The Mets signed Nelson Cruz in 1998 out of the Dominican Republic when he was just 18 years old. He was traded in 2000 by Steve Phillips to the A’s for Jorge Velandia.
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?”
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.