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NLCS-bound Mets molded by Minaya

NLCS-bound Mets molded by Minaya

LOS ANGELES -- There could be no purer victory than this National League Division Series triumph by the New York Mets.

In an age when cynics portray baseball as a sport of mercenaries, two native sons have led the Mets into the NL Championship Series.

Manager Willie Randolph, a son of Brooklyn, masterfully guided the players provided him by general manager Omar Minaya, a son of Queens.

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"It's just good for New York," Minaya said in the Mets' locker room, minutes after they had taken out the Dodgers.

All those celebrating the quick ascension of the Detroit Tigers, who three years ago had lost 119 games, need to also raise a toast to the Mets, who in that same 2003 season had lost 95.

Someone had to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, and that man was Minaya, who really fell short of only one of owner Fred Wilpon's directives: his wish for "meaningful" September games.

The Mets skipped right over that step. When you leave August up 15 1/2 games on the division, the games aren't very meaningful.

To make up, the Mets are now playing meaningful October games.

"We want the big one. We're still working on that right now," said Minaya, who perhaps should have been more careful with his choice of words.

After all, here the "big one" alarmingly refers to earthquakes.

In his own way, Minaya moved heaven and earth to bring the Mets to this stage.

"The most satisfying thing about it is that it's supposed to be a team effort, and that's what we've seen," Minaya said. "The guys have worked hard to make sure they'd be ready for this moment."

By midway in the season, the Mets had unofficially clinched their postseason spot. As much as some players might object to that perception, arguing that nothing is certain in a game designed for heartbreak, they were on autopilot.

It was almost as if, at that point, Minaya took a long-range look at October and told them, "OK, I'll take it from here."

He had already assembled a team built to dominate the proverbial marathon. He now undertook the task of fine tuning it for the sprint of the postseason.

If Minaya's fingerprints were all over the 97 wins of the long season, they virtually smudged these first three wins of the second season.

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Shawn Green, who capped two rallies with RBI hits and started a third with a double, arrived on Aug. 22 in a deal with Arizona (for someone named Evan MacLane).

Guillermo Mota, who gave Randolph two relief innings to compensate for Steve Trachsel's short start, arrived on Aug. 20 in a deal with Cleveland.

But those were only the finishing touches.

Minaya's starting touches were Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez, who in 2005 gave instant credibility to a club that was coming off its second straight 90-loss season.

Minaya continued the project last winter with Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner and Paul Lo Duca. Those were easy picks, requiring only investments. But Minaya, who cut his baseball teeth on talent evaluation, also made less obvious choices that turned golden.

Chad Bradford, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, John Maine, Darren Oliver, Michael Tucker and Jose Valentin were all recruited for the cause and have been major contributors to it.

Minaya cherry-picked players he felt had reached the points of their careers where they were ready to forego individual goals for team objectives.

"We said from Day 1 that it won't be about individuals, it'll be about the team," Minaya said. "That's how we play the game."

Which is why they get to continue playing it.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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