So far this week for the Rangers, in the ALCS, Cruz has a walk-off grand slam, he gunned down a key runner at home late in a game, and then he hit an extra-inning, three-run home run to put his team up three games to one.
In a post to Twitter, Gemini Keez asked: "Hey Matt, take me back to 1998. How was Nelson Cruz rated in the Mets farm system?"
[avatar name="cerrone"]Matthew Cerrone: I see a lot of revisionist history going on, as people question why Phillips traded Cruz to the A's. The thing is, he was signed at 18 and spent the next year and half in instructional leagues; and so he never even had a professional at bat while in the Mets organization. He was so young. In fact, as best I can tell, like most big kids his age, Cruz was labeled as being 'raw,' with power potential, but with a very big swing and concerns about his plate discipline. He was traded by Phillips for Jorge Velandia (as the Mets were contending for the post season). Upon getting to the A's, he played rookie ball the following summer (where he struck out 29 times in 23 games). He didn't get to Double-A until 2004 - exactly four years after the Mets traded him (and six years after being signed). In 2005, he started showing more discipline at the plate, but was traded to the Brewers, who eventually traded him in 2006 to the Rangers, with whom he spent two more years in the minors. Finally, in 2009, at 29 years old (nearly nine years after leaving the Mets), Cruz became an impactful, every-day player in the big leagues. That is a long and very rare road, on which lots could go right or wrong.
I have to think, even if Phillips didn't trade Cruz, another GM would have (just like Billy Beane did, and just like the Brewers did). I'm all for holding on to top prospects, but 10 years is a long time to wait on a guy; and, considering two other teams cut bait as well, it's fair to assume scouting reports on Cruz were inconsistent at best.
Instead of questioning Phillips (who, like every GM, traded away dozens and dozens of players that went on to do nothing), I prefer to simply give credit to Cruz, who, in what is a rare case, clearly worked to be better, while being patient and fighting his way to the big leagues at an age when most minor leaguers are being pushed out of the game.