not to the standards that I think we should be and we're going to work on that. You cannot slack down on your standards. Your standards have to be high. Look, New York, it's about the best. We all know that living in New York, you've got to bring the best product to the table because there's somebody else that's going to -- it's a very competitive city and very competitive business standards to me are the ones that we should always bring to the highest level as possible.

Just talking about the ability to drive in runs, there's a certain kind of swagger, something that a clean-up hitter has, ideal clean-up hitter has and obviously does this mean that Carlos Delgado fills those qualifications?

OMAR MINAYA: Yeah, I think you're right. Even last year, when we put the team together for this year, we needed what is called a traditionally true clean-up hitter. The guy that's going to be there is the guy that -- for me, when I think of a clean-up hitter, I think of a guy, before he's up, people are thinking about, this guy, we've got to get these guys out before this guy comes up. I think, you know, I thought Carlos Delgado personified a true clean-up hitter his whole career. I think you see a guy that's a powerful hitter and a smart, intelligent hitter that will take a walk, but he's also a guy that will drive the ball and use the whole field. To me, putting this puzzle together, I thought of pitching, I thought of speed, I thought of defense up the middle, center fielder. I think of those things. But in that mix, I thought we needed to have and continue to need to have, and in the ideal word, I'd like to get three clean-up hitters, that's what you want to have. David Wright could be a clean-up hitter some day. He has the potential to do that. Beltrán, if you want him, I think his role is more of that third hitter. I think teams, building championship teams, you want to be able to have three guys that you consider clean-up hitters and then you're talking about some very serious offensive attack.

When you say you're not there yet, what are your standards, what are you talking about when you say you're not there?

OMAR MINAYA: I think you never get there. So to me, I always believe that -- when I think of the word "standards," I mean always trying to excel, trying to get the best, trying to find the best at every position, every staff member or how you go about your work. The truth is, your standards are high, but you never get to say, we finally reached the standards that we want to. I just think the model for me in baseball is without a doubt is the Atlanta Braves. I think that John (Schuerholz) and Bobby (Cox), they have never let up. They have let up this year, but they are always finding ways to reinvent themselves and always finish in front of the class, whether it's scouting or development, they make changes. I think they are the model for baseball of the highest standard that I've seen in the front office.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.