Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The Obligatory Introductions - Mets

I'd prefer not to have to review the Mets' 2002 season. It was an entirely different kind of painful from the Sox' - no heartbreaking letdowns at the last minute . . . unless you count the All-Star break the last minute. So while the Red Sox fans were tortured in those last few games and the whole postseason with a dose of what-might-have-been, the Mets fans were tortured on a weekly basis with doses of what-might-have-been-if-this-entire-team-didn't-suck fed to us ad nauseum. 75-86, 5th in the NL East (a division scaring nobody), finishing behind the hapless, penniless Marlins and the fanless, faceless, MLB-freakin'-owned Expos.

The Mets' offseason made plenty of headlines for the pricey signings of and trades for big but questionable names like Robby Alomar, Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz. They also raised eyebrows when they replaced steady if unglamorous arms like Rick Reed, Kevin Appier, and Glendon Rusch with not as big but much more questionable names like Pedro Astacio, Shawn Estes, and Jeff D'Amico. Add in the question marks of Rey Ordonez's weak bat, Edgardo Alfonzo's weak back, Roger Cedeno's weak fielding and on-base percentage, Mike Piazza's weak arm/knees/September stats, a weak bench & middle relief corps, and a weekly melodrama unfolding between GM Steve Phillips and manager Bobby Valentine, and you have more question marks than The Riddler. Not how you would prefer the horizon of the 2002 season to look. But, in nearly every case (save maybe Ordonez's hitting), the situation could have realistically gone either for the better or the worse. And the chances of each of those multitudinous shrug-your-shoulders scenarios souring had to be a long shot. The end result? Pedro Astacio really panned out and the middle relief (stabilized by a couple of trades) performed admirably. Every other question mark became an exclamation point preceded by a curse. Hence, last place and the dismissal of Bobby V.

This offseason, unfortunately, looked a bit like more of the same. Tom Glavine's signing was undercut by dubious predictions by every two-bit stat guru. Cliff Floyd gives the Mets the first legitimate outfield bat since . . . Darryl Strawberry? And yet he adds to the problem of shoddy OF glovework. Ty Wigginton is the starting third baseman. I'm not kidding. Fan favorite Alfonzo is in San Fran while most if not all of the big ifs from last year are still here. Still . . . reasons ya gotta believe include new manager Art Howe, the phrase "now batting 9th for the Devil Rays . . . Rey Ordonez," and the fact that when you finish in last place, you can't slide any further. You'd think that after last season, we fans' expectations would be low. Somehow we still misguide ourselves with delusions involving salary cap figures and all of the pieces that should be interlocking by now. So let's aim for 83 wins and see what happens. At least it's still fun to watch Mike Piazza hit. [Too bad he's suspended for 5 games.]

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