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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Omar Bagels

I keep a long list of phrases and ideas that I think might eventually come in handy in the writing of a team-specific baseball blog. Some I act on ASAP. Some I circle back to after a few weeks. Some linger unused until they’re too obscure or irrelevant to make much sense in a contemporary setting. For example, even what I consider my sharpest “Moises Alou sure is brittle” zinger from 2008 requires context that is no longer available on this platform.

Moises Alou looked out the window during the rain delay and he had to be moved to the 60-day DL.

See? Doesn’t really have the zing it would have had when Moises was playing. Or was supposed to be playing.

Here’s a pair of words I’ve been scrolling past for a quite a while: Omar bagels. So future anthropologists aren’t left to ponder the mysteries of such an otherwise inscrutable expression, I will explain. Omar bagels refers to the following colorful quote encapsulating alleged remarks offered as advice to the speaker:

“All I kept on hearing in the streets of New York when you get bagels in the morning was, ‘Omar, please address the bullpen.’ Well, to all you Mets fans, we’ve addressed the bullpen.”

Never mind the person disagreement between “I kept hearing” and “you get bagels” — and, for that matter, the past/present conflict (“kept” vs. “get”). Embedded in this rather self-serving anecdote like so many sesame seeds is real news about what was then the most beleaguered of beleaguered Met units, the team’s relief corps. Just how did Omar Minaya, general manager of the New York Mets when he related the above tidbit on December 11, 2008, “address the bullpen”?

Apparently by clearing his throat and telling them to keep on sucking.

Actually, Minaya meant “address” as in directing efforts toward solving a problem. The problem was the Mets’ bullpen sucked to legendary proportions down the stretch in 2008. In bagel terms, the pitchers Omar provided Jerry Manuel to choose among were almost uniformly stale to the point of moldy or frighteningly underdone. At the close of business that season, he put aside the Pedro Feliciano bagel (you could never slather too many innings onto its left half) and otherwise mostly emptied the bin. Then he heated up the hot stove to bake a new batch.

Bagels in New York are the best bagels in the world, it is said, because of the water. The bullpen in Flushing was the worst bullpen in the world because no matter how Omar Minaya tried, he could never quite obtain the proper ingredients. But he did try. That December, he spent and traded his way to a bullpen transformation. He threw a couple of hot, steaming brown paper bags filled with cash at Frankie Rodriguez and then swapped out what he considered some spare lox to bring us, from Seattle by way of Cleveland or something like that, J.J. Putz and Sean Green. (Oh, and utility dude Jeremy Reed, whose throw past home plate at Dodger Stadium is still sailing.)

Long story short from a trade that encompassed three teams and a dozen players: the bullpen continued to suck in 2009 in a fashion reminiscent of 2008. Rodriguez wasn’t so bad (on the mound) for a while but he’d implode like most overpriced closers before his number was called for the last time. Still, K-Rod cost only money back when it was assumed the Mets had it. Putz and Green were the stuff of a blockbuster winter meetings acquisition, one of those exercises in which you had to give up something to get something.

The Mets got nothing. Nothing healthy in Putz’s case and nothing that delivered on its reported promise where Green was concerned. The 2009 Mets bullpen didn’t break as many hearts as 2008’s because there was little left to shatter. A touch of quality relief pitching might have kept Shea alive a week or two longer. In Citi Field’s first foreboding year, the only thing that would have saved the season was a shaman with a medical degree.

I wouldn’t have thought of Putz or Green or “Omar bagels” had Thursday’s ALDS action not included the Angels, Royals and Tigers, and even then I’d probably have left the lot of them in my subconscious had I not encountered this postseason note of postseason notes from USA Today’s Ted Berg:

Three guys the Mets traded for JJ Putz have played in postseason games today.

OK, I thought after I removed my right palm from my forehead, I know I just saw Joe Smith enter on the side of the Angels. Smith was a budding submariner who Omar had to include in order to bring back the bounty that was Putz and Green. He was 24 then and still seeking consistency. In a stretch run in which every reliever was culpable, you couldn’t avoid fuming at Smith a bit, but unlike the Scott Schoeneweises and Ricardo Rincons, he wasn’t at the end of his line. Why, by 2013, he’d be helping Cleveland to the American League Wild Card game. I liked young pup Smith as a latter-day Jeff Innis but I will admit to not crying myself a river upon his departure.

Kansas City’s starter Thursday was Jason Vargas. I saw Vargas muddle through a rare starting assignment against the Cubs in 2007. It turned into one of the best games I ever attended, but its glorious outcome had nothing to do with Vargas. I didn’t care that he was traded, either, even after he moved on and made something of himself. As with Smith, I accepted long ago that sometimes Mets you’re not projecting as stalwarts might get their acts together down the road. To be noble about it, those are simply the fortunes of the game.

But three Mets who were traded for Putz played yesterday? Was our old friend Ted certain? He wouldn’t have tweeted it if he wasn’t, but who was I missing from that trade?

Not Endy Chavez, who almost made the playoffs with the Mariners (and who — unlike Wright, Reyes, et al — did return to the postseason post-2006, first with the Rangers and then with the Orioles).

Not Mike Carp, who joined the ranks of Halloween Hindsight Haunters last October when the former Met minor leaguer who was never a Met major leaguer appeared in the World Series as a Boston Red Sock.

Not Aaron Heilman, for crissake

I looked up the three-sided trade in question to refresh my memory. Besides Smith, Vargas, Chavez, Carp and Heilman, we dispatched two other players, each of them just kids in December 2008: righthanded pitcher Maikel Cleto — most recently a White Sock, earlier a Cardinal who never made one of their many postseason rosters but presumably received a playoff share and maybe a World Series ring between 2011 and 2013 — and Ezequiel Carrera.

Ezequiel Carrera? The Tiger? Maybe not “the Tiger” in the Al Kaline sense, but the guy whose name I heard as Baltimore’s rout of Detroit was about to go final? The guy who walked to load the bases before the O’s nine-run lead went into the books?

Yes, that Ezequiel Carrera. We had him between 2005 and 2008. He climbed as high as St. Lucie before being tossed into that very same Putz-getting package. And now he was one-third of Ted’s trivial trio. They were players the Mets organization had under contract as a season ended crushingly close to a playoff spot. They were traded. They were in the playoffs in 2014. The Mets haven’t been in those things since 2006. They haven’t even been crushingly close. They looked good winning their 78th and 79th games last weekend and we were beside ourselves with joy. That’s how long it’s been. Maybe not Royals long (and the Royals do go long) but long enough.

If the Mets had never traded Joe Smith, Jason Vargas, Ezequiel Carrera, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Aaron Heilman and Maikel Cleto, does history change for us? I’m somewhere between “how the hell would I know?” and “probably not” on that fleetingly burning question. It definitely wouldn’t have hurt to have kept Smith around. Vargas has endured as league-average, but he has endured. When they said “Carrera” on TBS, I wasn’t sure they hadn’t said “Cabrera,” so I won’t overstate his theoretical impact. And, honestly, I’m not itching to undo any trade that dispensed with Heilman.

Still, the Mets gave up seven players in one deal. Five of them have since participated in at least one postseason. Three of them were busy doing so yesterday.

Omar Minaya works for the Padres now. They seem to have a pretty solid bullpen, but I’ll bet he can’t find a decent bagel anywhere in San Diego.

26 comments to Omar Bagels

  • Jon

    I’ve long argued the Putz trade was probably the worst deal in Mets history, not just because it didn’t work out, and not just because we didn’t even need JJ “Fucking” Putz in the first place, but because the whole thing was just a gigantic stunt intended to foster the *appearance* of doing something positive over actually using their heads and trying to figure out the best way to improve the club. Weeks earlier, while gleefully chopping Shea Stadium into small pieces he could sell back to the fans at outrageous prices, Jeff Wilpon telegraphed to the world how eager he was to make an example of the bullpen that let the 2008 Mets down, and Omar was a willing soldier. His goal wasn’t the acquisition of Putz so much as the disposition of poor Aaron Heilman. Get a good young hitter or two? Nah. Invest in a strong farm system? No, let’s blow what turned out to be the last of the ill-gotten Bernie Madoff riches and whatever young players we have lying around on Whoever Had The Most Saves Last Year.

    I don’t believe Omar was the kind of guy to intentionally talk in code but that “bagel” remark sort of reminds me of Shakespeare tossing off a crowdpleaser and calling it “As *You* Like It” (or the Kinks’ arena-rocking “Give the People What They Want”). Negotiations had to be a hoot, with Omar continuing to add these guys one at a time until they said yes.

    And yes I said Poor Aaron Heilman. It was obvious how demoralized he was when they insisted all he’d ever be was a reliever, but when he accepted the role and went out and had a great year they rewarded him by going out and spending money on Billy Wagner. And when they unloaded him in this stupid trade one of the stiffs they got back — Sean Green — refused to wear No. 48 because our idiotic fellow fans booed the *association* with Heilman. I wonder if Sean Green still dreams of having a career as modestly successful as Aaron Heilman did while he works the fryer at the local Burger King.

    • Re: the crowdpleaser aspect — I think that’s why I added “Omar bagels” to my infinite file in 2008. The quote loomed as wonderfully poetic if the deal paid off and a little grating if didn’t.

    • Dennis

      Sean Green retired in 2013 so he could be at home permanently with his wife and children…one, a son, who is autistic. Sounds like a good man. He was a pitching coach for a Christian Academy in his town of Louisville, not working at Burger King. One of a select few talented enough to play in the major leagues. Question Jon……did you ever pitch professionally in MLB?

  • roundrockmets

    If memory serves the Angels received a compensatory draft pick when the Mets signed K Rod. I’m not sure who they drafted with that pick. I wonder if he’s any good.

  • Tim H

    [Off topic…]

    I wouldn’t want this day’s momentous place in baseball history (“The Giants win the pennant!…The Giants win the pennant!”) to pass without a brief personal thought about that day in 1951. My family lived in Brooklyn (where I and my four siblings were born), my father worked in Brooklyn at the Williamsburg Post Office, and, during the war (that’s WWII for you youngsters), my mother worked as a Rosie-the-Riveter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. All this is by way of saying that we were “Brooklyn” through and through. Except for one thing: My father was a big New York Giants fan.

    Now, it was only in recent times that I did some quick math and came up with an interesting theory connected to “The Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.” I surmise that my father was so thrilled with his wonderful team beating its crosstown rivals that his, ahem, celebrating ultimately resulted in my being born nine months later in 1952. Now, my parents are long gone, rest their souls, making this pure speculation on my part. So, I guess my DNA must skewer more ORANGE than BLUE. But, ever so slightly.

    • Your conception theory is the Shot Heard Round The World. Mine is First Game In Mets History. The math and the imagination add up for both of us.

      Happy Most Magical Date in Baseball!

      • Tim H

        Interesting, Greg. One other thing. For a zillion years I have misheard Russ Hodges’ epic call, and whenever I would have to write it down it came out as: “The Giants win the pennant!…The Giants win the pennant!” Of course, he actually said, “The Giants won the pennant!…”

        Someday, I will remember that.

  • Caryn

    Things I never used about Moises Alou: at Shea we sat in front of this Irish family, all the kids had red hair, there was a pair of twins whose names I always mixed up. Anyway, one of the brothers looked at the outfield one night and said, “There’s a rock in our backyard that’s faster than Moises Alou.” And I really, really wanted to create some kind of flash game that would have a rock wearing Moises Alou’s number and a Mets hat that you could move around the outfield. I was always sad I never got that going, but also happy that it became irrelevant reasonably quick.

    Glenn reminds me all the time that we remember 2008 as worse than it probably was because we also lost the ballpark.

    That said, I don’t think you’re wrong, and I’m glad you still think about this stuff for us.

  • Dave

    Jon, all I can say is amen. Terrible trade at the time, during and after. For starters, why do you want a guy whose name is Putz? But regardless of the proud surname passed through generations of Putzes, those “your closer becomes my 8th inning guy” only works at trade deadline moves where the team giving up their closer sucks enough that they have little use for a closer. And as it took Joe Smith slightly more than a half an hour to go from college to the major leagues, I figured he would become a solid reliever. Finally, the Mets should have learned by then to avoid any spelling of Sean Green.

  • Dave

    Oh, and Moises Alou. Amazing hitter, could still probably pick up a bat and hit a line drive today, but best description I remember reading of him as a Met – and it may have been here – was “mummified remains.”

  • Dave

    Eh, and the Jets Sean Greene (or however he spelled it) was OK…football equivalent of Eric Young Jr, more he played the more his weaknesses were exposed.

  • Roundrockmets

    Always been a big Grichuk guy, personally

  • I’m just grateful you offered an Alou gag that didn’t involve how he maintains his hands.

  • Rob

    I didn’t have a problem with them getting Putz, or with them giving up any of the guys they did. But I think this deal is notable for highlighting a long-time flaw that the pre-Alderson Mets had: a complete lack of patience, and a complete misunderstanding of the risk/reward equation. Putz was an elite closer who hurt his arm before the Mets got him, and after one sucky year with us, he immediately reeled off three very, very good years, two of them as a closer. He just needed to get healthy, and the Mets mis-read that both when they got him, AND when they let him go.

    When the Mets used to get guys, they got him while convincing themselves that they’re getting the player at the top of his game instead of acknowledging injury-recovery, career decline, or player development curves. And then when the guy isn’t an all-star immediately, the thinking is “he sucks, he can’t help us, get rid of him.” They didn’t evaluate short-term performances in context of the future…the player is and always will be what he is AT THIS SECOND.

    They exhibited similar thinking with guys like Jeff Kent, Jason Isringhausen, Jeff Keppinger, and Marco Scutaro….all high-value guys the Mets had a perpetual need for, that they gave up on and sold low on, that other more patient and creative teams reaped great benefits from for YEARS. In Omar’s (and other GMs) defense, New York fans don’t ever want to hear about “patience,” but in the coming years, I think Met fans are going to be very grateful for the patience exhibited by the current regime, regardless of whether that patience was by design or a result of financial woes. Guys like Duda, Lagares, and Mejia would never have been given a chance to develop in the past.

    • kd bart

      A significant portion of this fan base was willing to give up on Travis d’Arnaud after 257 major league at bats. There are commenters on other Met blogs who have decided on a player after a couple of appearances. Patience is not a virtue amongst many Met fans.

      • open the gates

        I remember when Darryl came up in ’83 and had an awful first few weeks in the majors. People were ready to run him out of town on a rail. Geniuses.

  • Lenny65

    Putz, I forgot all about that whole sordid episode. Man, when the Mets decide the want a terrible bullpen they just go all out. There was no way a guy named Putz was ever going to make it in NYC, the Post headlines write themselves.

  • Tim H

    [Off topic…again]

    Another anniversary of note: It was 45 years ago today (Oct. 6) that the Mets not only swept the talented Atlanta Braves in the first-ever NLCS with a 7-4 win (best 3-of-5 games), they also further secured their “Miracle Mets” status by sweeping right into the World Series. And, while the legendary Hank Aaron smashed a home run in each of the Braves’ three losses, the Mets were no slouches in that department with both Tommie Agee and Ken Boswell hitting it over the wall in each of the last two games. (Wayne Garret also homered in Game 3, while Cleon Jones did the honors during Game 2.) In the meantime, the spectacularly talented Baltimore Orioles were also manhandling the Billy Martin-helmed Minnesota Twins. The O’s completed their sweep on that same day and, in doing so, secured their own appointment with destiny (although not the ultimate “destiny” they were wishing for).

    Back at Shea, once again, I was selling soda in the Field Box level as a Harry M. Stevens vendor. And when the Mets prevailed, I didn’t bother to change into my civilians clothes before invading the stadium turf for the second time in 12 days. It was so much fun! I distinctly remember finding myself way out in center field, resplendent in my orange-and-blue vendor’s uniform, picking up turf (and dirt) and flinging it up towards NBC’s center field camera. I saw the red light come on every so often, so I knew I was on camera. But, even though it would have been fairly easy for me to pick myself out in that crowd, I have never seen any of that post-game celebration footage.

    Looking back, so many elements of that time were to become frozen in that time. It was not long after that that baseball ensured to a large degree that no fans would ever again invade the hollowed fields of their teams’ greatest victories. Luckily, that didn’t take effect until sometime after the Mets’ 1973 “Ya Gotta Believe!” adventure. By that time, I was an ex-vendor, but I still have a number of photos I took while strolling around the Shea Stadium field after our pennant-winning victory over the Big Red Machine. Fans were everywhere, including sitting all in a row atop the outfield fence. Again, loads of fun!

    OK, my mind is now back in the 21st century. And all I can say is, “Let’s Go Mets!”

  • […] list to tide us over before we get back to aging. Here are the Mets — some current, some former, one who’s slated to start Game Four of the present World Series for the Royals — still active in the majors who played as Mets at dear, departed Shea […]